Chicago Bears: San Diego Chargers

Early returns on Hester are positive

August, 20, 2013
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The early returns on Devin Hester's transition to full-time special teamer have been encouraging.

[+] EnlargeDevin Hester
AP Photo/Bob LeveroneDevin Hester has two kick returns for 68 yards during the preseason.
Without the responsibility of having to take a single rep at wide receiver, Hester has looked fresh and re-energized when given the opportunity to return kickoffs during the preseason. The NFL record holder for combined kick-return touchdowns with 17, Hester almost broke the opening kickoff last week against the San Diego Chargers, but he was tripped up after a 45-yard return.

"He was pretty close," Bears special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis said. "The kicker made a nice play and then also the safety from the back side. It was just good to get him some action, some real action. It was good to see those guys blocking the way they did, too, because there was definitely some holes out there, which was nice to see."

Hester also was credited with a 23-yard kickoff return in the Bears' preseason opener in Carolina when he decided to run the ball out after fielding it in the back of the end zone. The Bears have given Hester the green light on kickoff returns in both exhibition games. That aggressive style doesn't just help Hester, it allows the rest of the return team members to practice setting up their blocks.

"Even when Devin was having those big years, Devin had some big holes to go through," DeCamillis said. "We just got to do a better job of getting some holes for him at the start, and then, you know, he's gotta go and play better also. So it's a combination of all of those. I've got to help him schematically with what we're doing. Guys gotta block better, and he's gotta return better. That's what we've been working on all camp, and hopefully it starts to show up."

DeCamillis also has taken notice of undrafted rookie Michael Ford, who is fighting to earn a roster spot at running back. With Armando Allen sidelined last week due to a hamstring injury, Ford helped his cause with a 100-yard kickoff return against the Chargers. He finished the game with three returns for 160 yards.

"It would be tough not to like what you saw in a Michael Ford," DeCamillis said. "He did a great job. On his long one, that wasn't one of the better blocked returns that we had all night. He made a guy miss right in the hole. So that was a great run by him, and he did a better job on coverage, too. So he's making it tough. He's doing a good job of what we need to see from him, that's for sure."

Trestman: No decision on Matt Blanchard

August, 19, 2013
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Second-year quarterback Matt Blanchard watched practice on Monday with a soft cast on his fractured left hand, but Chicago Bears coach Marc Trestman acknowledged that a final decision on Blanchard’s roster status has not been made after the club acquired veteran quarterbacks Jordan Palmer and Trent Edwards.

Blanchard broke a knuckle in his left hand in the third quarter of the Bears’ 33-28 preseason victory over the San Diego Chargers.

[+] EnlargeMatt Blanchard
AP Photo/Scott Boehm

A broken knuckle has the roster status of Bears quarterback Matt Blanchard in jeopardy.

“We’ve got to see how this injury unfolds and how it relates to the roster,” Trestman said. “So we’re just giving that some time, but it’s a relevant question. We just are not in position to make that decision yet, so we’re just going to see how this injury unfolds and what the length of it would be.”

Blanchard could not put a timetable on a return.

“I really don’t know yet,” Blanchard said. "We’re still talking and I still have to see some doctors. I still have to talk to our trainers and figure that stuff out.”

Based on Trestman’s comments throughout training camp, Blanchard had performed well in the preseason and appeared to be a strong candidate to earn a spot on the final 53-man roster as the Bears’ No. 3 quarterback before the injury. Blanchard completed 15 of 18 passes for 194 yards in the Bears' opening preseason game against the Carolina Panthers.

“I feel good about my progress [in the offense],” Blanchard said. “I feel good about moving forward and a lot of the stuff’s out of my hands at this point.

“I just have to help the new quarterbacks coming in to get them ready for Oakland and get them ready for the last preseason game and be the best teammate possible.”

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Trestman pleased with defensive line

August, 16, 2013
CHICAGO -- Chicago Bears coach Marc Trestman could point to positives and negatives when it came to his team's offense against the San Diego Chargers on Thursday, but he had nothing but good things to say about the play of the Bears' defensive line.

