SAN DIEGO — That’s a wrap.
A Bears defense that came in with the dubious reputation for not being able to finish reached back for something extra and surprisingly found it Monday night against one of the hottest quarterbacks in the game.
Philip Rivers on a record-setting pace against a Bears defense that had faltered in losses to the Lions and Vikings in its previous two games didn’t look promising. But Lamarr Houston, Tracy Porter and Co. made it happen.
Houston sacked Rivers twice and Porter came up with a big pass break-up as the Bears made a spectacular touchdown catch from Zach Miller stand up in a 22-19 victory over the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium.
“I felt like a lot of times when we were on defense, we were playing to not get beat,” Porter said. “This game we just came out, we let our hair down and just decided to play football, have fun and fly around. Most of all, we got back to communicating as best we could just executing.”
After trailing throughout, the Bears took a 22-19 lead with 3:19 to play after Cutler threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to Miller, with Jeremy Langford bulling in for the two-point conversion.
That left Rivers plenty of time to respond. All he needed was a field goal. But it was the Bears who applied the pressure. After Rivers threw a 16-yard pass to Javontee Herndon for a first down at the Bears 46 at the 2:00 warning, Houston beat right tackle Joe Barksdale — a former teammate with the Raiders in 2011 — to sack Rivers for an eight-yard loss.
Houston was called for offsides on the following play. But on second-and-13, Houston again beat Barksdale for a sack, putting the Chargers in a third-and-23 situation. Porter broke up a pass on third down and Rivers was way off on fourth down to clinch the game.
“Just hard work, man. Lessons of hard work,” Houston said with a chuckle. “It feels great anytime you get a sack — especially at the end of the game.”
The big finish was redemption for the Bears’ defense on several fronts. The Bears looked like a confused bunch on the first drive of the game, as Rivers drove the Chargers 63 yards on eight plays — capped by a 14-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Danny Woodhead in the end zone.
“On that first drive, for whatever reason we weren’t really in sync,” Porter said. “We had a couple of bad checks. On that touchdown we had a bad check. It wasn’t just one guy. It was all 11 of us. We had to be on the same page. We got that corrected and just started playing football from there.”
Porter help spark the turnaround with a forced fumble, when he stripped wide receiver Dontrell Inman, with Christian Jones recovering at the Bears 41-yard line.
“Any turnover is huge,” Porter said. “They were driving and he [Inman] got a pretty good release. I got picked a little bit. But I just ran close to the hip and it was just good hustle and I got my hand in there. We work on turnover drills every day. It was second nature to go for the strip.”
Jones also overcame a slow start in the first half and appeared to be benched on the final plays of that opening drive — with LaRoy Reynolds and Jonathan Anderson at linebacker. He said it was part of the game plan, with the Bears in nickel and dime defenses. But he acknowledged he played better at the end than the beginning.
“It wasn’t too bad. Just jitters in a big game like this. You’ve got to keep playing through it,” Jones said. “That’s what I did. We kept playing. It was a good team effort. Everybody played their [butt] off. It was awesome.”