GLENDALE, Ariz. – Of course the defense made the plays that mattered most for Chicago. These are, after all, the Bears.
Charles Tillman returned an interception 10 yards for a score and Zack Bowman returned a fumble 1 yard for another TD in the Bears’ 28-13 victory over the punchless Cardinals on Sunday to keep Chicago’s playoff hopes alive.
It was the third pick Tillman has brought back for a touchdown this season and the eighth overall by Chicago, one shy of the NFL record held by the 1961 San Diego Chargers. Julius Peppers had three of the Bears’ four sacks.
Defensively we asked them to take over and play the way they have been capable of doing, Chicago coach Lovie Smith said. Of course, how we played early, taking the ball away specifically, is what I am talking about. It was an added bonus getting a couple of scores.
Brandon Marshall caught six passes for 68 yards and a TD, breaking the Bears’ franchise record for yards receiving in a season in the process.
Chicago (9-6) snapped a three-game losing streak and won for just the second time in seven tries. The Cardinals (5-10) lost for the 10th time in 11 games.
To make the postseason as a wild card, the Bears must win at Detroit in their regular-season finale Sunday, then have Minnesota lose to Green Bay.
I can’t even state how big this is. It is either win or you are done, Peppers said. We can’t control what happens next week with other teams, but if we don’t win today, we don’t have a shot.
Matt Forte gained 88 yards in 12 carries, including a 4-yard TD run for Chicago before aggravating a right ankle injury and leaving early in the second half.
Jay Cutler completed just one of his first 11 passes, then went 5 of 5 on a touchdown drive in the final minutes of the first half. He finished 12 of 26 for 146 yards and a touchdown.
The Cardinals, with the NFL’s worst offense, continued to search for someone to move the ball.
After he threw the interception to Tillman that put Chicago up 28-6 on Arizona’s first offensive series after halftime, rookie Ryan Lindley was benched in favor of Brian Hoyer, claimed off waivers from Pittsburgh 13 days earlier.
It’s obviously not ideal, but football is football, said Hoyer, who spent three seasons as a backup in New England. You just want to go out and play the best you can and definitely improve off of this and just try to make the most of the opportunity.
Hoyer completed 11 of 19 passes for 105 yards and one interception.
Adrian Wilson, the 12-year NFL veteran who might have been playing his last home game for the Cardinals, blocked Olindo Mare’s 20-yard field goal try and Justin Bethel returned it 82 yards with 1:46 to play for the Cardinals’ lone TD.
Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald caught eight passes for 111 yards, just his second 100-yard game of the season.
It’s been a long season, man, Fitzgerald said. Whenever I can make a play and make an impact, I try to do it. Today some things opened up. But it didn’t equate to a win, so it’s all for nothing.
Cardinals punter Dave Zastudil set the NFL season record with 44 punts inside the opponent’s 20-yard line with, for the second week in a row, a franchise record six of them against the Bears.