NFC North: 2012 Week 16 Rapid Reaction
December, 23, 2012
By Michael C. Wright | ESPN.com
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Chicago Bears exorcised discussions of doom-and-gloom for at least another week Sunday by destroying the Arizona Cardinals 28-13 on the strength of a pair of defensive touchdowns from Zack Bowman and Charles Tillman to snap a three-game slide, while keeping alive flimsy playoff hopes.
Quarterback Jay Cutler tossed a touchdown pass to Brandon Marshall in the second quarter, and running back Matt Forte rushed for his fourth TD of the season, in addition to averaging 7.3 yards per carry.
But it wasn't all smooth. The club lost Forte (ankle) and safety Chris Conte (hamstring) in the third quarter with injuries. The team didn't immediately disclose the severity of the injuries, and it's unknown whether they'll affect the availability of Forte and Conte for the Dec. 30 season finale at Detroit.
Still looking to snag one of the remaining playoff seeds, the Bears need their full arsenal of weaponry on hand next week against a Lions team that will look to play the spoiler role.
Let's take a closer look:
What it means: The Bears remain in contention for a spot in the playoffs, but the Minnesota Vikings made the road difficult by defeating the Houston Texans 23-6. With the New York Giants losing to the Baltimore Ravens 33-14, the Bears get into the playoffs next week if they defeat the Lions and the Vikings fall at Green Bay.
The only other way Bears can advance to the postseason is if the Seattle Seahawks fall Sunday night to the San Francisco 49ers, and then lose again in their season finale on Dec. 30 against the St. Louis Rams.
Scoring D: Bowman's recovery of a Beanie Wells in the end zone gave Chicago its eighth touchdown of the season, and Tillman tacked on No. 9 when he picked off a Ryan Lindley pass intended for Andre Roberts and skipped in for a 10-yard TD that made the score 28-10 after Olindo Mare's extra point.
Tillman's INT return helped the Bears tie the record for interception touchdowns set in 1998 by the Seattle Seahawks (9). In all, the Bears have scored nine touchdowns on defense this season and the club is one shy of the 10 total return TDs generated by the '98 Seahawks (eight INT return scores, two fumble recovery return TDs).
The nine TDs surpasses the team record set in 1992 (three interception return TDs and four fumble returns).
The Bears now own a 21-2 record in games they scored a TD on defense, including 6-0 under those circumstances this season. The defense now has 40 takeaways on the season.
Peppers performs: Julius Peppers generated three sacks in a game for the first time since 2010 on Sunday by dropping Lindley twice and Brian Hoyer once in Sunday's victory. Peppers contributed 1.5 sacks against the Carolina Panthers on Oct. 28, but finished with two more sacks in a game just once all season.
The performance by Peppers on Sunday marked just the third time since 2008 the veteran finished a game with three sacks.
Peppers sacked Hoyer for a 6-yard loss in the fourth quarter, and swatted the ball loose before the quarterback recovered at the Chicago 40 to set up an Arizona punt.
Closing in on 1,000: Forte delayed reaching 1,000 yards rushing for the third time in his career when he suffered a third-quarter right ankle injury. He needs just 9 yards Sunday at Detroit to accomplish the milestone. Forte rushed for 88 yards in a little more than two quarters of action against the Cardinals, and averaged 7.3 yards on 12 attempts.
Forte last reached 1,000 yards rushing in 2010, and fell 3 yards short in 2011 when he reached 997 yard before suffering a knee injury that knocked him out of the final four games.
Not named Marshall: Yes, Cutler completed a few balls to receivers not named Marshall against the Cardinals. Coming off a loss to the Packers in which he didn't complete a pass to any other receiver outside of Marshall, Cutler made connections with rookie Alshon Jeffery and Earl Bennett. The quarterback also completed passes to tight end Kellen Davis, Forte and Armando Allen.
What's next: Given the team's mounting injuries, the Bears likely will take off Monday and Tuesday before returning to the practice field Wednesday to start preparing for Sunday's season finale against the Lions.