Bears ride "A-Train" to victory

The Bears rely on two things to win, running the ball and playing good defense. Both traits were evident in their 20-7 win over the San Diego Chargers.

The offense has shown signs of life since Chris Chandler's insertion in the starting lineup, but the veteran got a little help in the form of Anthony Thomas. The back had had missed Chandler's two previous starts with a sprained right foot.

"It definitely helps as you can see," Chandler said of Thomas' return. "He's been running hard; he's been running good all year. To get him back definitely helps us out."

While it wasn't a flashy performance by Thomas, his workman like effort yielded 111 yards on 31 carries. For the first time in his career Thomas had two touchdowns in a game both coming from one-yard out.

Marty Booker missed a third straight game because of an ankle problem, which meant Chandler had to spread the ball around. He hit six different receivers completing 21-30 for 224 yards and continued to go to his young targets.

Bobby Wade and Justin Gage combined for 5 receptions and 94 yards. Wade had three catches for 42 yards, while Gage had a 24 and 28-yard reception.

"We ran the ball well as a football team, Chris (Chandler) spread it around really well and our defense did an outstanding job on what I think is a great running back in the National Football League," said Coach Dick Jauron.

The Bears jumped out to a first quarter lead on a Paul Edinger field goal from 38 yards out.

San Diego struggled to move the ball with QB Drew Brees at the helm, but the only time on the day he moved them into scoring position his former Purdue teammate, Joe Odom, spoiled the drive. Odom, who went back to a reserve role with the return of Warrick Holdman, blocked a 46-yard field goal attempt by Steve Christie.

Chicago put together consecutive scoring drives thanks to the feet of Chandler and Thomas. Despite a history of concussions Chandler avoided would be tacklers and slid in for an 11-yard gain leaving the Bears just shy of midfield. Three third down conversions kept the drive alive including a 15-yard run by Thomas, which set up first and goal for the Bears. Thomas capped the drive three plays later with a one-yard score.

Thomas' counterpart wasn't a factor as the defense keyed in on LaDainian Tomlinson, who came in averaging 5 yards per carry, but was held to 3.8 on 16 attempts.

"We just did what we (practiced) all week long," said Brian Urlacher. "We quit making mistakes finally, and guys are getting in their gaps. Guys are not making mistakes mentally."

Edinger's second field goal gave the Bears a 13-0 lead late in the third quarter, but the Bears should have come out of the drive with a touchdown instead of another field goal. Chandler continued to look down field and went to TE Desmond Clark for 31 yards. The completion put the ball at the Chargers two-yard line. Three plays later Chandler went to Dez White but he couldn't come up with a catch in tight coverage.

The Bears hadn't won consecutive games since the first two weeks of the 2002 campaign, so the unit is still learning how to close out games.

The Chargers went through a tough week and it showed in their performance. After their Monday night game against the Dolphins was moved from San Diego to Tempe because of the wild fires in California, the team was then forced to practice at the University of Illinois for two days before heading to Chicago.

The amount of travel and stress showed as the Chargers tallied just 85 yards of total offense through three periods.

With Brees unable to do anything all day, Marty Schottenheimer turned to backup Doug Flutie in the fourth quarter. The 10-year veteran instantly sparked the Chargers attack. He orchestrated an 8-play drive completing 3-4 passes for 35 yards and added a 17-yard scramble. A 3-yard touchdown run by Tomlinson closed the gap to 13-7 with just over nine minutes to go.

"We let them back in the game in the fourth quarter," Urlacher said. "We have got to learn to shut teams out. When we've got them down, keep them down."

When the offense was unable to put a sustained drive together, the special teams came up big in the final minutes of the game. Charles Tillman, who had an interception for the second straight game, downed a 41-yard punt by Brad Maynard at the one-yard line. The rookie stopped the ball just outside the goal line as his momentum carried him into the end zone. The play was close enough for Schottenheimer to call for a review but the call was upheld.

"I had no doubt in my mind that I downed it," Tillman said. "Brad (Maynard) did a good job, and I got a good release off the line and was able to make the play."

Flutie was unable to repeat his magic from the previous drive and the Chargers went three and out.

With two timeouts and the two-minute warning still to come, San Diego needed another stop to have a chance for a last minute win. However R.W. McQuarters sealed the win for the Bears with 36-yard return of a 40-yard punt by Darren Bennett.

The play put the Bears at the Chargers 21-yard line and offensive coordinator John Shoop had a one-track mind, calling six consecutive runs for Thomas that resulted in a one-yard touchdown run on 4th down.

"In general, I thought we played a really good team football game," Jauron said.

SCARY SITUATION: Chicago police are investigating an incident where a fan fell from an exterior stairway on the southwest side of the stadium. The fan was given aide immediately before being transported to Northwestern Hospital.

BEARS INACTIVES: QB Kordell Stewart, RB Adrian Peterson, S Mike Green, G Corbin Lacina, DT Tron LaFavor, T Scott Sanderson, WR Marty Booker, DT Keith Traylor.

CHARGERS INACTIVES: P/K Mike Scifres, LB Matt Wilhelm, C Jason Ball, DT Jacques Cesaire, G/T Solomon Page, TE Stephen Alexander, TE Josh Norman, DE Otis Leverette.

BEARS LINE-UP CHANGES: Defense: Alfonso Boone starting at DT for Keith Traylor. Offense: David Terrell starting at WR for Marty Booker.

CHARGERS LINE-UP CHANGES: Offense: Courtney Van Buren starting at RT for Solomon Page. Antonio Gates starting at TE for Justin Peelle.


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