Seemingly en route to an incredibly frustrating loss Monday night in San Diego, the cardiac Bears staged another miraculous rally to stun the Chargers.
Trailing 16-7 entering the fourth quarter, the Bears outscored San Diego 15-3 over the final 15 minutes to escape with a thrilling 22-19 victory at Qualcomm Stadium.
The Bears' go-ahead touchdown came on a remarkable catch by an unheralded reserve. Down 19-14, Jay Cutler rifled a 25-yard TD pass over the middle to tight end Zach Miller—who plucked the ball out of the air with one hand—to give the Bears their first lead of the game with 3:19 remaining in the fourth quarter.
"It was a great one-handed catch," said coach John Fox. "The guy has been a great leader in his position room and on the offense. He's been healthy, which helps. It was a tremendous catch in a time that we needed it."
Rookie running back Jeremy Langford, who excelled in place of the injured Kyle Long, followed Miller's TD with a two-point conversion run, putting the Bears ahead 22-19.
On their ensuing drive, the Chargers reached the Chicago 46 at the two-minute warning. But Lamarr Houston recorded two sacks of Philip Rivers to help stall the drive, enabling the Bears (3-5) to snap a two-game losing streak in dramatic fashion.
"This win was very big," said tight end Martellus Bennett, whose 1-yard TD reception from Cutler midway through the second quarter had trimmed the Bears' deficit to 13-7. "In a game like that, where we pull it out at the end, it was a huge win."
After passing for at least 300 yards and two touchdowns in five straight games, Rivers was limited to 280 yards and one TD by the Bears.
Cutler, meanwhile, connected on 27 of 40 passes for 345 yards with two touchdowns, one interception and a 100.5 passer rating. He now has 12 game-winning TD passes in the fourth quarter since joining the Bears in 2009, the most by any NFL quarterback during that span.
In the first half, Cutler threw an interception that cornerback Jason Verrett returned 68 yards for a touchdown and also lost a fumble on a sack. But in engineering TD drives of 93 and 80 yards in the second half, Cutler connected on 13 of 17 passes for 153 yards.
"Jay rebounded," Fox said. "Obviously it didn't go in the first half quite like we wanted. It says a lot about the guy when he responded in the second half. It's what we've been seeing as coaches for most of the season. I'm excited for the guy; he's done a great job."
Cutler's favorite target Monday night was receiver Alshon Jeffery, who caught 10 passes for 151 yards, tying a Bears franchise record with his third straight 100-yard game.
Langford rushed for 72 yards and one TD on 18 carries and caught three passes for 70 yards, including a diving 31-yarder. The fourth-round draft pick's 1-yard TD plunge early in the fourth quarter drew the Bears to within 16-14.
Langford's TD helped fuel a transformation from ugly to beautiful that only Cinderella could appreciate. The Bears committed a litany of mistakes in the first half. Though cornerback Tracy Porter generated a takeaway by stripping the ball from receiver Dontrelle Inman after a short completion, the defense allowed a wide open Danny Woodhead to catch a 14-yard TD pass and gift-wrapped Josh Lambo's 31-yard field goal late in the half with a roughing-the-passer penalty on defensive end Jarvis Jenkins.
The Bears offense was even worse in the first half. The unit's first four possessions included an interception returned for a TD, a lost fumble on a sack and a three-and-out. Late in the half, right tackle Kyle Long drew a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for arguing with an official that pushed the Bears out of field goal range.
"We were killing ourselves," Cutler said. "At halftime we talked about sustaining drives, not hurting ourselves, eating up yards and being efficient. We were doing some good stuff out there and we had a pretty good beat on what they were doing, so it was just a matter of us finishing drives."