Two teams headlining Monday Night Football with a combined four wins sure sounds like a real exciting way to spend a Monday night, doesn't it. Especially two teams that have battled injuries all year, played close games all year, and are generally surrounded by and cognizant of their ability to play bad football.
All that said, you could probably guess what we would get: A low-scoring, close game marred by mistakes on all sides, both teams seemingly trying to outdo the other in screwing up, plus a bunch more injuries (largely on San Diego's side, although Ka'Deem Carey left briefly), and won in the final few minutes on a stellar play by Jay Cutler and Zach Miller, the former throwing an absolute rocket, and the latter going up to make a very tough one-handed catch to haul in his first touchdown in four seasons.
Oh, trust me, it wasn't all sunshine and rainbows the whole way through. The Bears' first drive ended in a missed field goal; the second on a sack/forced fumble. After a Matt Slauson false start pushed the Bears to 3rd and 8, Melvin Ingram burst through Charles Leno to hammer Cutler. That, of course, was after a drive that saw Danny Woodhead corral a touchdown from Philip Rivers after Sam Acho passed Woodhead off to the invisible safety.
After exchanging punts for a bit, Tracy Porter forced a fumble and, well, the Bears were in business, right? Points went on the board... but for the Chargers, as Cutler and Jeffery failed to hook up on a hook route and Jason Verrett snared it and took it all the way. Cutler said after the game he put the ball where he wanted to, but also thought Jeffery was held on the play - to me, it looked like Jeffery was forced off his spot, but the throw could have been less in the wheelhouse of the defensive back.
The next play, the Bears went back to the Cutler/Jeffery connection anyway, and the Bears took it for 47 yards downfield, eventually finishing the drive with a short strike to Martellus Bennett. The Cutler/Jeffery connection struggled for about a quarter and a half, but once it got going, it was largely unstoppable, as Jeffery finished with 10 catches on 16 targets for 151 yards.
Once San Diego kicked a field goal at the end of the half, 16-7 simultaneously felt like an insurmountable gap and, hey, wait, this is the Chargers, a comeback should be possible. The Chargers only scored one more field goal the rest of the way; with the Bears defense adjusting to the short routes and stops, the Bears offense had to go to work, and it did.
Before we get there though, let's talk about the offensive line a bit. Kyle Long committed a pair of penalties, including an unsportsmanlike penalty for hollering at a ref and not getting off the field quickly. Slauson had a rough game at center, allowing a fair amount of pressure up the middle. Leno had his hands full with Ingram. Omameh and Ducasse both had their own struggles. So it's solid work on everybody's part and a solid gameplan that had Cutler only get sacked once and got the team going for 109 yards on the ground.
Jeremy Langford played a huge role in continuing to get the offense moving. His first significant action of the year resulted in 72 yards rushing and 70 in the air, including one long diving catch of 31 yards and a quick swing that, with a quick burst out of the backfield, went for a solid first down. A 4.0 YPC is solid, if unspectacular, but Langford's got the skills to do a lot of damage on the field. That being said, let's cool down on the talk of shipping Forte out of town with a version of that guy on the roster.
After forcing a punt on the Chargers' first drive of the second half, the Bears were set to tack on another 3 points and push forward... but Gould missed again, his second of the night and only the third game in his career where he's missed two or more field goals. But the next drive, starting at their own 7, they made their way down the field in 15 plays, taking short chunks of yardage in the running game and stretching the field horizontally. Antone Smith brought the Bears to first and goal with an 11 yard run, and Langford punched it in on the third play of the fourth quarter.
A fourteen play drive from the Chargers, including a toss to a wide open Antonio Gates (I'm not sure how this happens, given that he's no longer the Gates of old), resulted in their field goal to make it 14-19; the Bears' offense took control. Jeffery picked up two first downs on the drive, and Zach Miller hauled in the 25-yard bullet to take the lead for good.
The two minute warning saw the Chargers in Bears territory, but Lamarr Houston picked a fine time to show up and collect not only his first, but also his second sacks of the year (also picking up a penalty in between and committing another penalty earlier). Rivers' desperation heave fell incomplete amidst several Bears, and the game was in hand.
- Let's start the bullets with, well... Parse Cutler's pick-six all you want, but he was incredibly solid last night. 345 yards, 2 touchdowns, and a passer rating of 100.5 is a pretty on-point night for just about anybody, even if it is against a not-very-strong secondary.
- Now, what's not very strong is starting a game picking up 7 points on their first six drives into Chargers territory. Settling for two field goals should have made that 13, but misses just exacerbate the lack of finishing. Getting in the red zone is nice, and it's good the Bears were able to score in the second half, but it could have been so much better.
- That's where the defense deserves huge props for holding the Chargers to 3 points (coupled with long offensive drives) in the second half. The Bears had started to clamp down on those shorter plays, as Christian Jones and Jonathan Anderson (and, as an aside, Anderson has flashed pretty well over these couple games - not perfect, of course, and he's had his misses, but he plays hard and gets around the ball) led the team with 7 and 12 tackles, respectively. Adrian Amos and Tracy Porter were both really strong, though I think we're seeing why Alan Ball has had a hard time seeing the field over Bryce Callahan (both a missed tackle and that he's more an outside guy, not inside).
- Of course, after Kyle Long gripes about no roughing the passer call, Jarvis Jenkins commits a roughing the passer penalty.
- It's amusing that the Chargers had to use a silent count at home.
- So, how about that Bears pass rush. I sure can't wait to see some Bears pass rush.
- Ka'Deem Carey was active. He ran for a couple first downs. The world didn't end.
- I think the biggest takeaway of the game is overcoming their own mistakes and getting out of their own way long enough to win a game. Funny how that's easier when the defense puts in work. In four of the last five games, the Bears allowed 23 points or less, including last night's 19. In 5 of the last 6, that's 26 or less points allowed. Maybe a function of playing less than elite offenses lately, but may also be a sign of coming together when they should (against lesser competition). We'll have to see what happens next week against the Rams.
Kind of the takeaway of the game in general. Both teams made mistakes, both teams put the ball on the ground, both teams committed dumb penalties, but in the end, the Bears are the ones who ended up with 22 points and the Chargers only picked up 19. What are your thoughts on last night's game?