The Bears held the Chargers’ first-team offense and quarterback Philip Rivers scoreless on four possessions over a little more than a quarter, thanks greatly to their defensive line.

[+] EnlargeShea McClellin
AP Photo/Charles Rex ArbogastHigh on his athleticism, the Bears are confident that Shea McClellin can make an impact at linebacker.
“I thought there’s a competition up front defensively,” Trestman said after Chicago's 33-28 win at Soldier Field. “Again, good pass rush. Shea [McClellin] was involved. Corey [Wootton] was involved. Nate [Collins] was involved. And that’s a good thing.”

McClellin led the way on the Bears’ first stop of the Chargers’ offense. On a first-down play, McClellin tackled Chargers running back Ryan Mathews for a 1-yard loss. Facing long yardage, San Diego went to the air on the next two downs, but Rivers threw back-to-back incompletions.

On the Chargers’ next possession, Wootton stepped up. Wootton blew past San Diego right tackle D.J. Fluker on the inside and slammed Rivers to the ground for a sack. Wootton celebrated with a robot dance. Facing third-and-14, Rivers threw an interception on the following play.

McClellin emerged again on the Chargers’ third possession. He got past left tackle Max Starks and nailed Rivers from behind. The hit caused Rivers to fumble the ball, and the Bears recovered it.

The Bears again kept the heat on Rivers on the Chargers’ fourth offensive possession. On third-and-6 from the Bears’ 39-yard line, which is as close as Rivers got to Chicago's end zone, Collins ended Rivers' day by dropping him one final time for a sack.

McClellin, Wootton and Collins combined for 10 tackles, three sacks, three tackles for loss, two quarterback hits and one forced fumble.

With those numbers, it’s no wonder Trestman was so happy.

Bostic delivers crushing hit to Chargers WR

August, 16, 2013
Jon BosticDennis Wierzbicki/USA TODAY SportsJon Bostic has not played like an intimidated rookie. Rather, he could end up starting at middle linebacker.
CHICAGO -- There has been no shortage of memorable plays in Chicago Bears middle linebacker Jon Bostic's young NFL career.

One week after returning an interception for a touchdown in the preseason opener against the Carolina Panthers, Bostic was at it again Thursday night in his Solider Field debut, delivering a vicious hit to San Diego Chargers wide receiver Mike Willie on a short pass on the third play of the second half. The force of the impact caused Willie to drop the ball, resulting in an incompletion.

"Obviously, it was a big hit," Bostic said. "We were trying to take the ball away, that's the main thing. I kind of read it kind of quick because of something we had on up front. It was a big hit. But we were trying to take the ball out, but we didn’t get it."

Bostic said he wasn't sure if it was the biggest hit of his career.

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Five Things To Watch: Bears-Chargers

August, 14, 2013
Jay CutlerAP Photo/Mike McCarnJay Cutler will have Brandon Marshall and more plays to show some progress on Thursday.
CHICAGO -- Here are five things to keep an eye on Thursday night when the Chicago Bears host the San Diego Chargers at Soldier Field.

1. The progress of the offense: The 10 snaps the Bears' starting offense took in Carolina is too small of a sample size to draw any sort of conclusions. But we might have a better idea about where the offense stands on Thursday night, if the first team plays at least a quarter, as expected. Take away Jay Cutler's early interception, and the quarterback had a decent performance versus the Panthers, even without Pro Bowl wide receiver Brandon Marshall on the field. With Marshall back in the lineup and Matt Forte expected to carry the ball more than one time against the Chargers -- we should have a better feel for the Bears' offense heading into next week.

2. The right side of the offensive line: Kyle Long's rise up to the depth chart does not come as a surprise. Although Long is still in the process of refining his technique, footwork and overall feel for playing right guard at the NFL level, he was the Bears' first-round pick (No. 20) in the draft. The plan was always for him to be a starter his rookie year. The surprise is fifth-round draft choice Jordan Mills replacing J'Marcus Webb this week at right tackle. Is this development more of a credit to Mills or an indictment of Webb, who if I recall correctly, basically entered training camp as the clear cut No. 1 right tackle. Whatever the reason, Mills has a great opportunity to win the job permanently. But if he falters, veterans Eben Britton and likely Jonathan Scott are waiting in the wings. So is Webb, technically.

