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Bears linebacker J.T. Thomas blew past his block, blocked the punt from the foot of Richard Kent, and continued the Chargers’ tough night on special teams. Backed into their own red zone again, the Chargers defense held to force the first of two Robbie Gould field goals.
Those six points proved crucial. Quarterback Brad Sorensen mounted a comeback attempt that fell short and the Bears held their fourth-quarter lead, 33-28.
Sorensen and a deep-strike offense showed up for the final fifteen minutes. With 9:37 left in the game, the rookie found receiver Robert Meachem deep for 40 yards – the biggest play of the game for the Chargers. He followed that heave with a 22-yarder to Dan DePalma to the left.
Mike Willie caught his second touchdown of the night on the next play. And just like that, the Chargers trailed the Bears by just two points.
The second field goal by Gould put the game out of reach, though. Sorensen and the offense received the ball with time dwindling on the clock.
Sorensen attempted a hail mary after a few quick passes against the Bears prevent defense moved the Chargers to within striking range. The pass, intended for Deon Butler, was too strong and landed behind the Bears’ end line. Read
Special teams helped the Chargers cut into the Bears’ lead before giving up a 100-yard kickoff return. Receiver Mike Willie added a touchdown late in the quarter, but the Bears still lead the game, 27-21
The big fumble recovery came first. Linebacker D.J. Smith fought his way through 12 players, not 11, on his way to Bears punt returner Josh Lenz.
The result couldn’t have been better. Smith hit Lenz hard, forced a fumble, and set the Chargers offense up with great field position when fellow linebacker Frank Beltre fell on the loose ball.
Soon after, Charlie Whitehurst dropped back and surveyed the middle of the field. There, he found tight end Ladarius Green on a tightly-fit post for a 12-yard touchdown.
The turnover would’ve evened the score for special team’s coach Kevin Spencer, who watched rookie Keenan Allen muff a punt with 8:34 left in the second quarter. But on the very next play, Bears returner Michael Ford stepped out from deep inside his own end zone and broke free down the sideline for the next 100 yards.
Marcus Cromartie forced Ford out at the Chargers four-yard line. Bush ran left two plays later, and put the Bears up by two scores.
Two possessions later, Charlie Whitehurst mounted an impressive scoring drive that was capped by Willie’s five-yard touchdown catch. Ladarius Green also added a 21-yard catch of his own.
Philip Rivers wanted to speed things up after his offense’s slow start.
The ten-year veteran sped his teammates back up to the line on the opening drive of quarter number two. He handed to Ryan Mathews, and then handed off to Mathews again on a quick count, hoping to catch the Bears defense off balance.
But Rivers’ fast tempo couldn’t translate to a fast score on that drive. The Chargers did add a 3-yard touchdown by running back Fozzy Whittaker at the end of the quarter, but still trail the Bears 20-7 at the conclusion of the first half.
The defensive starters exited the game after the Chargers’ first drive ended in a third down sack of Rivers and a punt. When the Chargers second-team defense held strong on the ensuing Bears drive, third-round pick Keenan Allen mishandled the Bears punt and set backup QB Josh McCown just outside the Chargers’ red zone.
Chicago grabbed a 17-point lead when kicker Robbie Gould hit a 23-yard field goal with five minutes left in the quarter. They added another Gould field goal when backup QB Charlie Whitehurst fumbled the snap on the next offensive play.
Whittaker looked strong again in relief of Mathews. The first-year back from Texas had four carries in the second quarter for five yards.
Whittaker’s most impressive play came through the air, though. Early in the second quarter, Rivers scanned the field for an open receiver. When no options became available, the quarterback found Whittaker on a swing pass out of the backfield for a catch-and-run of 17 yards.
Linebacker Bront Bird added three tackles in the quarter.
The Chargers will receive the ball to start the second half.
Two tough-luck turnovers by Philip Rivers put a hold on the Chargers’ first-string success. The Chargers trail the Bears 14-0 after a strong quarter by Bears Pro-Bowl running back Matt Forte.
Defensive end Corey Liuget and linebacker Jarret Johnson weren’t giving Matt Forte any room to run up the middle. So, with eight minutes left in the first quarter, the Bears running back tried his luck with a toss on the outside.
Forte found running room there with a 58-yard sprint up the right sideline. One play later, the Jay Cutler-to-Brandon Marshall connection gave the Bears their 7-0 first quarter lead over the Chargers.
Forte piled on that lead with a three-yard score to the right to end the quarter and put Chicago up 14 points.
Other than a few explosive plays, the Chargers defense looked strong out of the gate. Liuget opened the quarter by strafing down the Bears’ offensive line and throwing Forte down for a loss.
Johnson and Liuget added back-to-back sacks on the next two plays to force a three-and-out.
Rivers’ first interception of the preseason – a diving, hotly contested pick by Bears safety Chris Conte, set the Bears up in Chargers territory with another scoring chance. Linebacker Donald Butler quickly ended that opportunity by stepping in front of quarterback Jay Cutler’s lob for an interception and gave the ball back to the offense.
Ryan Mathews ‘ hot preseason start continued with four straight handoffs. But Rivers fumbled on his second sack of the quarter, and five plays later, Forte found the endzone.
Act two of the Mike McCoy era kicks off tonight against another offensively minded first-year head coach in the Windy City.
McCoy will be pitted against Marc Trestman when the San Diego Chargers take on the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. Both teams suffered losses in the preseason’s opening week.
Quarterback Jay Cutler enters his fifth season at the helm of the Bears’ offense and fourth season playing in a new offensive system. Trestman will be charged with keeping Cutler upright in 2013 – only four quarterbacks were sacked more times than Cutler last season (38 sacks).
When protected, the Bears offense is potent behind Cutler and All-Pro wide receiver Brandon Marshall. The two former Denver Broncos connected 116 times for 10 touchdowns and nearly 1,500 yards last season, but second-year receiver Alshon Jeffery (24 receptions for 367 yards and three touchdowns) and Pro-Bowl running back Matt Forte (1,094 yards and five touchdowns) will seek to play a larger role in the Bears’ attack this year.
The Chargers first-team offense did everything but score a touchdown in the preseason opener. Philip Rivers led an impressive drive against one of the NFL’s stingiest defenses and came up with a field goal against the Seahawks last week. Against the Bears, McCoy wants to build on that outing with Rivers, his re-tooled offensive line featuring top pick D.J. Fluker, and a revamped running game spearheaded by Ryan Mathews, Ronnie Brown and Danny Woodhead.
Kickoff is set for 7:00 p.m. Be sure to stay tuned to Chargers.com throughout the game. ReadRead