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Bears 28, Cardinals 13

The SportsXchange

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Chicago Bears knew the score well before they took the field Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals.

If they lost at University of Phoenix Stadium, they'd get knocked out of the playoff race. If they won, they'd still be alive with a chance to snag an NFC wild-card berth.

The Bears, who lost five of their previous six games, breathed a sigh of relief and kept their postseason hopes in sight with a 28-13 victory.

Chicago (9-6) concludes the regular season next week with a game at Detroit. The Minnesota Vikings (9-6) finish with a home game against the NFC North champion Green Bay Packers. Should Chicago win and Minnesota lose, the Bears would clinch a postseason berth.

The Bears got two touchdowns from their defense Sunday, including a 10-yard interception return from cornerback Charles Tillman.

The Cardinals (5-10) made another quarterback change en route to their 10th defeat in the past 11 games.

Rookie Ryan Lindley was benched following the pick-six and replaced by Brian Hoyer, who was claimed off waivers from the Pittsburgh Steelers on Dec. 11. Neither wound up with a passer rating above 55.

The Cardinals haven't passed for a touchdown since the second quarter of their Week 9 loss at Green Bay, a span of 26 consecutive quarters.

With Minnesota's 23-6 upset win over the Houston Texans earlier in the day, the Bears knew coming in that a loss to the Cardinals would eliminate them from the wild-card race. They needed a win and they got it, although they lost running back Matt Forte to an ankle injury midway through the game.

His status wasn't immediately known. Forte rushed 12 times for 88 yards and a touchdown before getting hurt.

After throwing six straight incomplete passes to start the game, Bears quarterback Jay Cutler ended up 12-for-26 for 146 yards and a touchdown.

His favorite target, Brandon Marshall, finished with six catches for 68 yards and a touchdown.

Lindley went 17-for-30 for 141 yards before being replaced by Hoyer with 12:39 remaining in the third quarter. Hoyer, who had been Tom Brady's backup in New England the past three seasons, completed 11 of 19 passes for 105 yards and one interception.

Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald caught eight passes for 111 yards.

The Bears took a 21-6 lead into halftime thanks to their first defensive touchdown of the game, plus a 4-yard scoring run by Forte and an 11-yard touchdown reception from Marshall.

With Arizona facing a second-and-11 from its own 3-yard line, running back Beanie Wells slipped and fumbled. Zack Bowman recovered for the Bears and rolled into the end zone for a touchdown.

Wells touched the ball just once more the rest of the game. He finished with 3 yards on four carries.

Arizona got a 49-yard field goal from Jay Feely to cut the deficit to 7-3, but the Bears responded with a five-play, 72-yard drive, capped by Forte's short touchdown run. Forte broke off a 36-yard run to start the drive, which also featured a 30-yard catch by Marshall.

After a 35-yard field goal by Feely, the Bears answered again, this time quickly driving 80 yards on six plays, as Cutler found Marshall wide open in the corner of the end zone to make it 21-6.

Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson gambled on the play, breaking inside as Marshall faded back. Safety Kerry Rhodes couldn't cover enough ground to help.

Arizona punter Dave Zastudil enjoyed a productive day. With five more punts downed inside the 20-yard line, he has 43 on the season, surpassing the NFL single-season record of 42 previously shared by three others.

The Cardinals' special teams also produced a fourth-quarter touchdown, as veteran safety Adrian Wilson blocked a 20-yard field-goal attempt by Olindo Mare and teammate Justin Bethel recovered it and returned it 82 yards for a score.

NOTES: With his first catch Sunday, a 30-yarder, Marshall surpassed Marcus Robinson's single-season franchise record for receiving yards. Robinson had 1,400 receiving yards in 1999. Marshall finished the game with 1,466 receiving yards. ... Cardinals quarterback John Skelton, who opened the season as the team's starter, was inactive for Sunday's game. It's the first time that's happened this year. ... The Bears were without injured linebacker Brian Urlacher (hamstring) and offensive tackle Jonathan Scott (hamstring). ... Arizona was missing safety Rashad Johnson (hamstring) and wide receiver Early Doucet (concussion). ... During the game, the Cardinals lost tight end Rob Housler to a shoulder injury.
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