[+] EnlargeJon Bostic
Jim Dedmon/Icon SMIWhat will Jonathan Bostic do for an encore Thursday?
3. Can the rookies sustain success: There is no way of knowing for sure how a first-year player is going to react after he tastes initial success. Can he sustain it? That is the question surrounding linebackers Jon Bostic, Khaseem Greene, wide receiver Marquess Wilson and defensive end Cornelius Washington going into Week 2 of the preseason. All four rookies made plays last week in Carolina, the most notables being Bostic's 51-yard interception return for a touchdown and Wilson's 58-yard reception. But Greene quietly had the strongest game of all, recording four tackles, one special teams stop, plus a tackle-for-loss in the red zone that required the fourth-rounder to anticipate the play, read his keys and shoot the gap to finish the play. Even the athletic but still developing Washington stood out with a couple of tackles. What will they do for an encore?

4. Isaiah Frey pursuit of nickel back: Frey has been one of the best stories of training camp, hands down, but he cannot afford to let up just because he took over the No. 1 nickel back spot after Kelvin Hayden suffered a season ending hamstring tear. The Bears have other options on the roster in the event Frey slips in the coming weeks. The coaches could ask Pro Bowler Tim Jennings to slide inside to nickel and bring in cornerback Zack Bowman on passing downs. That is a plausible scenario. Rookie Demontre Hurst has appeared to do a nice job as the No. 2 nickel in camp, however, it's unclear if the Bears would be comfortable turning the complicated position over to an undrafted rookie with zero experience. Frey didn't appear in an NFL game last year, but at least he spent portions of the year around the team, plus the entire offseason. Recently signed defensive back Derrick Martin has experience at nickel, and so does safety Tom Nelson dating back to his days with the Cincinnati Bengals. The point is, Frey needs to keep pushing and making plays to ensure the Bears don't eventually turn to Plan B.

5. The reserve quarterbacks: Barring an injury, veteran Josh McCown enters the regular season as the Bears' No. 2 quarterback. That really isn't up for debate. Bears general manager Phil Emery once called McCown "a glue guy" for his ability to keep things together behind the scenes. I couldn't agree more. But after McCown, do the Bears keep three quarterbacks and break the preseason with Matt Blanchard on the 53-man roster? The question has nothing to do with the way Blanchard has performed in the preseason. He managed to complete 15-of-18 passes for 194 yards (one interception) versus the Panthers, despite being sacked five times. Blanchard has a strong arm, looks good in practice against the other backups, and seems like an intelligent and hard-working kind of guy. But sometimes the NFL comes down to a numbers game. Somebody is going to be squeezed off the roster to make room for Devin Hester. Remember, Hester is no longer a wide receiver, he's purely a specialist. That means the Bears will have four guys on the roster strictly for special teams. Where does that roster spot come from? Well, sometimes teams carry only two quarterbacks, as the Bears did last year. Would Blanchard clear waivers and be eligible to be signed to the practice squad for another year? Tough to say. All Blanchard can do is keep competing at the same level he has been. But it certainly wouldn't hurt his chances to earn a better paycheck if he lights it up whenever he hits the field in the final preseason games.
BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- Offensive tackle Jonathan Scott missed practice Tuesday to spend the day with team doctors, but the Chicago Bears received some positive news about his recovery.

Sidelined with knee swelling for a good portion of training camp, Scott is expected to return in the coming days after medical personnel recently drained fluid from the veteran's sore knee and after an exploratory examination found no structural damage.

"It looks like it's gotten better," Bears coach Marc Trestman said. "We should see some movement in the right direction in the next few days and the next week. He was actually with the doctors today. [Head athletic trainer] Chris [Hanks] came over to tell me that, said the results were very good. I didn't get specific with him, but he was positive about Jonathan getting back to us next week."

