With Robbie Gould's kick splitting the uprights as time expired yesterday, the Bears improved to 6-1 and proved to even more critics that this team belongs in the conversation among the NFL's elite.
The Bears have won almost every type of game so far this season: they've won big, they've won with offense, they've won with defense and like yesterday, they've won ugly.
The only thing they haven't done is win on special teams (which is rare that special teams solely wins you a game anyway) and they haven't had a perfect, clean, complete game.
However, yesterday's game was a big step for the Bears -- by rallying late in the game from a 12-point deficit to win 23-22 they have shown more of what kind of team this is and that they can come from behind and win.
Not only does it show something about the Bears overall, it shows even more about Jay Cutler.
Just how his Monday night bounce back from that hard hit by Ndamukong Suh helped shake his toughness image (outside of Chicago, where apparently he still had a toughness image to shake), yesterday's game-winning drive helped show the rest of the NFL that Chicago has a top-tier QB at the helm who is capable of keeping himself in check and winning games.
I have heard a lot of analysts say that they were waiting to judge the Bears until they saw them come from behind and saw Cutler bounce back from a rough start to finish the game.
There was nothing from the first three quarters of yesterday's game that said that Cutler shouldn't have unraveled. There is not much from his history to suggest he wouldn't unravel. Six sacks, an interception, two fumbles lost, 45 passing yards and an 18.1 rating at halftime.
The second half didn't start out a whole lot better, either.
However, for once, Cutler didn't implode. He didn't get down on a teammate, he didn't just start heaving the ball up into triple coverage.
He got the ball on the Panthers 38 yard line, and methodically drove down the field and hit Kellen Davis for a touchdown to make it 19-14. Then, after Tim Jennings' pick-six and Carolina's subsequent field goal made it a 22-20 lead for Carolina, Cutler took over with just under 2:27 to play, hit 6 of 7 passes and set up Robbie Gould's game-winning kick. He looked calm, cool, collected.
Cutler and this Bears team has had a reputation as a team of front-runners. I've heard complaint that the offense hasn't gotten going on its own or that it's needed the defense to jump start it or that the offense has stalled until it managed a lead which it was able to exploit.
Those points couldn't be defended until today because yesterday the defense wasn't as spectacular as it's been. Cam Newton passed for the most yards of any opposing QB this season. The defense gave up a 62-yard completion, the longest of the season. They had an interception but the defense had not scored. Steve Smith was being Steve Smith against them. Again.
The Panthers punted twice in the first quarter and then didn't punt again until the fourth quarter.
This team, specifically the offense, finally responded with their backs against the wall. This is what I have been waiting to see from this team. The offense doing its part and coming back and winning a game that, from the first three and a half quarters, most would have said they had no business winning.
Cutler shook off the bad performance and responded when the team needed him most.
This is the Bears quarterback, from Brandon Marshall's own words:
"(Cutler) gets up smiling, I'm sitting here shaking -- a little bit of the cold weather, a little bit of (being) nervous -- and he just starts smiling like, `Well, here we go.' It just put me at ease right away. The guys feel that vibe and they play off of it."
"That's when you want that type of quarterback."
I know I don't need to convince many on here that Cutler is a good leader or that he's tough, but Cutler did it himself to the doubters with his actions yesterday.
And the team showed that it belongs in the conversation as a top team in the NFL in 2012.