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Game Recap: Bears stun Cardinals with improbable rally

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The following story appeared on ChicagoBears.com on October 16, 2006 immediately after the Bears' win over the Cardinals.

GLENDALE, Ariz. – Maybe the Bears are a team of destiny.

Trailing the Cardinals 23-3 late in the third quarter Monday night in Arizona, Chicago staged a miraculous comeback, scoring two touchdowns on defense and one on special teams to escape with a stunning 24-23 victory.

"It's meant to be," guard Ruben Brown shouted as he left the field. "It's meant to be.""That's a good team," linebacker Lance Briggs said of the Cardinals. "But the bottom line is that it's a 60-minute game. You don't ever give up."

With the improbable win, the Bears improved to 6-0 for the first time since 1986 and increased their lead atop the NFC North to two and a half games over the Minnesota Vikings (3-2).

The Bears overcame six turnovers by quarterback Rex Grossman, who threw a career-high four interceptions and lost two fumbles while registering a hideous 10.7 passer rating. In the first half, the Cardinals converted four Grossman turnovers into 13 points in building a 20-0 halftime lead.

"I've never played so bad and won a game like that," Grossman said. "I've never seen anything like it. That was unbelievable. I don't know how to put it into words, how good our defense is and how big of plays they made. They could have done it by themselves tonight. It was just meant to be. We were supposed to win that game. For some reason, everything went our way when it needed to."

Rookie defensive end Mark Anderson ignited the comeback, forcing rookie quarterback Matt Leinart to fumble on a blindside sack. Mike Brown scooped up the loose ball and returned it 3 yards for a TD, drawing the Bears to within 23-10 with :02 remaining in the third quarter.

Brown later left the game with a sprained foot and did not return.

The defense delivered again as Brian Urlacher ripped the ball away from running back Edgerrin James and Charles Tillman returned the fumble 40 yards for a TD, closing the gap to 23-17 with 5:00 left in the final period.

Rookie Devin Hester then produced the play of the game and perhaps the season, returning a punt 83 yards for a touchdown to put the Bears ahead 24-23 with 2:58 to play.

Leinart responded by driving the Cardinals to the Bears' 22, but Neil Rackers missed a 40-yard field goal attempt that may have deflected off Hunter Hillenmeyer's fingertips and sailed wide left with :47 left.

"They moved it down there, but you still have to kick it," said coach Lovie Smith. "Sometimes when you're a team of destiny, things like that happen."

The jubilant Bears streamed into their locker room after Monday night's remarkable win, hooting and hollering so loud that Grossman had to raise his voice to be heard during his post-game press conference in an adjacent room.

It was a vast departure from the scene inside the locker room at halftime, where Brown and center Olin Kreutz were among a handful of veteran players who joined coaches in addressing the team.

"I'm still a little lightheaded from all of the excitement inside," Smith said. "When you're a good football team you have to go through some games like that. Down the way we were on the road, normally you don't come out with those types of results. But we have a lot of character in that locker room. We got together at halftime and just said, 'We're not going to go out like that. We're a lot better football team.'"

Urlacher played like a man possessed, refusing to let the Bears lose. In addition to forcing the key turnover, the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year registered a game-high 19 tackles, two pass breakups and three hits on the quarterback.

"He's a special football player," Smith said. "In times like that, you need your best players to step up, and Brian did that."

"He showed why he's a superstar," Grossman said. "He's an unbelievable player and really that defense just picked it up and won the game for us."

Monday night marked the first time the Bears have rallied from a 20-point deficit to win since Oct. 25, 1987 when they defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 27-26.

The Bears entered Monday night's contest having committed just five turnovers all season and averaging an NFL-best 31.2 points per game. Chicago won despite the six giveaways and an offense that produced just 168 total yards and nine first downs and possessed the ball for only 20:17.

"We know we made a lot of mistakes," Smith said. "We'll correct those. But we're going to enjoy this one because they don't come around very often like that."

The Cardinals took a 7-0 lead on their first possession of the game as Leinart capped a 12-play, 77-yard drive with an 11-yard TD pass to receiver Bryant Johnson.The Bears defense played on a short field the rest of the half as Arizona took over at the Chicago 25, 29, 33 and 32 following Grossman's turnovers. Safety Aaron Francisco's 44-yard interception return set up Leinart's 26-yard TD pass to Anquan Boldin as the Cardinals increased their lead to 14-0 with :54 remaining in the first quarter.

"I tried to force a couple balls in there," Grossman said. "They just did a great job of game-planning us and forcing me into things that I didn't want to do."

Leinart completed 24 of 42 passes for 232 yards in the game. The 10th overall pick in the draft from USC threw 2 touchdown passes in the opening period against a Bears defense that had allowed a total of just two TDs in its first five games of the season.

Rackers booted field goals of 41 and 28 yards as Arizona increased its lead to 20-0. After Robbie Gould's 23-yarder on the Bears' opening drive of the third quarter, Rackers answered with a 29-yarder that gave the Cardinals a seemingly safe 23-3 lead with 1:47 left in the third quarter.

Anderson then forced Leinart to fumble by beating veteran right tackle Oliver Ross with a speed rush around the edge, increasing his team-leading sack total to 6½. The fifth-round pick from Alabama made his first NFL start in place of Adewale Ogunleye, who missed his second straight game with a hamstring injury.

"Every game he's played he's come up with a big play for us," Smith said of Anderson.

Brown extended his team record for defensive TDs to seven and became the Bears' first defensive player to get into the end zone this season. After Tillman scored his second career TD, Hester zigzagged up the middle to give the Bears their first lead of the game.

"Before we went out on the field, all my teammates were saying, 'We need a big play now,'" Hester said. "I give all the credit to my teammates. They set up the blocks for me and allowed me to get in the end zone."

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