San Diego traveled to the Windy City were they faced off against the Chicago Bears in a week 11. Although the Bears won the battle 31-20, they may have lost the war with starting quarterback Jay Cutler being lost for the remainder of the regular season with a broken thumb on his throwing hand.
The NFL is a league that is so physical that the ultimate winner of the Super Bowl is often the team that has the most player depth. Coming into this game, the Chargers were certainly testing theirs. The offense was missing three out of five offensive linemen, one starting wide receiver and had their stud tight end, Antonio Gates, playing at about 70 percent. To make matters worse, the team was also missing its stud rush linebacker, Shaun Phillips. Conversely, the Bears came into the game with almost no injuries at all. Most people forecast an easy Bears win.
To the surprise of many fans, the game itself was surprisingly close despite all the injuries the team has. If they can continue to make improvements on their game, I am sure fans will start feeing comfortable purchasing Chargers tickets again. This game started slowly as the teams tried, and failed, to establish the run in the first quarter. After a rather tepid exchange of field goals, things heated up in the second quarter as the teams started to pass more and both were successful in moving down the field and scoring
They started to hound the Bears’ defense with successful long passes. Vincent Jackson soon became the focal point of the offense as he turned Bears defensive back Charles Tillman in circles. Rivers consistently hit Jackson for 20 plus yard catches. Jackson would end the game with 7 catches for an astounding 165 yards and one touchdown against the highly rated Bears defense.
Ultimately, the game boiled down to the fourth quarter. As has been his history this season, Philip Rivers performed poorly by throwing two drive killing interceptions. The first was an unwise bomb thrown to a now double covered Jackson in the end zone that was intercepted by safety Major Wright. The second was simply bizarre. Being chased by defensive lineman, Rivers went to throw away the ball but didn’t get it out of bounds. Instead, the Bears Corey Graham was able to dive and intercept the ball to kill another offensive drive. Philip really needs to stop blowing games in the fourth quarter if he wants to see his teams continue to sell out of each game.
All looked lost at this point, but some good luck finally came the Chargers way. Bears wide receive Johnny Knox slipped in his cut on a timing route and fell to the ground. With the ball already on the way, defensive back Antoine Cason had an easy interception that he appeared ready to return for a touchdown. Amazingly, Bears quarterback Jay Cutler was able to slow down Cason enough that running back Matt Forte was able to catch up and shove Cason out of bounds after a 65 yard return. The Chargers would be forced to settle for a field goal, which constituted their last realistic effort to win the game. The Bears ultimately ran out the clock and walked away with a 31-20 win, but a win that ultimately was incredibly damaging.
Bears Season In Ruins
Following the game, Bears quarterback Jay Cutler was diagnosed with a broken thumb on his throwing hand that will require surgery. It is anticipated that Cutler will be out the remainder of the regular season, but may be available for the playoffs should the Bears make it. With no experienced backups, the Bears face an uphill battle to make the playoffs and survive till Cutler can come back.
The loss to the Bears was fairly representative of the season. Only three years ago, the team was considered one of the most talented in the league. Now, it is clearly lacking in talent and depth. Defensively, the team hangs in there as best as it can, but this is nothing more than an average defense. On offense, there is no running game to speak of and Rivers is obviously pressing as he tries to do everything himself. Given the massive injuries the team has, there is little they can do to improve over the remainder of the season. At this point, it is just a matter of getting the young players on the field to see if they can play and perhaps contribute next season.
In the bigger picture, it appears the Chargers window for winning the Super Bowl has closed. At 4-6, the only question now is how badly the team finishes up the season and whether the ownership decides to clean house and rebuild. If I was placing a bet, I would expect the Chargers to finish at 6-10 with General Manager AJ Smith and Head Coach Norv Turner being fired. With rumors the Chargers may relocate to Los Angeles soon, cleaning house and starting over seems to make more sense with every loss.