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Chargers believe pressure — not good luck — explains opponents’ missed field goals

Defensive back Desmond King, left, celebrates after Bears kicker Eddy Pineiro misses a field-goal attempt as time expires in the Chargers' 17-16 victory Sunday.
Defensive back Desmond King, left, celebrates after Bears kicker Eddy Pineiro misses a field-goal attempt as time expires in the Chargers’ 17-16 win Sunday.
(Getty Images)

Melvin Ingram does not believe in luck. He does not believe in superstition. So don’t bother trying to convince the Chargers edge rusher that his team caught a huge break when Chicago Bears kicker Eddy Pineiro’s 41-yard field-goal attempt took a hard left-hand turn as time expired Sunday.

“Have you seen our field-goal block team this year? I knew he was going to miss it,” Ingram said, when asked what was going through his mind when Pineiro’s kick was in the air. “Our field-goal block team has been amazing this year. They’ve been lights out. No matter who’s kicking, they put pressure on them every week.”

Pineiro’s potential game-winner appeared straight and true before a fortuitous gust of wind blew it past the left upright, allowing the Chargers to hold on for a 17-16 victory before an angry crowd of 61,632.

“I was trying to throw some grass and see what the wind was doing [during a TV timeout], and it was going right to left,” Pineiro said. “It switches up every second. It’s unpredictable. It’s tough. But it’s my job. I have to figure it out. There’s no excuses. I missed the kick and lost the game.”

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After suffering five one-score losses — including last week’s heartbreaker at Tennessee in which the Chargers had the ball on the Titans’ one-yard line for three plays in the final 39 seconds and failed to score — the Chargers received a gift from the football gods Sunday.

Or was it?

The Chargers contend that Pineiro’s miss was no fluke, and statistically speaking, they might be right. Opponents have missed 13 kicks this season — nine field goals and four extra points — and Pineiro’s 33-yard attempt in the first quarter Sunday hit the left upright.

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“We’re no stranger to making guys miss kicks,” said Chargers nose tackle Damion Square, who plays on a kick-defending line that includes Jerry Tillery, Isaac Rochell, Sylvester Williams and Ryan Groy. “I don’t know if it’s luck.

“They watch tape. They see we’ve been running over people, and they know they have to get this thing off quick. They say kickers can feel that pressure. We’re trying to put something in their eye to make them not focus on the ball for a tenth of a second.”

Whether the Chargers’ pressure influenced Sunday’s kick is open to debate, but this much is true: opponents have made only nine of 18 field-goal attempts and 15 of 19 extra points.

“We’ve really been getting after it — it matters to us,” Tillery said. “It’s something we focus on, and you can see the results — it won a game for us today. We put pressure on the edge, up the middle. That’s how you get into kickers’ heads.”

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Sunday’s special-teams play complemented an overall defensive effort that resembled many of last year’s bend-but-don’t break performances.

The Chargers gave up 162 yards rushing, with David Montgomery running 27 times for 135 yards, including a 55-yard burst up the middle that set up Pineiro’s 19-yard field goal for 9-7 Bears lead as the first-half clock expired.

Chicago quarterback Mitchell Trubisky completed 23 of 35 passes for 253 yards and connected with eight receivers, with three of those plays going for 31 yards or more and one for 22 yards.

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But the Bears scored only one touchdown on five trips to the red zone and were stopped three times from the one-yard line before Pineiro’s kick before halftime.

Edge rusher Joey Bosa had two sacks for a loss of 13 yards and two other tackles for loss. His third-down sack for a loss of six yards from the Chargers’ 40-yard line forced a Bears punt with 2 minutes 9 seconds left.

Cornerback Casey Hayward, who broke up three passes, stepped in front of tight end Trey Burton along the right side line early in the fourth quarter, intercepted a Trubisky pass and returned it 37 yards to the Chicago 20.

The Chargers failed to score after that turnover, as Chase McLaughlin missed a 42-yard field goal attempt, but they capitalized on Ingram’s fumble recovery on the Bears’ next possession.

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In his return from a pulmonary embolism, Russell Okung played every offensive snap of first three quarters before departing because of a mild calf injury.

As Trubisky, from his 42-yard line, scrambled to avoid pressure, he inexplicably dropped the ball. They eyes of Ingram, who returned to action after missing three games because of a hamstring injury, grew large.

“I tried to pick that [sucker] up — that’s what I tried to do,” Ingram said. “I just saw the rock on the ground, and I wanted to go the distance.”

Ingram, who returned a fumble for a touchdown in 2017, did not find his way to the score sheet, but he did secure the ball on the 26-yard line. Three plays later, Philip Rivers threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to Austin Ekeler for a 17-16 Chargers lead with 8:04 left.

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“We talked about taking the ball away and not turning it over, and that showed up today,” Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said. “Tackling could have been a little better, but overall, they did enough to hang in there and win the football game.”

A look at the significant numbers behind the Chargers’ 17-16 victory over the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field on Sunday.


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