CHICAGO — Nathan Vasher didn't set a record this time -- he set the tone.
One week after returning a missed field-goal try a record 108 yards, Vasher intercepted two passes, and the North-leading Bears stamped themselves as a contender in the NFC on Sunday with a 13-3 victory over the Carolina Panthers, Chicago's sixth consecutive victory.
"I'm playing as well as anybody," Vasher said. "Our defense is playing as good as -- if not better -- than anybody."
The loss ends a six-game win streak for the Panthers (7-3), who fell into a tie for the NFC South lead. After scoring at least 20 points in every game, they managed 238 yards against the NFL's No. 1 defense, and quarterback Jake Delhomme was sacked eight times.
Vasher's first interception led to a three-yard touchdown reception for former Panther Muhsin Muhammad, and the second resulted in a 33-yard field goal by Robbie Gould in the first quarter. The second-year pro has six interceptions.
Adewale Ogunleye tied a career high with three sacks, and Alex Brown had two and forced two fumbles for the Bears (7-3).
Muhammad had six receptions for 49 yards and a touchdown but dropped several passes. Justin Gage caught seven for 81 yards.
Thomas Jones ran for 87 yards in 25 carries after sitting out last week's 17-9 victory over San Francisco because of sore ribs. Kyle Orton completed 15 of 26 passes for 136 yards, a touchdown and interception.
Fred Miller started at right tackle for the Bears after sitting out last week's game because of a broken jaw. Miller's injury was the result of a punch to the face from center Olin Kreutz during an altercation on Nov. 7 after an event at an FBI shooting range.
Kreutz said he and Miller are still embarrassed and added there's "not a right or wrong guy in that whole situation. We're just both idiots."