Scott, a seven-year veteran, has experienced swelling in his knees in the past and missed some time last season, his first with the Bears.

Scott's return will be welcomed considering the team is in the heat of a competition to find its starting right tackle. Incumbent J'Marcus Webb was moved to the second team, where he'll back up Jermon Bushrod at left tackle, and rookie Jordan Mills was elevated to the first team on the right side.

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Cutler hopes to game plan against Chargers

August, 13, 2013
Jay CutlerAP Photo/Andrew A. NellesJay Cutler figures to play at least a quarter against the Chargers on Thursday.
BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- Chicago Bears coach Marc Trestman has a simple goal for the offense heading into the second preseason contest Thursday against the San Diego Chargers.

"You always want to see points," Trestman said. "That would be No. 1. We want to score."

Quarterback Jay Cutler and the Bears' starting offense played just 10 snaps last week in Carolina, and although the unit failed to put the ball in the end zone, Cutler did finish 6-of-8 passing for 56 yards after tossing an interception on their first offensive snap of the game.

With the starter expected to be on the field for at least one quarter against the Chargers, Cutler is hopeful the Bears will be permitted to show a tad more on offense.

"I hope so," Cutler said. "We're going to get some game-planning this afternoon, but still it's the preseason and we're still figuring out exactly what plays we like and what we're good at so we're not going to be game-planning like your regular week. We'll do a little bit tonight, some tomorrow, then we'll strap it up and play and hopefully some of that stuff pairs up nicely for us. If not, then we'll just have to work around it and figure it out and watch it on tape."

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Bears elevate Mills, Long; Webb to 2nd team

August, 11, 2013
BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- The Chicago Bears returned to the practice field following their preseason opener in Carolina with a different starting combination on the right side of the offensive line with rookies right tackle Jordan Mills and right guard Kyle Long replacing James Brown and the embattled J'Marcus Webb.

[+] EnlargeKyle Long
Jerry Lai/USA TODAY SportsBears guard Kyle Long is working out with the first team at camp.
The Bears inserting 2013 first-round pick Long into the starting lineup is hardly a surprise since both he and Brown had been alternating reps with the No. 1 offense since the beginning of training camp, but Sunday marked the first time Mills, the Bears’ 2013 fifth-round choice out of Louisiana Tech, had jumped in front of Webb on the depth chart. Webb spent the practice at left tackle with the second team while Eben Britton worked at right tackle with the No. 2s. Veteran Jonathan Scott remained sidelined with a knee injury.

“It’s a great opportunity, it’s humbling, having Roberto Garza, Webb, Jermon Bushrod, Matt Slauson, the whole offensive line helps me,” Mills said. “They’re in your ear every time I make mistakes I can go to the sideline expecting some criticism, constructive criticism -- what to do here, you need to step this way, be a little bit lower, so it’s been great working with them. In my eyes, these dudes are all Hall of Famers in my eyes, so just to be here is so humbling.”

Bears head coach Marc Trestman cautioned that nothing is set in stone on the right side, but said Mills and Long will continue to get the bulk of the practice reps in the next couple of days leading up to the second preseason game against the San Diego Chargers, where the duo is likely to open up the game as starters.

However, Trestman stopped short of saying the team was sending a message to Webb.

“I think we've been very clear with J'Marcus about what we're doing,” Trestman said. “I said it last week that there's been an up-and-down performance level by J'Marcus but we were still going to do this. We were still going to give work to the other guys and see what they could do as well. So we'll evaluate it. We're going to go through the week like this. We'll evaluate the game and move forward into Oakland."

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Seau's death hits close to home for ex-Bear

May, 2, 2012
Junior SeauLuc Leclerc/US PresswireHunter Hillenmeyer, who has been active in advocating for the NFL to be better equipped to handle head injuries, was saddened at news of Junior Seau's death on Wednesday.

Hunter Hillenmeyer, a former Chicago Bears linebacker whose NFL career was cut short by head injuries, expressed sadness -- but not necessarily shock -- at the news of Junior Seau’s death Wednesday.

