Bears Get Their First (Preaseason) Win Friday

The Bears opened the 2006 home schedule with a preseason tilt against San Diego on Friday night. And although the offense still has a long way to go before being truly dangerous, the defense and special teams could be among the elite in the NFL. Brian Urlacher scored on an interception return a minute-and-a-half into the game, and Rashied Davis took back a kickoff 100 yards to the house.

The Chicago Bears are still having trouble finding the end zone on offense, so the defense decided to take matters into their own hands again.

Brian Urlacher showed why he was the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year ago, intercepting a Philip Rivers throw on the game's third play from scrimmage and returning it 64 yards for a touchdown. Rashied Davis got into the act and took a kickoff 100 yards for another TD.

Those two plays got the Bears off to a fast start, and the defense kept the San Diego Chargers out of the end zone for a 24-3 victory Friday night.

"He just threw it right to me," Urlacher said of that errant pass intended for Antonio Gates. "I caught it and went into the end zone."

Chargers running back Michael Turner, starting for a resting LaDainian Tomlinson, ripped through a few tackles for a 45-yard run before Nate Kaeding kicked a 43-yard field goal to cut the Bears' lead to 7-3.

But on the ensuing kickoff, Davis disappeared in a scrum for a second at the 20 before taking off like a bottle rocket and sprinting his way to the goalline to give the Bears a 14-3 halftime lead.

"I just ran in the hole where I was supposed to hit and it clogged up," said Davis. "I bounced off, saw something to the right. At that point you try to find something to make something happen. When I got around the corner or through the hole or whatever, I noticed it was just me and the kicker."

Dealing with an aggressive Chicago rush and taking one particularly hard hit from Adewale Ogunleye, Rivers played about a quarter-and-a-half before being replaced by rookie Charlie Whitehurst.

Rivers completed 9-of-14 passes for 75 yards and also made one of the best plays of the first half. Shaking off two would-be tacklers, he rolled left and threw a 21-yard pass to Malcom Floyd on the sideline.

But the seven points he gave away to Urlacher were still on his mind after the game. "Obviously, there was one particular play that was really poor," Rivers said. "But at the same time, I'm not going to dwell on it. It's easy to correct. I threw it right to the guy. It's going to happen. You'd rather have it happen tonight than down the road."

"They have a terrific front unit, and they put more pressure on us than obviously we saw a week ago," Chargers coach Marty Schottenheimer said. "We're going to have to step up to that because the level in which we're looking to go, that's the defensive level you're going to face."

Bears quarterback Rex Grossman, a lackluster 3-for-11 in the preseason opener last week in San Francisco, looked sharp late in the second quarter by hitting four consecutive passes to drive the Bears to the Chargers 24. But when he tried to squeeze one to Gabe Reid in the corner of the end zone, Marlon McCree cut across for an easy interception.

"I wish I had it back," Grossman said. "I forced it."

Grossman finished 7-of-14 for 83 yards. Brian Griese, last week's star, took over in the second half and completed 2-of-4 passes for 16 yards and a touchdown pass to Justin Gage. Kyle Orton was under center the rest of the way.

"It was better," Grossman said. "Not great, but better. I don't know what happened last week."

A pair of rookies helped the Bears increase their lead to 21-3 in the third. Devin Hester returned a punt 42 yards and P.J. Pope had a 14-yard run on 4th-and-1 from the Chargers 29, setting up Griese's 9-yard TD pass to Justin Gage.

Rookie Jamar Williams recovered a San Diego fumble leading to a 49-yard field goal by Robbie Gould early in the final quarter. Jason Harmon intercepted a Whitehurst pass in the end zone with just under seven minutes remaining to stop a Chargers' scoring threat.

The Bears will host Arizona in Week 3 of preseason action from Soldier Field this Friday night.

JC


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