When it was time to finish off the Chargers, the Bears found a way. But they may have lost their quarterback in the process. Jay Cutler snapped a third-quarter tie with a touchdown run and then a TD pass, and led the Bears to a 31-20 win over San Diego on Sunday. But after the game it was reported by Chicago media that he had snapped a bone in the thumb on his throwing hand as well. The reports speculate he would be out 6-8 weeks.
CHICAGO — When it was time to finish off the Chargers, the Bears found a way.
But they may have lost their quarterback in the process.
Jay Cutler snapped a third-quarter tie with a touchdown run and then a TD pass, and led the Bears to a 31-20 win over San Diego on Sunday. But after the game it was reported by Chicago media that he had snapped a bone in the thumb on his throwing hand as well. The reports speculate he would be out 6-8 weeks.
He may have injured the thumb while tracking down Antoine Cason for a touchdown-saving shove to the sidelines after his first interception in nearly a month early in the fourth quarter. He did not miss a play, and helped Chicago outgain San Diego 106 yards to nothing in the fourth as the Bears pulled away for their fifth straight victory.
“Today, as you know, it was about the offense,” Bears head coach Lovie Smith said right after the game. “We had some bumps and bruises, but we came out of the game in pretty good shape.”
He didn’t talk about Cutler’s possible regular-season-ending injury (nor did anyone else), but he did talk about his team’s performance.
“They’re buying in,” he said, “and we feel really good about what we’re doing.”
What they’re doing is winning in different ways. The Bears’ defense (two touchdowns) and special teams (a Devin Hester return for a TD) carried them last week in a win over Detroit, while Cutler and the offense managed just 216 yards. This week, however, even with lineman Edwin Williams getting his first start of the year at left guard for injured Chris Williams, it was the offense that paved the way.
Cutler threw for 286 yards and two touchdowns, the Bears racked up 379 yards of offense, and they converted seven straight third downs into firsts in the second half. Then to cap it all off, they held the ball for all but 39 seconds of the fourth quarter as they slammed the door on the slumping Chargers.
“They are an outstanding team. They did some good things on third down, and we obviously couldn’t get them off the field there,” said head coach Norv Turner, whose Chargers have dropped five in a row. “They played at a real high level today. Throughout most of the game, I thought we were able to match that, and we were going to have a chance. But we just didn’t have enough firepower to get back into it.”
Cutler hit tight end Kellen Davis with 20 seconds left in the first half for a 17-10 lead, but the Chargers tied it up on their first possession of the third quarter. That was when the Bears took control.
Cutler hit Knox for a 24-yard touchdown late in the third, and the Bears never gave San Diego a chance to recover. Charles Tillman’s forced and recovered fumble in the third and two fourth-quarter interceptions helped to make sure.
“That’s what you’ve got to have in November and December,” Cutler said. “You’ve got to be able to finish games.”
Major Wright and Corey Graham had the fourth-quarter picks to make sure the momentum stayed with the Bears.
“It was time for somebody,” Wright said, “to make a play.”
And late in this game, it was the Bears who were making all the plays.
But now they could have to finish off the final six games of the regular season without Cutler. The team could call upon one of the free-agent QBs waiting by the phone, or they could go to backup Caleb Hanie.
Hanie has thrown just 14 career regular-season passes, though he was 13-of-20 for 153 yards with a touchdown with two interceptions in last year’s NFC Championship loss to Green Bay.
Bears reporter Jay Taft can be reached at 815-987-1384 or firstname.lastname@example.org.