Bears rout Cardinals to keep playoff hopes alive

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The Chicago Bears staved off NFC playoff elimination Sunday by dispatching the hapless Arizona Cardinals 28-13 at University of Phoenix Stadium, but still must win next week at Detroit and get some help to reach the postseason.

The Bears scored two defensive touchdowns en route to improving their record to 9-6 with one game remaining at Detroit. The Bears must beat the Lions next Sunday and will be rooting for the Green Bay Packers to beat the Vikings in Minnesota.

With the Vikings’ victory Sunday over the Houston Texans and losses by the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys, the Bears’ playoff picture became more clear. If Seattle were to lose Sunday night to San Francisco, the Bears would be in with a victory over the Lions and a loss by either Minnesota or Seattle. If the Seahawks beat the 49ers, the Bears would need to win and have the Vikings lose next Sunday to the Packers.

The Bears won’t be affected by how NFC East teams fare. The winner of Sunday’s game between the Cowboys and Redskins at Washington will be the East champion.

Arizona fell to 5-10 with the loss.

The Bears quickly got busy taking care of business against the Cardinals.Charles Tillman’s 10-yard interception return of a Ryan Lindley pass for a touchdown at the 12:39 mark of the third quarter boosted the Bears’ lead to 28-6 and put the game away. It was Tillman’s third pick-6 of the season and eighth of his career. It also was the Bears’ eighth interception return of the season, tying them with the 1961 San Diego Chargers for second-most in NFL history, one behind the 1998 Seattle Seahawks.

It was the 33rd career interceptions for Tillman, breaking a tie with Donnell Woolford for the career high for Bears cornerbacks.

The Cardinals scored a late touchdown on an 82-yard return of a blocked Olindo Mare field-goal attempt by Justin Bethel.

Another concern for the Bears was the health of running back Matt Forte, who hobbled off the field early in the third quarter with an apparent ankle injury and was taken to the locker room.

Jay Cutler hit Brandon Marshall on an 11-yard touchdown pass to give the Bears a 21-6 lead with 19 seconds left in the first half, and that was the score at intermission. The six-play, 80-yard drive included a 35-yard pass to Alshon Jeffery.

Cardinals kicker Jay Feeley’s second field goal, this one from 35 yards out, cut the Bears’ lead to 14-6 with 2:18 to play in the half. The field goal was set up by a Bears’ special teams miscue. Arizona’s punt bounced off of D.J., Moore with 5:05 left in the half and the muff was recovered by the Cardinals’ Michael Adams at the Bears’ 36.

Arizona had unsuccessfully faked a field-goal attempt earlier in the quarter.

Bears safety Chris Conte sustained a hamstring injury in the second quarter and was ruled out for the game.

Forte’s 4-yard touchdown run put the Bears ahead 14-3 with 13:12 left in the second quarter. Cutler’s first completion of the day went to Marshall for 30 yards to the Arizona 4 and Forte ran it in.

Feeley hit a 49-yard field goal to cut the Bears’ lead to 7-3 with 37 seconds left in the first quarter.

The Bears started well, getting an early touchdown from their defense. They took a 7-0 lead with 8:53 left in the first quarter when Cardinals running back Beanie Wells lost his footing after taking the handoff near the goal line and then fumbling. The ball was recovered in the end zone by Zack Bowman for the Chicago score.

Cutler hit 6 of 16 passes in the first half for 106 yards and a touchdown. Marshall had three catches for 48 yards and Forte carried the ball 11 times for 85 yards.

By Fred Mitchell, Tribune reporter

Copyright © 2012 Chicago Tribune Company, LLC

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