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Bears Beat Cardinals, Need Help From Packers To Reach Playoffs

By Chuck Sudo in News on Dec 24, 2012 4:00PM

The Bears took care of business in the desert Sunday and kept their playoff hopes alive, beating a team they were expected to beat in the Arizona Cardinals 28-13 at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz.

The Bears used the formula that helped them rack up their previous eight wins: Use an opportunistic defense to put points on the board while the offense struggled to get untracked against a team they should have handled with ease. Charles Tillman returned an interception 10 yards for a score and Zack Bowman recovered a fumble for a one-yard score to give the Bears some breathing room as Jay Cutler struggled early.

Cutler missed his mark on 10 of his first 11 passes before he found a groove on a touchdown drive late in the first half. Cutler tossed an 11-yard pass to—who else?—Brandon Marshall with 19 seconds left in the first half and was five-for-five on the drive, which gave the Bears a 21-6 lead they didn’t relinquish. Tillman’s interception of Rookie Ryan Lindley with 12:39 in the third quarter salted away the game for the Bears.

The pick-six for Tillman was his third of the season and the Bears’ eighth overall in 2012, one shy of the record nine set by the San Diego Chargers in 1961. But in an alarming trend, the Bears defense shined against a team they were expected to beat. Arizona entered the game with the worst offense in the NFL and, coupled with the Bears ineptness on that side of the ball, made for one of those “winning ugly” games; Arizona failed to pick up a first down on the ground. The Bears pass rush also feasted on scrubs, with Julius Peppers collecting three of the team’s four sacks.

The Bears offense managed to muster only 297 total yards against the Cardinals. Cutler ended the day 12 of 26 for 126 yards and the touchdown to Marshall, who set a franchise record for receiving yards in a season. The ground game was solid, with Matt Forte gaining 88 yards on 12 carries before he left the game with a high ankle sprain.

At 9-6, the Bears are still in playoff consideration and can certainly help their cause with a win against Detroit Sunday at Ford Field. But they’re going to need some help from their archrivals in Green Bay. A Bears win coupled with a Packers win against Arizona will punch a ticket to the playoffs. Even if the Bears finish 10-6 and make the playoffs, speculation remains that GM Phil Emery may put the Lovie Smith era out of its misery. Smith did what he always does after the game—accentuate the positives—but he’s the only one who can’t (refuses to) see his team tolled to a 7-1 start by feasting on terrible teams and lost five of their last seven against teams with playoff aspirations.

Helping the Bears’cause next week is the possibility that Brian Urlacher will return from a Grade II hamstring sprain that sidelined him the past three games. With a wild card spot on the line, Urlacher would have to lose that leg to stay off the field and even that may not stop him. Forte was seen wearing a protective boot after the game, but is expecting to be ready for the Lions.