Thursday night's game between the San Diego Chargers and the Chicago Bears featured as much excitement as anyone could hope for in a preseason game. The Bears eked out a 33-28 victory at home, but led by as many as 20 points thanks to a gaffe-filled first half by the Chargers. Charlie Whitehurst and Brad Sorensen led a valiant comeback attempt in the second half, but ultimately San Diego fell just short to drop to 0-2 in the preseason.
The Bears asserted their dominance early. Jay Cutler powered an impressive 7-play, 84-yard touchdown drive on the Bears' second possession to give his team a 7-0 lead. He found Brandon Marshall three times on the drive, including on a five-yard touchdown pass. Cutler would finish the game 4-for-5 passing for 38 yards and a touchdown. His lone miss was an interception thrown on the Bears' subsequent offensive drive.
After the Bears' score, the Chargers took over on their own 18-yard line and began a bad run of turnovers. Rookie Keenan Allen slipped after getting his feet tangled, and Bears safety Chris Conte was behind ready to intercept an errant Philip Rivers pass. Cutler immediately gave the ball back, but Rivers responded by fumbling on a Shea McClellin sack to set the Bears up just 35 yards from the goal line. The Bears scored another touchdown on a Matt Forte 3-yard run.
The Bears capped their first half scoring with two field goals, both set up by Chargers' turnovers. In the second quarter, Allen muffed a punt to give the Bears the ball at San Diego's 26-yard line. Whitehurst then fumbled on the Chargers' next offensive play, putting Robbie Gould in prime position to knock in a 25-yard field goal.
While the Chargers struggled under center and on special teams, the running game was a bright spot. Behind a retooled offensive line, Ryan Mathews led the Chargers with 45 yards rushing on nine carries. Edwin Baker gained 36 yards on five carries, and Fozzy Whittaker scored the team's only rushing touchdown on a 3-yard plunge near the end of the first half.
The Chargers got some offensive momentum going in the second half. Whitehurst rebounded to throw a 12-yard touchdown pass to Ladarius Green in the first quarter, and Sorensen threw two touchdown passes to Mike Willie to bring San Diego within two points, 30-28, late in the fourth quarter. Unfortunately for the Chargers, Sorensen's Hail Mary attempt at the end of regulation was too strong, and was tipped out of the back of the end zone.
Willie was a nice surprise for the Chargers, finishing with three receptions for 25 yards. His night will be better remembered for the vicious hit he took from Bears rookie linebacker Jon Bostic, however.
For the game, the Bears were outgained by nearly 200 yards of offense, 383 to 185. As has been their modus operandi for years now, however, their defense and special teams made plays exactly when they needed to happen.
The Chargers didn't escape healthy. Defensive end Corey Liuget left the game with a shoulder injury after the defense's first series, though he wasn't expected to play long as a starter, anyway. Cornerback Johnny Patrick had to be helped to the locker room.
Did they cover?
The Bears were 5.5-point favorites heading into Thursday, so they fell just short of covering.
Friday, Aug. 23, 10 p.m. ET: Chicago at Oakland
Saturday, Aug. 24, 10 p.m. ET: San Diego at Arizona