Seau, a 43-year-old former All-Pro linebacker, was found unconscious with a gunshot wound to the chest by his girlfriend Wednesday but lifesaving efforts were unsuccessful. Police were investigating the possibility that Seau's death was a suicide.

“The first way I heard about it was just a text that said, ‘That’s crazy about Seau,’” Hillenmeyer told ESPN 1000’s “Chicago’s GameNight” on Wednesday. “And what, to me, the scariest thing is that that was all I knew before I checked Twitter or tried to figure out what happened, and I already assumed exactly what it was. I don’t know him personally. I was obviously a big fan of his and the way he played the game.”

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Chargers WR Jackson on Bears' radar

March, 5, 2012
The San Diego Chargers fired the proverbial starter's pistol to ignite the sweepstakes to land receiver Vincent Jackson on Monday when they decided against making him one of the record 21 players to receive the franchise designation by the league's 3 p.m. deadline.

[+] EnlargeSan Diego's Vincent Jackson
Dennis Wierzbicki/US PRESSWIREVincent Jackson caught seven passes for 165 yards against the Bears in their game last season.
Believed to be one of the teams expected to make a run at Jackson, the Chicago Bears certainly aren't complaining. But they'd better be preparing their best offer for Jackson because there's sure to be competition for his services from a variety of clubs, including the Chargers, which continue to negotiate with representatives for the receiver on a long-term contract.

By standing idle as the franchise-tag deadline passed, the Chargers opened the door for Jackson to negotiate and sign with another team when free agency begins on March 13 (many times, deals are consummated before the official start of free agency). Jackson wants to remain in San Diego, and it's believed he'll accept a lesser deal to stay with the club. But it became virtually impossible for the Chargers to franchise Jackson under the new CBA regulations.

Jackson earned $11.4 million as the Chargers' franchise player in 2011. To retain Jackson again in that capacity in 2012, San Diego would have been required to pay the receiver 120 percent of his '11 salary, which all would count against the team's salary cap for the upcoming season.

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Five Things We Learned: Bears-Chargers

November, 20, 2011

CHICAGO -- Here are Five Things We Learned following the Bears' 31-20 victory over San Diego.

[+] EnlargeCaleb Hanie
AP Photo/David J. PhillipCaleb Hanie will get the chance to show what he can do with Jay Cutler out.
1. Caleb Hanie's time is here: The season is not over, Bears fans. With Jay Cutler expected to be out for at least the remainder of the regular season, per sources familiar with the situation, the reigns of the offense will be turned over to Hanie, who almost rallied the Bears past the Green Bay Packers last year in the NFC Championship Game. Hanie isn't Cutler, but there is no reason the Bears can't win enough games down the stretch the qualify for the playoffs. With a solid defense, excellent special teams, Matt Forte, an improving offensive line and receivers who are starting to make plays, the Bears need to simply tailor the game plan slightly to accentuate Hanie's strengths. Hanie is a mobile quarterback who does a good job making plays with his feet. As we saw in the postseason, Hanie already has a nice rapport with Bennett, and he threw a lot to Johnny Knox in the preseason since the wideout ran the bulk of his reps with the second team. Don't expect Hanie to be Cutler, but he can still be a successful quarterback if the Bears put him in the proper position to excel.

2. The picture at wide receiver has become clear: Devin Hester is the greatest return man in history and a major contributor to the club's overall success. But after being used strictly in the return game against Detroit, Hester wasn't targeted once in the win against San Diego. It seems Earl Bennett, Knox and even Roy Williams (five catches for 62 yards) have staked their claims to the starting reps at receiver, which seems appropriate given how the three performed on Sunday at Soldier Field. This should allow the Bears, even under Hanie, to be selective with how they use Hester on offense. Don't look at this development in a negative light. Hester can still be a weapon for Mike Martz, but he might be more effective in spot duty. Let Hester concentrate on special teams while at the same time throwing him a few bones every week at wideout. People have been clamoring for this for years, but if this past week is any indication, it could be the new reality for Hester on offense. It's no slight on Hester, but he wins games on special teams, normally not on offense.

