SAN DIEGO — Leave it to the Bears to add a new offensive wrinkle and a surprise that would delay an important storyline Monday night against the Chargers and beyond.
A week spent praising rookie running back Jeremy Langford turned into a start for running back Ka’Deem Carey, a fourth-round pick from last year who had yet to play on offense this season.
“That’s just what happened,” Langford said. “But at the same time, Ka’Deem did a great job going in there and driving the ball.”
But Carey only started the game. Langford got Matt Forte’s touches, and it’s Langford who’s worth watching, whether it’s his running, pass-catching or protection assignments, with Forte sidelined with a right knee injury.
Langford was one of the Bears’ best players against the Chargers. He totaled 142 yards on 21 touches, scored on a one-yard run in the fourth quarter and ran in a two-point conversation for the final margin on a checked play by quarterback Jay Cutler.
“I’m truly blessed to be in this situation and to have the coaches to be able to trust me,” Langford said.
Langford flashed his big-play potential on national television throughout the game. His three receptions for 70 yards stood out after his fourth-quarter drop last week against the Vikings helped lead to the Bears’ demise.
“That was my whole point, to make up for that play last game,” Langford said. “You want to forget about those plays, but you want the coaches to trust in you and Cutler to trust in me, and he did. I had to go out there and make that play.”
That would be his 31-yard catch in the first quarter. It was a special play made by a rookie considered special-in-the-making by the Bears’ brass. After beating linebacker Kavell Conner by a few steps, Langford had to dive to haul in the catch. He also turned two short swing passes into gains of 16 and 23 yards in the second half.
All of it was a display of the explosiveness that general manager Ryan Pace said he coveted when he drafted Langford out of Michigan State.
“In this offense, it has to be your game,” Langford said. “[Offensive coordinator Adam Gase] wants us to catch the ball out of the backfield and get those matchups with linebackers. Those are plays you have to make as running backs.”
Cutler said the Bears didn’t do as much with Langford and Carey (seven carries, 28 yards) as they typically to do with Forte. But Langford, who had a 16-yard run, still lined up everywhere. He also felt he held his own in protection.
The Chargers also keyed on Langford on the goal line, leaving tight end Martellus Bennett wide open on a play-action fake for a touchdown.
“Even though Matt’s out, we got to continue to move the ball,” Langford said.
This season is all about finding young players who fit what the Bears are trying to build. It’s about finding places and playing time for Pace’s draft picks.
Safety Adrian Amos and defensive lineman Eddie Goldman are well on their way to doing that, playing every week. Langford’s run has just begun.
“He was great,” center Matt Slauson. “The guy runs so hard. He’s so tough. He works his tail off. I’m really proud of him to get his first prime-time win.”
Follow me on Twitter @adamjahns