Final

Bears 28

(9-6, 4-3 away)

Cardinals 13

(5-10, 4-4 home)

Coverage: FOX

4:25 PM ET, December 23, 2012

U of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, AZ 

1 2 3 4 T
CHI 7 14 7 028
ARI 3 3 0 713

Top Performers

Passing: J. Cutler (CHI) - 146 YDS, 1 TD

Rushing: M. Forte (CHI) - 12 CAR, 88 YDS, 1 TD

Receiving: L. Fitzgerald (ARI) - 8 REC, 111 YDS

Defense keeps Bears' playoff hopes alive in win over Cardinals

Associated Press

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. 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 next 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. Kelvin Hayden picked off his pass late in the game and returned it 39 yards to the Arizona 10.

But 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 receiving game of the season. The first was in Week 3 against Philadelphia when the Cardinals were headed to a 4-0 start.

"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. We were able to make some plays. But it didn't equate to a win, so it's all for nothing."

Marshall made a diving grab of Cutler's long pass at the Arizona 14 early in the game, but Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt, whose own job status is uncertain, threw the challenge flag. After the video review, the pass was ruled incomplete.

No matter, the Bears scored a moment later anyway.

Chicago pinned the Cardinals deep and, on second-and-11 from the 3, Beanie Wells' right knee gave way and he dropped the ball as he went backside first to the ground. Bowman grabbed it and skidded over the goal line for the first touchdown for the Bears' defense since Nov. 4.

Jay Feely's 49-yard field goal cut it to 7-3.

But Forte rambled 36 yards on the final play of the first quarter and Cutler threw 30 yards to Marshall to the Arizona 4 -- the quarterback's first completion of the game in seven throws. Forte carried it in from there and Chicago led 14-3.

Chicago gave Arizona another chance when Dave Zastudil's punt careened off the Bears' D.J. Moore. The Cardinals recovered at the 36, leading to Feely's 35-yard field goal that cut the lead to 14-6.

With no timeouts and after completing just one of his first 11 passes, Cutler went 5-for-5, capped by an 11-yarder to a wide-open Marshall with 19 seconds left in the half.

"We were really struggling and got into a two-minute situation and guys were still working to get open," Cutler said. "They made some great catches for me. It wasn't the best game. It wasn't the prettiest game, but we got done what we needed to get done."

Game notes


The record for interceptions returned for TDs is nine by San Diego in 1961. ... Arizona's Patrick Peterson bruised a knee late in the first quarter but never missed a play. ... A huge section of the crowd was decked in Bears gear. ... The Cardinals have not thrown a TD pass in six games. In the past five games, Arizona has thrown 12 interceptions, four returned for TDs. ... Zastudil set the NFL season record with 44 punts inside the opponent's 20-yard line, for the second week in a row a franchise record six of them against the Bears. ... Chicago S Chris Conte left the game in the first half with a hamstring injury.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press

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Team Stat Comparison

 
CHI
ARI
1st Downs1515
Passing 1st downs
614
Rushing 1st downs
80
1st downs from penalties
11
3rd down efficiency
3-133-15
4th down efficiency
0-01-2
Total Plays6072
Total Yards297248
Yards per play5.03.4
Total Drives1314
Passing145219
Comp-Att
12-2628-49
Yards per pass
5.44.1
Interceptions thrown
02
Sacks-Yards Lost
1-14-27
Rushing15229
Rushing Attempts
3319
Yards per rush
4.61.5
Red Zone (Made-Att)0-00-0
Penalties2-124-25
Turnovers13
Fumbles lost
11
Interceptions thrown
02
Defensive / Special Teams TDs21
Possession28:0531:55

Passing Leaders

CHIC/ATTYDSAVGTDINTSACKS
Cutler12/261465.6101-1
ARIC/ATTYDSAVGTDINTSACKS
Lindley17/301414.7012-15
Hoyer11/191055.5012-12

Rushing Leaders

CHICARYDSAVGTDLG
Forte12887.3136
Bell13322.505
ARICARYDSAVGTDLG
Stephens-Howling10191.904
Powell471.807

Receiving Leaders

CHIRECYDSAVGTDLG
Marshall66811.3130
Jeffery13535.0035
ARIRECYDSAVGTDLG
Fitzgerald811113.9024
Floyd6477.8014

Scoring Summary

FIRST QUARTERCHIARI
chiTD9:01Zack Bowman 1 Yard Fumble Return (Olindo Mare Kick is Good)
Drive info: 1 plays, -1 yds, 0:34
70
ariFG0:41Jay Feely 49 Yard Field Goal is Good
Drive info: 9 plays, 48 yds, 4:48
73
SECOND QUARTERCHIARI
chiTD13:16Matt Forte 4 Yard Run (Olindo Mare Kick is Good)
Drive info: 5 plays, 72 yds, 2:25
143
ariFG2:22Jay Feely 35 Yard Field Goal is Good
Drive info: 6 plays, 19 yds, 2:47
146
chiTD0:24Brandon Marshall 11 Yard Pass From Jay Cutler (Olindo Mare Kick is Good)
Drive info: 6 plays, 80 yds, 1:59
216
THIRD QUARTERCHIARI
chiTD12:46Charles Tillman 10 Yard Interception Return (Olindo Mare Kick is Good)
Drive info: 2 plays, -5 yds, 0:15
286
FOURTH QUARTERCHIARI
ariTD2:00Justin Bethel 82 Yard Return of Blocked Field Goal (Jay Feely Kick is Good)
Drive info: 4 plays, 8 yds, 2:08
2813

Research Notes

NEXT LEVEL: The Cardinals' quarterback combo of Brian Hoyer and Ryan Lindley completed 57.1 percent of their passes, were intercepted twice and sacked four times when the Bears sent four or fewer pass rushers. The Bears four-man pass rush had struggled over their last six games (1-5 W-L), generating seven sacks and two interceptions.
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