Sunday, November 20, 2011
Rapid Reaction: Bears 31, Chargers 20
By Michael C. Wright
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.