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What we learned: Cutler, Langford shine in Bears' win

Tight end Zach Miller made a brilliant lunging touchdown catch on a Jay Cutler fastball to lead the Chicago Bears to a thrilling 22-19 comeback victory over the San Diego Chargers on Monday night. Here's what you need to know:

  1. Cutler's 12 game-winning touchdown passes in the fourth quarter are the most in the NFL since he joined the Bears in 2009. Although he has shown marked improvement in the pocket under new coordinator Adam Gase's tutelage, he spent much of the night throwing jumpballs off his back foot to Alshon Jeffery. It was an effective strategy against overmatched backup cornerback Steve Williams, as an injured Jason Verrett's plea to re-enter the game for the Bears' final drive fell on deaf ears.

Cutler's second-quarter passing score to Martellus Bennett was his 138th with the Bears, breaking Hall of Famer's Sid Luckman's franchise record that stood for an astonishing 65 years. It's a testament to the half-century string of shaky Chicago signal-callers that the best quarterback of the World War II era still held the record. To put the numbers in perspective, Luckman cleared 2,000 yards in a season just twice in his career. For the sake of contrast, Peyton Manning has thrown for more touchdowns (140) in four years with the Broncos than any Chicago Bears quarterback has managed in 95 years dating back to the nascent 1920 Decatur Staleys.

  1. Filling in for an injured Matt Forte, fourth-round tailback Jeremy Langford not only impressed as a runner, receiver and pass protector, but also outplayed Chargers first-round pick Melvin Gordon. A wide receiver when he first arrived at Michigan State, Langford laid out vertically for a brilliant 31-yard reception on his best play of the night. With Forte due to reach free agency in his age-30 season, Langford just put in a strong bid for the Bears' starting job in 2016.
  1. Take away his No. 1 receiver, his top deep threat, his speedy seam-stretching tight end and half of his offensive line -- Philip Rivers will still find a way to move the Chargers' offense. Remember a few years back when the Steelers seemed to lose multiple offensive lineman to injury each week? That has been San Diego's entire roster this season.

The Bolts entered the game minus Keenan Allen and Ladarius Green, with Antonio Gates slogging through an MCL sprain. Rivers proceeded to lose veteran wideout Malcom Floyd to a first-half shoulder injury, leaving Steve Johnson, Dontrelle Inman and recently promoted Javontee Herndon as his top three receivers.

To Rivers' credit, he switched gears, leaning on Johnson, Danny Woodhead and a gimpy Gates on a 14-play fourth-quarter scoring drive. Given a shot to tie the game with a three-minute field-goal drill, Rivers was thwarted when sparingly-utilized Lamarr Houston doubled his season sack total with a pair of power-rushing clown suits fashioned for right tackle Joe Barksdale. Despite the litany of injuries, Rivers is still leading the NFL with 3,034 passing yards -- on pace for a record-threatening 5,393.

  1. Verrett's groin injury robbed us of a chance to watch an intriguing matchup with Jeffery. The second-year corner jumped out to an early lead with a pick six and three incompletions before Jeffery got deep for 47 yards on a play in which Verrett aggravated the injury. From there on out, Jeffery was simply too big and strong, boxing out a Chargers secondary down its top two cornerbacks. Similar in playing style and per-game production to Texans star DeAndre Hopkins, Jeffery has averaged 14 targets, nine receptions and 138 yards in three games since returning from an early-season hamstring injury. An impending free agent, Jeffery is a prime candidate for the franchise tag in February.
  1. For the second time in as many weeks, we might have seen a serious injury end the career of a highly-respected wide receiver on the verge of retirement. Much like the Ravens' Steve Smith, Floyd announced plans to retire after the 2015 season. Going out on his own terms would be a sweet reward for overcoming a career-threatening 2013 neck injury.

If Monday night's shoulder injury does send Floyd to injured reserve, he will finish his career as one of the most underrated players of his generation -- as Gates suggested last year. A credit to the NFL, Floyd is viewed by teammates as one of the best human beings they've ever met, per the San Diego Union-Tribune's Michael Gehlken. For those who might feel inundated with negativity in sports, this heartwarming feature on Floyd and his beatific mother is worth a read.

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