3. Bears secondary is eight deep: When D.J. Moore returns from an ankle injury, Lovie Smith will have eight experienced defensive backs at his disposal as the Bears make a push toward the playoffs. Reserve safety Brandon Meriweather played a much more disciplined brand of football when he came off the bench for a few series on Sunday, and made three solid tackles. Corey Graham filled in nicely for D.J. Moore at nickel and Zack Bowman pitched in when the defense shifted to its "TANK" personnel to better match up with Vincent Jackson and Antonio Gates. Meanwhile, Chris Conte and Major Wright continue to bring stability to the safety position, with Wright forcing a turnover in each of the past three games, which is the lifeblood of Smith's defense. Even though Tillman had a rough time guarding Jackson, the overall performance of the starting corners this year has been well above average, and getting Moore back in the fold sometime in near future will only strengthen the group. What looked like a weakness early in the year, has become the backbone of the Bears' defense.

4. Graham can play defense: We all know Graham is on track to earn a Pro Bowl berth on special teams, but the Bears never seemed to believe he could contribute much on defense. Well, after intercepting a pass in each of the past two games while stepping in at the complicated nickel back position, Graham, who signed only a one-year contract at the start of training camp, is showing the rest of the league he should be given a chance to compete for a starting job on defense somewhere next season. Whenever Graham has been afforded the opportunity to be more than just a special teamer, he's responded. He did a nice job starting nine games at cornerback in 2008, but for whatever reason, he's never really been in the mix the past two and half years. But Graham is making a strong case to be more involved in the game plan, even when Moore returns to field.

5. Perhaps the Bears should pursue Jackson in free agency: Wow. What a performance by Vincent Jackson, who hauled in seven passes for 165 and repeatedly got the better of Charles Tillman. Jackson turns 29 in January and appears to have plenty left in the tank. I know it's going to cost a ton of money, but a 6-foot-5 threat who has already posted a pair of 1,000 yard seasons and has four 100-yard games in 2011 is worth the big contract. Drop Jackson in with Bennett and Knox and let the good times roll. The Bears have a history of signing free agents who played well against them the year before. They need to continue that tradition and snare Jackson once he hits the open market in the offseason.

Video: Lovie and Cutler on win

November, 20, 2011

Lovie Smith and Jay Cutler discuss the Bears' 31-20 win over the Chargers.

Bears Performance Rating: Week 11

November, 20, 2011

Check out our Bears Center for a complete recap of the Bears' 31-20 victory over the Chargers and grades in six key areas of the game.

Rapid Reaction: Bears 31, Chargers 20

November, 20, 2011

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Bears reeled off five consecutive wins in 2010 from Nov. 7 through Dec. 5 and reached their fifth straight victory of the 2011 season Sunday with a 31-20 trouncing of the San Diego Chargers.

The question now is how long can the current streak last with three more games against the struggling AFC West on the horizon?

The Bears have forced nine turnovers in their past two outings -- six against the Lions and three against the Chargers -- and are now 4-1 on the season when they finish on the positive side of the turnover margin and 10-1 the past two seasons under those conditions.

Talk about playing Chicago Bears football.

Let’s take a closer look:

What it means: The Bears didn’t gain or lose ground in their attempt to move up in the NFC North standings. More than anything, the triumph over the Chargers maintains the momentum built up by the team as it goes into the second of four consecutive outings against the AFC West, a division that had a combined 19-20 record coming out of Sunday’s games (the Kansas City Chiefs face the New England Patriots on Monday).

The Bears simply maintained their position as both the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions emerged victors in their respective games.

Hester adds to accolades: The Chargers kept Devin Hester out of the end zone, but the return man added to his long list of accomplishments with a 37-yard punt return in the second quarter. With that long return, Hester now has 31 returns of 25 yards or longer since coming into the league in 2006, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Hester’s 31 returns of 25 yards or longer is 15 more than any other player in the NFL.

