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Cards were coming off an opening win vs. the Saints. Bears gave GB a battle but came out on the losing end last week. Chicago rode the shoulders (and legs) of RB Matt Forte (who gained 141 yards on 24 carries). The traditionally vaunted Bear defense of old was considered a bit shaky and in need of rebuilding. The Cardinals (opened last week's game like they did with Palmer a year ago. Bears went into this game without ita best WR (Alshon Jefffrey) and half its secondaary. Cards were without starting RB Andre Ellington. Interesting matchup figures to be Forte vs, a Cardinal run-defense that held NO ballcarriers to 2.7 ypc. Matchups in general - but especially our receivers vs. a beaten up and young Bear secondary - seemed to favor the Cardinals.
David Johnson had just run 108 yards for a TD on the opening kickoff, making me think: "Boy! That's easy. Well it wasn't. Ignore the final 48 - 23 score It was a give & take seesaw affair for the better part of the first half before a combination of the Football Gods, Cardinals and Bears helped the Cardinals seize control of the day and win handily. (The USA Today lede was like: "Palmer throws 4 TD's. Cutler injured before halftime. That's all you need to know").
The Bottom Line:
The Cardinals started out in grand style - with RB David Johnson returning the opening kickoff 108 yards for a TD. But - beginning with a 48-yard Cutler to Bellamy TD gimme - it became a see-saw affair early-on with the Cards trading TD's with Chicago & allowing the game to be tied 14 - 14 early the 2Q. The Cards then expanded their lead to 28 - 14 (taking advantage of a 30-yard defensive interference call on a pass intended for John Brown and a pick 6 by Jefferson), but almost allowed the Bears to get right back into the thick of things with roughly 2:00 to play on a muffed punt and a tipped pick by Jarod Allen. (Fortunately, the combination of Cutler's absence (he got injured attempting to make a tackle on Jefferson's interception) and a defense that hung tough that limited the damage to two Chicago FG's to help the Cards retain a 28 - 20 halftime edge). The Carads then posted two quick 3rd quarter TD's to make it 42 - 20 and then coasted to a 48 - 23 win.
Obvious stars of the game were Palmer, Fitz (who had 8 grabs for 112 yards and three TD's); John Brown (who forced the Bears into at least two long interference penalties that we're aware of), David Johnson (the 108 yard KO return and 13-yard TD run), Jefferson (Pick 6) and Peterson (Pick), but unsung hero's were the O-line (no sacks) and defense (time and time again picking up the team after we coughed up the ball; i.e. turning TD's into FG's).
Misleading (& because of that unsung) stat of the game: 300 Net Yards on Offense - on the low end of the totem pole when . you compare Net Yards Per Game numbers throughout the NFL. What this stat does not reflect is the healthy chunk of the 170 yards worth of penalties chalked up by Bears; most notably calls caused byJohn Brown (who forced the guys covering him to commit a number of interference and illegal contact penalties). Factor in the penalties and those 300 Net Yards are closer to 400.
The (on the field) Red Sea parted as David Johnson fielded the opening kickoff 8 yards deep in his own end zone and wove his way through Chicago special teamers on route to a 108-yard score (That's the way we like to open a road game)! Cards 7 - Bears 0.
Bears returned the KO through a couple of missed tackles to their own 27. They managed to move tothe Card 46 before they had to punt. TB on the punt. Cards moved to the Bear 47 andButler's punt was fair caught at the Chi 11. 6 plays later, Cutler hit a wide open Bellamy down the left sideline for a 48-yard TD. (Peterson blew the coverage - got confused by Bear bunch formation). Cards 7 - Bears 7.
K Williams returned the KO to the Cardinal 35. The Cards moved to the their own 47; notably on an incomplete pass to John Brown that was reversed. Two plays later, Brown was the beneficiary of a a 36-yard pass interference call that put the ball on the Bear 11 where - 2 plays later -Palner hit "the other Brown" (Jaron) for a 6-yard score. Cardinals 14 - Bears 7.
TB on the KO. Bears moved to their own 36 in 3 plays as the quarter ended.
1st Quarter Score: Cards 14 - Bears 7.
Cutler continued to lead his team on an 11-yard TD drive. Key play was a 21-yard Cutler-to-Bennett hookup. Final play was a one-yard run off LG by Langford. All tied up.Cards 14 - Bears 14.
TB on the KO. Another long throw resulting in a 30-yard defensive pass interference call involving John Brown put the ball on the Bear 16. Two plays later, Palmer hit Fitz for an 8-yard TD. Cards 21 - Bears 14.
