Bears push pastChargers’ defense



SAN DIEGO (AP)—The San Diego Chargers’ pass defense lived on the edge for two straight weeks, until the Chicago Bears finally pushed them off.

Jim Harbaugh threw a 38-yard touchdown pass to rookie Curtis Conway in the third quarter and the Bears held on to beat San Diego 16-13 Sunday night to end their three-game losing streak.

The Chargers had won big in consecutive games despite giving up huge passing yardage. The Bears, meanwhile, had been slow in generating offense, and four of their five losses had been by a touchdown or less.

‘‘Whether we’ve won or lost, it’s usually come down to one or two plays,’‘ Bears rookie coach Dave Wannstedt said.

‘‘We’re a good enough team that this game should’ve been in hand,’‘ Harbaugh said. ‘‘We weren’t there in the first quarter. To win and only play three quarters, that encourages us.’‘

After a 25-yard punt return by Terry Obee, Conway slipped behind cornerback Sean Vanhorse to end the one-play drive and give the Bears a 16-10 lead with 4:08 left in the third quarter.

Chicago had tried the same play deep in its territory in the first quarter.

‘‘Jim looked at me in the huddle and said, ‘We have to make this play,’ ‘’ Conway said. ‘I said, ‘Don’t worry, just put it up and we’ll get it.’ It was a perfect pass.‘’

Said Harbaugh: ‘‘I stepped up in the pocket, made a pump-fake and got rid of it quicker than I did the first time. Luckily, I had a second chance to do it right.’‘

The TD came just 47 seconds after Kevin Butler—who missed twice in the final minutes of a 16-14 loss to the Los Angeles Raiders last week—kicked his third field goal, from 20 yards. That drive was kept going by a 36-yard pass from Harbaugh to Bob Christian.

Chicago improved to 4-5 while the Chargers fell to 4-5.

San Diego’s pass defense ranking matched that of Chicago’s pass offense—last in the NFL. In their last two games, the Chargers had beaten Minnesota 30-17 despite allowing Sean Salisbury a career-best 347 yards, and stopped the Raiders 30-23 even though Jeff Hostetler had a team-record 424 yards.

Harbaugh threw for just 159 yards, completing 13 of 24 attempts.

‘‘For the most part as a defense we played a good game,’‘ San Diego safety Stanley Richard said. ‘‘But we just can’t slip up.’‘

The Chargers could have forced overtime, but John Carney missed a 40-yard field goal with 1:11 to play. That drive was set up when Gary Plummer intercepted Harbaugh at the Chargers’ 32.

‘‘It felt real good coming off my foot,’‘ Carney said. ‘‘I looked up and lost it in the lights. I expected to see it between the uprights. That wasn’t the case.’‘

After Conway’s score, the Chargers moved 67 yards in 19 plays to the Bears’ 5, but had to take Carney’s 26-yard field goal with 11:05 to play to make it 16-13.

San Diego got all its scoring from its field goal unit, including a 2-yard run off a fake by holder John Kidd for a 10-0 lead. Carney had a 28-yard field goal in the opening period.

‘‘There were three or four plays where we had good chances for touchdowns,’‘ San Diego quarterback John Friesz said. ‘‘We didn’t hit them. It’s just atrocious. We have to be better than that.’‘

Chicago’s second drive was extended when Eric Bieniemy was whistled for roughing punter Chris Gardocki. One play later, Harbaugh fumbled as he was being sacked by Leslie O’Neal, and Shawn Lee recovered. The Chargers got to the 12, where Carney’s 30-yard field goal attempt was blocked from the right side by Carl Simpson.

Simpson lined up on the left side when Carney set up for a 20-yarder two plays into the second quarter, but Kidd beat Simpson into the end zone on the 2-yard run.

Butler kicked field goals of 33 and 54 yards—second-longest in his career—to pull the Bears to 10-6 at halftime.