By ANDREW SELIGMAN
The Chicago Bears are still surging, and this time, Jay Cutler provided the spark.
Cutler threw for 286 yards and two touchdowns, and the Bears won their fifth straight, beating Philip Rivers and the San Diego Chargers 31-20 on Sunday.
Chicago (7-3) handed the Chargers (4-6) their fifth straight loss, their longest slide since an 0-5 start in 2003. But it wasn’t easy.
Rivers threw for 280 yards. For most of the game, he looked more like a Pro Bowl quarterback than the guy who had been turning it over at an alarming rate. But two late interceptions helped preserve the win for Chicago.
The Bears were leading 31-20 when San Diego’s Antoine Cason returned an interception 64 yards to the Chicago 16. But instead of driving for a touchdown, Rivers sealed the loss with an INT. He tried to squeeze a pass to Vincent Jackson in the end zone but got picked off by Major Wright.
Rivers was also intercepted by Corey Graham in the closing minutes, giving the quarterback a league-leading 17 interceptions.
Strong performances by Cutler and Johnny Knox helped keep the Bears in a second-place tie with Detroit in the NFC North.
Cutler was 18 of 31 with an interception and did not get sacked, even though there was more shuffling on the line. Edwin Williams replaced the injured Chris Williams at left guard.
Knox had three catches for 97 yards, including a twisting touchdown reception in the third quarter that made it a 14-point game. Earl Bennett came up big, too, with 75 yards receiving.
Charles Tillman had a key strip and fumble recovery, and the Bears extended a turnaround that seemed highly unlikely just a few weeks ago. Cutler was getting pounded, and the defense was giving up big plays.
The Bears got all they could handle Sunday after intercepting Matthew Stafford four times and forcing six turnovers in a lopsided win over the Lions a week earlier.
Rivers completed 21 of 31 passes, with Jackson catching seven for 165 yards.
San Diego had just tied it at 17 on a 5-yard TD catch by Jackson early in the second half when Cutler ran it in from the 1 after a 42-yard pass to Knox.
In a flash, it was a 14-point game.
Tillman stripped Ryan Mathews on the Chargers’ next play from scrimmage and made the recovery, giving the Bears possession at the San Diego 37.
Two plays later, a spinning Knox hauled in a 24-yard pass from Cutler in the left corner of the end zone with his back to the quarterback, making it 31-17.
Tags: 31-20, Cutler leads Bears past Chargers