The Los Angeles Chargers defeated the Chicago Bears, 17-16, Sunday in Chicago to end a three-game losing streak by doing a better job inside their opponents’ 20-yard line and making fewer mistakes.
The Chargers scored two touchdowns, had a field goal and missed a field goal attempt in their four possessions inside Chicago’s 20-yard line. The Bears had the ball inside the Chargers’ 20-yard line five times and came away with one touchdown and three field goals with one missed field goal attempt.
“I thought the defense stepped up in the red zone and played well,” Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said.
The Chargers missed one field goal attempt, Chicago missed two, including a 41-yard attempt by Eddy Pineiro as time expired.
“I lost the game for the team,” said Pineiro, who is in his first season kicking in the NFL. He spent the 2018 season on injured/reserve with the Oakland Raiders. “I put that one on me.”
Pineiro also had a 33-yard field goal attempt hit the right upright in the first quarter.
The Chargers committed one turnover, which the Bears converted into Pineiro’s 22-yard field goal on the third play of the second quarter to open the scoring.
Chicago committed two turnovers. Chase McLaughlin missed a 42-yard field goal attempt wide right four plays after Casey Hayward intercepted a pass by Mitchell Trubisky at the Chargers’ 43-yard line and returned the ball 37 yards to the Bears’ 20-yard line.
Trubisky fumbled dropping back to pass on Chicago’s next possession, with Melvin Ingram recovering at the Bears’ 28-yard line and returning the ball two yards with nine minutes, 25 seconds to play.
Philip Rivers threw a 11-yard touchdown pass to Austin Ekeler three plays later. McLaughlin’s extra point with 8:04 remaining gave the Chargers the margin of victory.
“Name of the game is one more point than the other team,” Rivers said. “Heard me say it a long time. We got it done today.”
The touchdown pass was Rivers’ 400th in the regular season and postseason, the sixth player to accomplish the feat. He completed 19 of 29 passes for 201 yards with one interception and was sacked once.
The victory also ended a stretch of five losses in six games for the Chargers (3-5), their worst stretch of at least five games since they lost the final five games of the 2016 season, resulting in the firing of head coach Mike McCoy after four seasons.
The victory was also the Chargers’ first at Soldier Field after losing their first four games there and increased the number of stadiums Rivers has quarterbacked the Chargers to victories in to 26. The Chargers defeated the Bears, 20-7, in 1970, their final season at Wrigley Field.
The Chargers were outgained 388 yards to 231 and trailed 26-11 in first downs, including 13-7 in the first half, and 38:00-22:00 in time of possession, including 19:22-10:38 in the first half.
The Chargers converted two of 10 third downs, 20%, the Bears five of 14, 35.7%. Chicago was successful on the game’s only fourth-down conversion.
“Our defense was awesome and our special teams,” Rivers said. “We punted it well and covered well against those returners and then made the kicks that we had to have.”
The Bears (3-4) lost their third consecutive game despite gaining more than 300 yards for the first time this season. Trubisky completed 23 of 35 passes for a season-high 253 yards with one interception. He was sacked four times, twice by Joey Bosa.
Chicago rookie running back David Montgomery ran for 135 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries, including a 55-yard run to the Chargers’ 15-yard line 1:43 before halftime that set up Pineiro’s third field goal, a 19-yarder on the final play of the first half.
The 55-yard run was the longest by a Bear since Jordan Howard’s 69-yard run on Oct. 31, 2016 against Minnesota. Both the yardage and carries were season highs for the third-round draft choice from Iowa State.
The Bears drew repeated boos from many in the crowd announced at 61,632 for their play, especially inside the Chargers’ 20-yard line, and for coach Matt Nagy’s play-calling at the end of the first half and game.
When asked, “Can you walk us through your thought process on taking the knee before” Pineiro’s final field goal attempt, Nagy responded, “I’m not even going to get into that. I have zero thought of running the ball and taking the chance of fumbling the football.
“They know you’re running the football, so you lose three, four yards, so that wasn’t even in our process as coaches to think about that. We were in field goal range before the scramble, and then we got the scramble, so that didn’t even cross my mind.”
Trubisky ran for 11 yards to the Chargers’ 21-yard line the play before kneeling at the 22-yard line.
Nagy was asked whether a pass play was considered instead kneeling.
