Bears put right foot forward

Kevin Butler knows both the agony and the ecstasy of the feet.

While most of John Carney's teammates shunned him right after he missed a game-tying 40-yard field goal with 1 minute 11 seconds left Sunday, Butler ran to console the Chargers kicker immediately after the Bears eked out a 16-13 victory Sunday at Jack Murphy Stadium.

Butler, the goat last week after missing two short field goals in the fourth period, provided the difference against the Chargers with three field goals in as many attempts, including a 54-yarder in the first half.

"That situation, unfortunately, happens to every one of us," Butler said. "It is an unfortunate situation and you don't wish it on anybody."

The Bears figured they had a kick coming after dropping their previous game 16-14 to the Raiders.

The Bears improved their record to 4-5 with triumph in front of 58,459 fans. The Chargers fell to 4-5.

A 38-yard touchdown pass from Jim Harbaugh to rookie Curtis Conway in the third quarter proved to be the game-winning score.

"When you come out here and play a San Diego team that has won two in a row, they are at home and a sellout crowd. . . . these aren't easy," said Bears coach Dave Wannstedt. "These guys have been in situations to win ballgames all year long. And, hopefully, we will continue to be in this situation. We just have to build on this if we can. Next week (at Kansas City) won't be any easier. We know that."

The Chargers took a 3-0 lead with 9:04 left in the first quarter on Carney's 28-yard field goal. The kick came at the end of an 11-play, 40-yard drive.

The Bears were forced to punt on their next possession, but the Chargers' Eric Bieniemy roughed punter Chris Gardocki. From their own 35, the Bears attempted another march, but Harbaugh was sacked by Leslie O'Neal and fumbled the ball away to Shawn Lee.

The Chargers advanced to the Bears' 12 before Carney was called on again to attempt a 30-yard field goal. This time, rookie Carl Simpson, playing in front of his mother for the first time as a pro, blocked Carney's attempt.

The Bears failed to take advantage of that special-teams play. Harbaugh was sacked again on third down, this time by Chris Mims for a six-yard loss.

Harbaugh completed 13 of 24 passes for 159 yards and 1 TD. He was intercepted once.

"It is a good sign when you beat a team on the road and you don't play as well as you are capable," said Harbaugh. "That encourages us for the rest of the season."

The Chargers came knocking again. The Bears defense stiffened for three downs, forcing another apparent field-goal attempt. Carney lined up for a 20-yarder, but holder John Kidd picked up the ball and swept right for a 2-yard touchdown, the first of his NFL career. Carney's extra point gave the Chargers a 10-0 lead with 14:49 left in the first half.

The Bears finally got on the board with 4:42 left in the half when Butler booted a 33-yard field goal to make it 10-3. The drive covered 39 yards on 11 plays. Running back Tim Worley, stepping in for Neal Anderson for most of the scoring march, gained 13 yards on four carries. Anderson took over at the end of the drive and caught two passes of 2 and 9 yards, respectively. A third-down pass intended for Anderson was incomplete, however.

Butler added a 54-yard field goal with 2:26 left in the half to bring the Bears to within four points at 10-6. It was the second-longest field goal of his NFL career. His career long is a 55-yarder on Oct. 25 against the Vikings.

Natrone Means, a rookie from North Carolina, and Marion Butts combined for 67 rushing yards in the first half. Means averaged 7.8 yards and Butts 2.9.

"We are just alternating them, really. There is no pattern to it," said Chargers coach Bobby Ross. "We feel that through the course of a long season, the running back is the one guy that 11 other players are after all the time. We just try to keep them fresh. If one seems to be going a little more hot than the other, then we might stay with him a little bit more.

"Butts is more of a power kind of a guy and is a very strong individual. Natrone has a little more evadeabilty to him. They both run about the same speed."

The Bears came out with a 12-play, 66-yard scoring drive in the third period, including a dazzling 36-yard reception and run by fullback Bob Christian. Butler booted a 20-yard field goal with 4:55 to go in the third quarter to make it 10-9, Chargers.

Following a 25-yard punt return by Terry Obee, Harbaugh's throw to Conway for a 16-10 Bears advantage.

"I just got it up quick to Curtis and he ran under it," said Harbaugh. "I stepped up in the pocket, pump faked and got rid of it quicker than the first time that I threw it. It was a stop-and-go."

Cownay also had a 12-yard reception in the game.

"We were trying to get it downfield today and we felt that we could pass on them," said Conway. "It was just the right call at the right time and Jim laid it up there."

Harbaugh had attempted the same pass play to Conway earlier and the ball fell incomplete.

"He kept his faith and he kept his head up, and he knew that we still had more opportunities," said Conway.