Bears' defense delivers in much-needed win over Cardinals
Glendale, AZ – In desperate need of a victory, the Chicago Bears got a huge effort from their defensive unit, which made plays against an inept Arizona Cardinals offense to keep the team's postseason hopes alive.
Zack Bowman recovered a fumble in the end zone and Charles Tillman recorded his third interception return for a touchdown this season, as the Bears dominated the Cardinals, 28-13, to halt a three-game skid.
After losing five of six following a 7-1 start to the season, the Bears (9-6) will still need to win next week and receive some help in order to reach the postseason.
After a slow start, Jay Cutler finished with 146 yards passing for Chicago and tossed a touchdown to Brandon Marshall, who caught six passes for 68 yards on the day. Matt Forte rushed for 88 yards and a score on 12 carries, but left the contest in the third quarter with an ankle injury and did not return.
After snapping a nine-game losing streak last week with a win against Detroit, the Cardinals (5-10) reverted back to their losing ways.
Ryan Lindley completed 17-of-30 passes for 141 yards and an interception before giving way to backup Brian Hoyer, who didn't fair much better in throwing for 105 yards and an interception on 11-of-19 efficiency. Arizona scored its only touchdown on a blocked field goal return by Justin Bethel late in the fourth quarter.
Larry Fitzgerald recorded eight catches for 111 yards in the setback.
"Anytime you spot a really good football team points its tough to overcome," said Fitzgerald.
Chicago's defense harassed the Arizona quarterbacks all day, especially Julius Peppers, who recorded three sacks in a game for the ninth time in his career.
"It's always a focus for us to score and have a good game on defense," said Peppers. "We've been in a drought recently, the past couple of weeks in those particular areas, but today we got back on track and it gave us a good boost."
The Cardinals were limited to 248 total yards of offense and converted on just 3-of-15 third down attempts. Arizona, which turned the ball over three times, committed its first early in the contest to give the Bears the early lead.
Pinned back near their own goal line following a Bears' punt, the Cardinals' Beanie Wells got stuffed on a carry and fumbled the football, which fell into Bowman's hands in the end zone to put Chicago on top 7-0.
Two possessions later, Arizona got on the board. During a nine-play drive, Lindley completed his first four passes, including two to Fitzgerald for 17 and 18 yards, to help set up Jay Feely for a 49-yard field goal.
However, Forte broke off a 36-yard run on the first play of the ensuing drive, which helped set up the Bears' first offensive score of the day. Marshall followed with a 30-yard catch to the Arizona four before Forte walked into the end zone untouched to put the Bears ahead, 14-3, early in the second period.
Later in the period, Arizona's Patrick Peterson returned a punt to the Chicago 32, but a fake field goal attempt failed to give the Cardinals a first down. Feely, though, kicked through a 35-yarder on Arizona's next touch to cut the deficit to 14-6. The score was set up thanks to a muffed punt by Chicago's D.J. Moore.
Cutler had just one completion through the Bears' first five possessions, but found rhythm on Chicago's final touch of the first half, as he completed all five of his throws to lead Chicago to a touchdown before halftime.
He connected with Alshon Jeffrey for 35 yards and Earl Bennett for 16 before firing an 11-yard strike to Marshall in the back-right corner of the end zone, giving the Bears a 21-6 lead with 19 seconds to play in the second quarter.
The Bears punted on their first possession of the third quarter, but again pinned the Cardinals deep in their own territory and capitalized.
Lindley was intercepted by Tillman on the second play, and he ran it in from 10 yards out to give Chicago a comfortable 28-6 lead.
Hoyer replaced Lindley following the interception, but wasn't able to lead the Cardinals to any offensive scores.
Following the two-minute warning, Olindo Mare had his kick blocked by Adrian Wilson. Bethel recovered the live ball and returned it 82 yards for a score to account for the final margin.
The Bears' two defensive touchdowns on Sunday brought their total for the season to nine. With one more, they will tie the 1998 Seattle Seahawks for the most in a single-season ... Chicago snapped a seven-game losing streak in December ... Arizona has lost six of the past eight matchups with the Bears.