By Greg Gabriel–

(CBS) In the Bears’ most recent losses to the Lions and Vikings, they held the lead and had the opportunity to win, only to be let down by a young defense that couldn’t make the big plays that were needed.

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On Monday night in San Diego, Chicago was in a similar situation, scoring late to grab a three-point lead with just more than three minutes left in the game. If the Bears were going to win, the defense had to stop one of the most potent offenses in the NFL, one that on its first drive of the game made it look easy with an eight-play, 63-yard drive for a touchdown. We had seen basically this same scenario the last two games, and the Bears lost.

Monday was a different story, as the Bears defense came up with the big plays when needed. Outside linebacker Lamarr Houston abused San Diego right tackle Joe Barksdale with bull rushes and got two huge sacks for a total of 18 yards. Those sacks put the Chargers in a hole that they weren’t able to recover from. On a fourth-and-23 play from his team’s 41-yard line, Phillip Rivers threw deep but over threw all his receivers. It didn’t matter that the Bears cornerback Tracy Porter dropped the potential interception, as it was fourth down and the Chargers were out of plays.

The sacks were huge for Houston, as he has struggled this year to find play time in the Bears’ new defensive scheme. Those big plays at an opportune time will more than likely earn Houston more playing time down the stretch.

The play on that final drive will also give the defense a needed boost of confidence, as it now knows it can come up with the big plays with the game on the line.

The Bears defense played really well for most of the second half, giving up only three points on a fourth-quarter drive that proved to be a win for Chicago. On that drive, dumb penalties gave the Chargers field position inside the Bears’ 5-yard line, but Chicago kept San Diego out of the end zone.

The first half was a different story for the defense, as it gave up points too easily. The Bears couldn’t put pressure on Rivers, and the secondary was giving the San Diego receivers way to much cushion in which to make plays. The Bears made good adjustments at halftime, and the defense played better and more disciplined.

In order for the Bears to secure this win, they had to overcome a lot. Top receiver Alshon Jeffery got off to a poor start, dropping a high throw in the end zone that would have given the Bears an early 7-0 lead. Later in the first half, he ran a poor comeback route that resulted in a San Diego interception returned for a touchdown. After that play, Jeffery put on a clinic with great route running and excellent catches. He finished the game with 10 receptions for 151 yards, with most of the catches coming at opportune times.

Normally reliable kicker Robbie Gould had a rough game. He missed both of his field goal tries, pulling each one to the left. On the first try, he was considerably wide. On the second, he hit the left upright. Missing left is unusual for Gould, as when he does miss, it’s usually to the right.

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I mentioned on the 670 the Score pregame show that Monday’s game and perhaps next week’s as well were going to be crucial for rookie running back Jeremy Langford. With Matt Forte out with an MCL sprain, it was going to be Langford’s turn to show what kind of player he could be. He more than surpassed expectations, rushing for 72 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries and adding three receptions for another 70 yards. He also did a good job in pass protection, especially with his blitz pickup.

If Langford can come up big again next week, that will help the Bears in their decision-making process in regards to re-signing Forte after this season or letting him walk. If the Bears feel that Langford can be featured back, they may pass on offering Forte a contract.

Second-year running back Ka’Deem Carey also came up big. Carey has been inactive most of the season, but he actually got the start Monday. He finished the game with seven carries for 28 yards. What I liked about Carey was he was explosive getting to the hole. He runs with lean and can gets yards after first contact.

Quarterback Jay Cutler continued his strong 2016 play. Yes, he had the early interception, but film review will determine if the interception was a poor throw or a poor route by Jeffery. Take away that throw, and Cutler was excellent. He finished the game with 27 completions in 40 attempts for 345 yards and two touchdowns. Not only were his numbers big, but he consistently came up with the big play when it was needed.

Without a doubt, he’s having his best season as a Bear.

This win will give the Bears confidence going forward. They know they can come back from a deficit and win, as they’ve done it three times this season now. Still, there are areas of the Bears’ game that need clear improvement. The red-zone offense lacks consistency. Too often this season the Bears haven’t been able to finish drives. When you’re in position to get seven points, you have to get the seven. Field goals don’t win games, touchdowns do.

While the pass rush has gotten better the last few games, it’s still not where it needs to be. The Bears have to find a way to get more consistent pressure up the middle. That has been lacking all season.

Next up for the Bears is another winnable game. Chicago travels to St. Louis to meet the 4-4 Rams on Sunday. Going into that game, the Bears have to figure they have to stop rookie running back Todd Gurley, who has rushed for 655 yards in the last five games. He looks like a young Adrian Peterson, and he will be tough to stop. The run defense better be prepared.

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Greg Gabriel is a former NFL talent evaluator who is an on-air contributor for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @greggabe.