What many thought would be an offensive battle started slowly for the Chicago Bears and San Diego Chargers. The score was 3-3 as late as midway through the second quarter. Then the scoring began: Marion Barber plunged in for six, Robbie Gould for three, six points from Antonio Gates, a Kellen Davis reception for a touchdown, Vincent Jackson for six, Jay Cutler for six, Johnny Knox for a TD and Nick Novak for three.
Final score? 31-20 Bears.
"I'm so proud of our guys," Roberto Garza said after the game. "They really hung in there and gave Jay a chance to get things done. He had time in the pocket. His receivers were right there for him. The rushing game was strong, although it didn't go quite as far today as it did last week."
Perhaps the most impressive part of Chicago's offensive outing was the sustained drive that took up all but a few seconds off the fourth-quarter clock.
"That was a thing of beauty," Garza said. "Clock management is so important when you are playing at this level. It gives the defense a chance to catch their breath and it gives our guys on offense the opportunity to show what they are capable of."
All told, Chicago had the ball for 33:10, while the Chargers worked on offense for 26:50. The Bears had 379 total yards of offense to the Chargers' 332. And although Chicago had more penalties -- six compared to San Diego's three -- the Bears also had 23 first downs compared to the Chargers' 15.
"I felt we were functioning really well today," said Johnny Knox, who had a spectacular 24-yard reception for a score in the third quarter. "It was a balanced attack between rushing and receptions. The ball moved well down the field for us. This was an important game in our drive to the playoffs. The fact that our defense played so well these last weeks and now they're stepping up like they did, it bodes well for our future."
The Bears have won five in a row and now stand at 7-3. They currently hold the sixth and final playoff spot in the NFC.
"Earlier this fall, quite a few of the so-called experts had written us off," Knox said. "It feels real good to be proving them wrong. Guys have stepped in and stepped up. It's the kind of result you want to see when you are playing in November and December."
And although Green Bay seems to have the division locked up by now, it would be premature to count out Chicago for a late playoff run.
"That's the reason we're here," said Garza. "When a defense slows our running game then we go to the air. When passes aren't working, we go to the ground. It's fun to have results like this but we realize they only come because everybody is giving everything they have out there on the field."
Beth Gorr has been covering the Bears for the last 12 years and is the author of Bear Memories: The Chicago-Green Bay Rivalry. She is currently working on a second book about early Bears history.