Matt Forte averaged 2.9 yards per attempt, but ran the ball 20 times, which means the team was able to chew up clock. Marion Barber chipped in another 25 yards on seven carries. The Bears converted seven of their first downs by running the ball. But it's quite clear the team is missing something (timing perhaps?) with Chris Williams out of the lineup.
The bad first: Jay Cutler threw an interception and got off to a slow start. But the quarterback lit up the Chargers in the clutch, completing four in a row in leading the Bears to a 24-17 lead in the third quarter. Cutler, who according to a source suffered a broken thumb on his throwing hand during the game, utilized all of his weapons. The quarterback targeted eight players and hit seven of them, with four players -- Roy Williams, Johnny Knox, Earl Bennett and Matt Spaeth -- averaging more than 12 yards per reception.
The Chargers became somewhat one-dimensional rather quickly because the Bears destroyed Ryan Mathews, holding him to 28 yards on eight attempts in the first half. Over the final two quarters, Mathews managed just 11 more yards, and fumbled -- caused by a Charles Tillman strip -- with the turnover leading to a Bears touchdown. The Bears have given up 80 yards rushing or fewer in four of the last five games.
Forget that Vincent Jackson caught seven passes for 165 yards and a touchdown or that Antonio Gates caught all four passes thrown his direction and scored a TD. After San Diego's touchdown on its first drive of the second half, the Bears tightened up significantly in the secondary. Interestingly, Major Wright and Corey Graham notched their picks on San Diego's final two drives of the game -- with the team clinging to an 11-point lead in the fourth quarter. Phillip Rivers was 0 for 4 with two INTs in the fourth quarter.
San Diego's kickoff return units fared better, but Devin Hester averaged 29.5 yards on two punt returns, while Adam Podlesh forced Chargers return man Patrick Crayton to down two punts kicked in his direction. Robbie Gould made his only field-goal attempt of the day, and Podlesh finished with a 45.7-yard net average. Johnny Knox also contributed to the kickoff return with a pair of runbacks for an average of 37 yards.
Despite the slow start on the offense, it's tough to dispute the effectiveness of Mike Martz's game plan. Cutler sliced and diced the Chargers in clutch situations, and the rushing attack took care of its job when the team needed to run down the clock in the fourth quarter. Defensively, the Bears continue to disguise coverages in the secondary to keep opposing quarterbacks off balance.
EXPERTS' PREDICTIONS FOR WEEK 11
- DeFalco (6-3)
- J.D. (6-3)
- Jon (6-3)
- Isaacson (5-4)
- Jurkovic (6-3)
- Silvy (7-2)
- Spain (8-1)
- Harry (7-2)
- Waddle (6-3)
- Wilbon (6-3)
- Woj (6-3)
- Wright (5-4)