Tight ends hurting Bears: Antonio Gates caught an 8-yard touchdown in the second quarter, marking the eighth touchdown given up by the Bears to a tight end. The eight TDs allowed by a tight end is the most of any team in the NFL, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Interestingly, the Bears gave up just three touchdowns to tight ends last season, which was tied for the fewest in the NFL.

Three in a Roy: Having caught just three balls in the previous two games, receiver Roy Williams hauled in three consecutive completions from Jay Cutler for gains of 11, 11 and 12 yards during an eight-play drive in the third quarter that led to Bears taking a 24-17 lead on a 1-yard quarterback sneak.

Perhaps Williams was making up Sunday for a zero-catch performance in the team’s victory over the Lions.

Williams caught a season-high five passes for 62 yards and appeared to be Cutler’s go-to receiver in crucial situations.

Coming into the game, Williams’ best performance had been a four-catch outing against the Philadelphia Eagles on Nov. 7.

Speaking of three in a row: Bears safety Major Wright notched his first career interception in the team’s 30-24 win over the Philadelphia Eagles on Nov. 7. Since then, the second-year safety has picked off passes in each of the past two weeks.

Wright intercepted Rivers in the fourth quarter and was flagged for a group demonstration in the end zone. A week before, in Chicago’s win over Detroit, Wright scored on a 24-yard INT return.

Windy City stripper: Bears cornerback Charles Tillman struggled somewhat in pass coverage against Vincent Jackson, who finished the day with seven receptions for 165 yards and a touchdown.

Tillman atoned with heady play, leading to the cornerback notching the 27th forced fumble of his career. In notching his third forced fumble of this season, Tillman poked the ball out of the arms of Chargers running back Ryan Mathews and recovered the loose ball at the San Diego 37 with 5:32 left in the third quarter.

Two plays later, the Bears turned that into a touchdown with a 24-yard scoring connection from Cutler to Johnny Knox.

Tillman’s 26 forced fumbles since 2003 ranked as the most by a defensive back coming into Sunday’s contest. Tillman has now played a role in 45 turnovers (28 interceptions and 27 forced fumbles) throughout his career.

What’s next: The Bears receive a day off on Monday before starting preparation for a road game next Sunday against the Oakland Raiders.

Third quarter: Bears 31, Chargers 17

November, 20, 2011
Johnny Knox AP Photo/Charles Rex ArbogastJohnny Knox hauled in a 24-yard touchdown pass, giving the Bears two TDs in 49 seconds during the third quarter.
CHICAGO -- The Chicago Bears extended their lead to 31-17 on a Jay Cutler plunge into end zone from 1-yard out and a spinning 24-yard grab by Johnny Knox, after the San Diego Chargers tied the game at 17 on a potent drive to open the second half.

During a drive spanning 83 yards and eight plays, Cutler completed three consecutive passes to Roy Williams for 34 yards before hitting Johnny Knox for a 42-yard strike to the San Diego 1.

Two plays later, Cutler dove through the teeth of San Diego’s defense for the score. The drive siphoned away five minutes and 11 seconds, and came after the Chargers appeared to seize momentum with a seven-play drive to start the second half.

Chicago tacked onto the lead on San Diego’s ensuing possession when Charles Tillman stripped Chargers running back Ryan Mathews, and recovered the loose ball at the visitors’ 37. Two plays later, Cutler launched a floating ball that Knox made a spinning adjustment to haul in, just keeping his feet inbounds for the TD.

Knox’s score came on his third grab of the day, as he finished the quarter with 97 yards receiving. By the end of the third quarter, Williams had gained 62 yards on five catches.

In getting Chargers off to a fast start in the third quarter, Phillip Rivers drove his team 76 yards, connecting with Vincent Jackson for a 47-yard gain, with the receiver holding on despite a bone-jarring hit from Bears safety Chris Conte.

Two plays later, officials called Tim Jennings for pass interference as the cornerback defended Vincent Brown, giving the Chargers possession at the Chicago 11. Three plays later, Rivers hit Jackson for a 5-yard touchdown to tie the score at 17 on Nick Novak’s extra point.

By the end of the third quarter, Jackson had caught seven passes for 165 yards.