“Throw the football right then and there, what happens if you take a sack or there’s a fumble?” Nagy said.
The questioner responded, “You lose the game.”
Said Nagy: “That’s right, yeah, exactly. So no, there was zero thought of that. I’ll just be brutally clear — zero thought of throwing the football, zero thought of running the football. You understand me? That’s exactly what it was. It’s as simple as that.”
Chicago had six snaps from inside the Chargers’ 5-yard before Pineiro’s 19-yard field to end the first half. Hayward was called for pass interference on Trubisky’s third-down pass, giving Chicago a first down on the Chargers’ 1-yard line with 29 seconds remaining in the half and no time outs remaining.
Trubisky’s first-down pass was incomplete. Montgomery was stopped for no gain on second down. With the clock running down to one second, Trubisky spiked the ball to stop the clock.
When asked “any thoughts on what went haywire down the stretch?” Nagy responded, “No, we were good there. I was fine with all that.
“What I didn’t like is that we took it down to one second. That to me, that became almost bad. But we needed one second on the clock in order to have that opportunity. I was fine with that part. It was just the fact that we were real close to not getting it off.”
The Bears scored their lone touchdown on the opening possession of the second half, driving 75 yards on 11 plays to increase its lead to 16-7 with 8:08 remaining in the third quarter.
Montgomery ran four yards for the score, one play after Trubisky threw a 31-yard pass to Allen Robinson. Trubisky completed all three of his passes on the drive for 45 yards. Montgomery ran six times for 27 yards.
Despite the victory, the Chargers’ offensive and running woes continued. They have scored more than 20 points once in their past seven games, a 30-10 victory over the winless Miami Dolphins Sept. 29.
They rushed for 36 yards on 12 carries Sunday, the fourth consecutive game they have rushed for 39 yards or less. The span coincides with Melvin Gordon’s return to play after not reporting to the team as he sought a contract extension.
Gordon ran for 31 yards on 18 carries, including a 19-yard touchdown run 2:12 before halftime that gave the Chargers a 7-6 lead.
Gordon has rushed for 42 yards or less for eight consecutive games dating back to last season, including the playoffs. The streak began after Gordon suffered a knee injury Nov. 25 that sidelined him the next three games.
The Chargers entered play Sunday tied for 23rd in the 32-team league in scoring, averaging 20 points per game, boosted by scoring 30 points in both their victories. They were 27th in rushing yards per game, averaging 74.3, one spot ahead of the Bears, who are averaging 70.
Chicago opened the scoring on the third play of the second quarter on Pineiro’s 22-yard field goal, four plays after cornerback Kyle Fuller intercepted a pass by Rivers at the Chargers’ 33-yard line and returned the ball 29 yards.
Trubisky threw a pass to receiver Cordarrelle Patterson for no gain on the first play after the interception, then threw back-to-back incomplete passes.
The Bears increased their lead to 6-0 with 4:16 left in the first half on Pineiro’s 25-yard field goal. Chicago had first-and-goal from the Chargers’ 9-yard line after a 6-yard run by Tarik Cohen and an illegal use-of-hands penalty against Chargers rookie defensive tackle Jerry Tillery.
Cohen was stopped for no gain on first-and-goal, Trubisky threw an incomplete pass on second down and Cohen was pushed out of bounds after running for two yards on third down.
Gordon scored on the ensuing possession, one play after Rivers’ 43-yard pass to Mike Williams, the Chargers’ longest play of the game.
The Chargers had a second-and-goal from the Bears’ 2-yard line on the possession following Montgomery’s touchdown, but had to settle for Chase McLaughlin’s 20-yard field goal with 39 seconds left in the third quarter. Rivers threw an incomplete pass on second down and Ekeler was stopped for no gain on third down.
The game marked the return of two key Chargers who had been sidelined by illness and injury.
Two-time Pro Bowl left tackle Russell Okung played for the first time in 2019 following a pulmonary embolism caused by blood clots.
Okung tweeted July 25 that “after experiencing unusual chest pain at practice June 1, I went to urgent care out of an abundance of caution. According to the doctors who treated me, the decision to do so likely saved my life.”
Ingram, a two-time Pro Bowl defensive end, started after missing three consecutive games because of a hamstring injury, making three tackles, one for a loss, and recovered Trubisky’s fourth-quarter fumble.
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