Down to the wire, again
At the half, it felt like the Chargers weren’t going to lose against the Bears. Josh Lambo’s 31-yard field goal before the end of the second quarter gave the Chargers a 16-7 lead, and San Diego was set to receive to start the third quarter. Things felt great. And naturally, they got progressively not so great. Quarterback Jay Cutler led Chicago on two touchdown drives in the fourth quarter, the second of which gave the Bears their first lead of the night, 22-19, after they converted the two-point conversion. Cutler ripped a 25-yard strike to tight end Zach Miller who made a spectacular one-handed catch. Like so many times this season, the Chargers were unable to respond. The Chargers got to Chicago’s 49-yard line with 1:26 remaining but Rivers was then sacked twice in a row, making it third-and-23 with 1:21 left. The Chargers didn’t gain a yard and eventually forfeited the ball on downs.
Another gut wrenching loss, and the season’s over at 2-7.
“At this point, you play for respect,” Rivers said. “When I say respect, the respect of the other guys in the locker room. That’s what you play for. That’s why I’m going to show up, continue to go, because we have sixteen of them, and because I want to make sure that I continue to earn that and and have that from those other guys in there. I hope the rest of us will do the same.”
The Chargers have spent the majority of the 2015 season playing from behind. That wasn’t the case Monday night (though it could have been had Bears kicker Robbie Gould not missed a field goal on Chicago’s first drive of the game). San Diego got out to a first-quarter, 7-0 lead on a Philip Rivers-to-Danny Woodhead 14-yard touchdown pass. After Woodhead’s touchdown reception, the Chargers held the lead until 3:19 left in the fourth quarter. It was the Chargers longest time ahead during a game all season. In the end, it didn’t matter. San Diego can’t get it done when it matters most.
“We just can’t make the play down the stretch, either to hang on, or to finish the game on either side of the ball, “ Rivers said.
Langford and Gordon
Rookie running back Melvin Gordon has been a storyline for the Chargers all season, just not in a good way. It’s not necessarily entirely his fault, either. Injuries to the offensive line have certainly hurt his game this season. But, regardless first-round draft status means expectations are high. The Chargers tried to get Gordon going in the first half but not much happened. He finished with 11 rushes for 31 yards while Danny Woohead ran six times for 33 yards, and caught 6 passes for 78 yards. And, for the first time all season, Donald Brown ran the ball, notching 13 yards on 2 carries.
Asked if he would like to have more touches, Gordon said, “Yeah, I would like to. Danny got the hot-hand so you know you got to roll with him.”
For the Bears, rookie running back, and fourth-round pick, Jeremy Langford was superb filling in for the injured Matt Forte. He ran 18 times for 72 yards and one touchdown. He was a huge factor in the passing game as well, finishing with three receptions for 70 yards.
What would a Chargers game be without injuries? Boring! The latest players to join the ongoing saga were wide receiver Malcom Floyd and cornerback Jason Verrett. Floyd, who has said he plans to retire after the season, has for the majority of his career dealt with injuries. However, the past season and a half have been Floyd’s healthiest. He injured his shoulder in the first quarter after diving for a deep pass. He was slow to get up and did not return.
“That was very tough,” Stevie Johnson said of losing Floyd. “Seeing him go down, it’s just like one thing after another. That’s two of our boys down. It’s stuff you can’t really explain, it’s part of the game.”
Just after Verrett’s 68-yard pick-six, the Chargers first interception return for a touchdown since November of 2013, the second-year player was burned on a 47-yard pass to Alshon Jeffrey. He was noticeably limping after the play and left the game with a groin injury. Steve Williams replaced Verrett. The Chargers also lost Patrick Robinson, although he’s not a newcomer to the medical tent. He left the game in the second quarter with a neck injury and did not return. Rookie Craig Mager, who’s missed five games himself this season, was Robinson’s replacement.
“Kinda after that deep ball that I gave up, that was like a momentum shift for them,” Verrett said. “I think they got a score on that drive. They found a way to win.”
Kicker woes: Josh Lambo missed an extra point in the first half on what appeared to be a bad hold by punter Mike Scifres. Lambo did finish with two field goals, however, his longest a 31-yarder. Bears kicker Robbie Gould had a rough night. A 47-yard field goal attempt on the Bears opening drive was no good, and would miss another in the third quarter — this time from 34-yards — when the ball bounced off the upright. Chargers punter Mike Scifres had a rough night as well, with two kicks at 35 and 33 yards, and they were not intentional.
The bearded wizard returns
Prior to this season, safety Eric Weddle hadn’t missed a game since 2009. He missed the last two games with a groin injury and his status questionable heading into Monday’s game. Weddle led the team with 13 tackles, including eight in the first quarter, and recovered a fumble caused by a Melvin Ingram’s strip-sack of Cutler.
Asked how frustrating it is right now, Weddle said, “You give everything to the team. You sacrifice so much –time, health, energy, mental, physical for the team. It just doesn’t pan out for how many weeks in a row. But I’m never going to sotp being who I am, and that’s loving the game, preparing, relishing the grind each week and hoping that carries over. I believe eventually that’ll carry over. The harder you work, it’ll carry over. The guys see it. The guys know. We’ll just keep pushing it.”
–Andrew Burer (TWITTER: @andrewburer)
**Annie Heilbrunn contributed to this report