Miller’s 1-handed TD grab lifts Bears over Chargers
SAN DIEGO – Zach Miller leaped, snagged Jay Cutler’s pass with his right hand and tumbled into the end zone.
A big-time play in another close finish for the Chicago Bears, who beat the staggering San Diego Chargers 22-19 on Monday night.
“Jay made a great throw and I was able to go up and get it. After that, I went unconscious,” Miller said about his game-winning catch with 3:19 left.
“It was one of those things where instincts kind of take over. I really didn’t have time to go up with two, because he put some juice on it. I went with one and thankfully pulled it down.”
Miller’s TD reception and a 2-point conversion run by rookie Jeremy Langford, subbing for the injured Matt Forte, gave the Bears (3-5) their first lead of the night. Chicago’s last five games have been decided by three points or less, including consecutive losses to Minnesota and Detroit before the trip to San Diego.
Cutler, who had an interception returned for a touchdown and lost a fumble, kept attacking San Diego’s depleted secondary, completing 27 of 40 passes for 345 yards.
“We have got to figure out how to win in the fourth quarter,” Cutler said. “We have talked about it. We’ve won games in the fourth quarter, we’ve lost in the fourth quarter. That’s what the NFL is about. You have to play your best in the fourth quarter, and that’s what coach (John) Fox has talked about. It’s good that it happened today, but we have to continue it.”
Cutler calmly led the Bears on the winning 10-play, 80-yard drive after the Chargers opened a 19-14 lead on rookie Josh Lambo’s 22-yard field goal. Two plays before the TD throw to Miller, Cutler was hit and still completed a 12-yard pass to Alshon Jeffery on third-and-6.
“The safety flew over the top and it was just a matter of waiting for Zach to get past the linebacker,” Cutler said. “I left it high on him, and he made a heck of a catch. It couldn’t have happened to a better guy. For him to come up with a catch, it was something special.”
The Bears scored 15 points in the fourth quarter.
Cutler’s two TD passes broke the franchise record, giving him 139 with the Bears. He had been tied with Hall of Famer Sid Luckman.
San Diego (2-7) lost its fifth straight game for its longest skid since dropping six straight in 2011. It’s the longest losing streak in coach Mike McCoy’s three seasons.
San Diego’s Philip Rivers was 26 of 42 for 280 yards. It was the first time in six games that he didn’t throw for more than 300.
“When you lose five in a row it’s pretty sickening,” Rivers said. “When it’s like this you kind of want to dig a hole and hid for a little while.”
The Chargers made numerous mistakes.
Rivers threw an 8-yard touchdown pass to Antonio Gates in the fourth quarter but it was nullified when right guard D.J. Fluker was whistled for being an ineligible receiver downfield. The Chargers had to settle for Lambo’s 22-yard field goal.
Earlier in that drive, wide receiver Stevie Johnson spiked the ball after making a catch for a first down at the 4 and was whistled for delay of game.
“It’s all emotion. We’re out there playing hard and I was trying to get in the end zone,” Johnson said. “I didn’t really spike it that hard but they called it and that is part of it. I’ve got to be smarter than that.”
The Bears had a rough first half, but the Chargers couldn’t put them away.
Cutler lost a fumble on a sack and then made an off-the-mark throw to Jeffery, which second-year cornerback Jason Verrett intercepted and returned 68 yards for a 13-0 lead.
The Chargers suffered even more injuries.
Verrett hurt his groin one play after his pick-six and came out, but remained on the sideline. Cornerback Patrick Robinson left with a neck injury.
Wide receiver Malcom Floyd, who is playing his last season, injured his left shoulder while diving trying to make a catch. Eight days earlier, San Diego’s Keenan Allen, one of the NFL’s leading receivers, suffered a season-ending lacerated kidney when he landed hard at the end of a spectacular touchdown catch in a loss at Baltimore.
Cutler broke the franchise record for touchdown passes when he found Martellus Bennett for a 1-yard score midway through the second quarter.
Cutler had been tied with Luckman with 137 with the Bears. Cutler began his career with the Broncos. Luckman threw his final touchdown pass as a member of the Bears on Sept. 17, 1950.
Langford scored on a 1-yard run early in the fourth quarter to start Chicago’s comeback.
By BERNIE WILSON, AP Sports Writer
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