GLENDALE, Ariz. — The Bears kept their wildcard hopes alive and snapped a three-game losing streak with a dominant 28-13 victory over the woeful Cardinals Sunday in Arizona.
The Chicago defense returned two of three takeaways for touchdowns while not allowing a TD, limited the Cardinals to 29 yards rushing and recorded four sacks, three by Julius Peppers.
|Matt Forte rushed for 88 yards and 1 TD on 12 carries in Sunday's win in Arizona.|
After a shaky start, Jay Cutler and the offense produced touchdown drives of 72 and 80 yards to take a 21-6 halftime lead over the Cardinals (5-10), who have now lost 10 of 11 games.
The Bears (9-6) will earn the second and final wildcard berth in the NFC only with a win over the Lions next Sunday in Detroit coupled with a Vikings loss to the Packers in Minnesota.
"It was a simple goal for our team this week-get that ninth win on the road," said coach Lovie Smith. "We couldn't really talk about all the different playoff scenarios. We just knew that we had to get ourselves in position for that 10th win, which we've done."
Cutler, who misfired on all six of his attempts in the first quarter, finished the game completing 12 of 26 passes for 146 yards with one touchdown and a 76.8 passer rating.
"The passing game wasn't what we would have liked for it to be early on," Smith said. "I thought at the end of the game, though, we were doing some good things.
"You have to give [the Cardinals] a little bit of credit. This is a very good defensive football team. We didn't expect to come in here and score 50 points and throw for 400 yards against them. But I thought we made the plays when we had to, especially after that first quarter."
The Bears rushed for 152 yards on 33 carries with Matt Forte gaining 88 yards on 12 attempts before exiting in the second half with an ankle injury.
The Bears opened the scoring with their eighth defensive touchdown of the season as Zack Bowman recovered a Beanie Wells fumble at the Arizona 1 and rolled into the end zone.
Wells lost the ball without being hit when his knee buckled, and Bowman turned the pre-Christmas gift into a 7-0 Bears lead with 8:53 left in the first quarter.
"The big thing that was going through my mind was 'pick it up and try to get into the end zone,'" Bowman said. "That was one thing we preached last night in the defensive meeting was we've got to figure out ways to score and we were able to get two of them today, which is a good sign."
Larry Fitzgerald followed by catching passes of 17 and 18 yards from Ryan Lindley to set up Jay Feely's 49-yard field goal, drawing the Cardinals to within 7-3 late in the first period.
The Bears responded with a five-play, 72-yard drive capped by Forte's four-yard touchdown run, increasing their lead to 14-3. The score came one play after Brandon Marshall made an excellent adjustment in hauling in a 30-yard pass from Cutler on third-and-eight.
The Bears gave the Cardinals a gift when an Arizona punt caromed off the right shoulder of D.J. Moore, who was blocking on the play. The Cardinals took over at the Chicago 36 and turned the gaffe into Feely's 35-yard field goal, cutting the deficit to 14-6 with 2:18 left in the half.
But the Bears answered with a six-play, 80-drive that culminated in Cutler's 11-yard TD pass to a wide open Marshall in the right corner of the end zone, widening the margin to 21-6 with :19 remaining in the half. Cutler was 5 of 5 for 76 yards on the possession.
Charles Tillman made it 28-6 early in the third quarter when he stepped in front of receiver Andre Roberts to intercept a Lindley pass and returned it 10 yards for a touchdown.
"It was fun for [the defense] to score and help the team win," Peppers said. "We needed it badly, so it was great timing. I think overall it was a pretty good day on our part."
The Cardinals scored their only touchdown with 1:46 remaining in the fourth period when Adrian Wilson blocked Olindo Mare's 20-yard field goal attempt and Justin Bethel scooped it up and returned it 82 yards. But the Bears recovered the subsequent onside kick and ran out the clock.