TB on the KO. On the second play from scrimmage, a Cutler pass intended for Bennett was picked off by Jefferson and returned 26 yards for a score. Cutler injured on play. (This should have been the football game right here, but it wasn't). Cardinals 28 - Bears 14.
2:59 left till the half. Clausen in for Cutler. KO returned to the Chicago 11. Bear moved to their own 35 in 6 plays but their drive stalled and they were forced to punt. JJ Nelson muffed the catch. Bears got the ball back on the Cardinal 22 with 1:15 left. Defense stiffened and Chicago had to settle for a 40-yard Gould FG. Cards 28 - Bears 17.
0:59 left. TB on the KO. On the first play from scrimmage, Palmer threw a pick to Jared Allen who returned it to the Cardinal 12. Once again the Cardinal defense stopped them at the 5-yard line and forced Gould to kick a 23-yard FG with 0:02 on the clock. (Terrible way to end a half - and becoming a Cardinal trademark - but at least we gave back 6-points and not 14). Cardinals 28 - Bears 20.
First Half Score: Cards 28 - Bears 20..
Bears received. KO returned to the Chi 20. Three plays later, Peterson intercepted a Clausen pass and returned it to the Bear 32. Two plays later, Palmer - on a flea flicker - hit Fitz for a 28-yard winner to widen the Cardinal lead. Cards 35 - Bears 20.
TB on the KO. Bears held to 3 & out. (a huge, underrated series from a monmentum perspective). Peterson returned the punt to the Cardinal 25. Completions to Fitz (for 24 and 20 yards) helped set up a 13-yard TD score on a run by David Johnson. (We're not sure we heard correctly, but it appears that the first three times Johnson touched the ball as a Cardinal and as a pro, he scored a TD: the 55-yard completion a week ago, the 108-yar KO return today and now a 13 yard run "untouched by human hands." (to borrow the term from broadcaster Warner Wolf). Cards 42 - Bears 20.
TB on the KO. Bears drove to the Cardinal 33 in 7 plays capped by a 51-yard Gould FG. I know - we're still up by 19-points but we still have more than a quarter to play. Cards 42 - Bears 23.
2:26 left in the quarter. (No time to relax). Cards were held to 3 & out. Punt was returned to the Cardinal 44. A penalty pushed Chicago back into their own territory as the quarter ended,
Third Quarter Score: Cards 42 - Bears 23.
Golden and Martin split a sack to force a punt from the Bear 37. Punt was fair caught at the AZ 19. Cards used up over 4-minutes worth of clock time but eventually punted from the Bear 47. Punt was downed at the Bear 4. Three & out. Punt was downed at the Bear 46. Nine plays later, Palmer hit Fitz short of the goal line, but the gritty WR would not be denied as he bulled his way over for a 9-yard score, giving us a 25-point lead with 2:42 left. .Cards 48 - Bears 23.
TB on the KO. They moved to the Cardinal 24 in 7 plays before running out of downs, 1:11 left. Palmer took two knees; game over.. Cards 48 - Bears 23.
Final Score: Cards 31 - Bears 19
Palmer was 17 for 24 (185 yards, 4 TD's and 1 pick).
Takeaways: Even-up with 2 apiece. Cards fumbled once (Nelson's muff). Palmer threw 1 interception. Bear QB's threw 2 picks.
Chris Johnson carried 20 times for72 yards. David Johnson gained 42 yards on 5 carries.
Fitz led the receivers with 8 catches for 112 yards and 3 TD's. John Brown caught 5 passes for 45 yards.
Cardinal Run/Pass Ratio: . (Runs: 28 /Pass: 24). Bear Run/Pass Ratio: 28/32).
Card ball carriers averaged 4.1 yards on the ground. (Run defense gave up 3.9 ypc.)
Jefferson led the team with 9 unassisted tackles. R Johnson and Campbell had 6.
Mauro is credited with a sack, Golden and Martin shared a sack. Card pass blockers held Bear pass rushers to zero sacks (shutout was 2nd in a row). .
Cards run defense held Forte to 61 yards on 15 carrries.
Cards held the Bears to two TD's. Card offense racked up 4.
Situational Efficiency: Cards converted 5 of 9 third downs (55%). Defense held the Bears to 2 of 12 (16%).
Penalties: Bears were penalized 14 times for 170 yards (Cards were penalized 8 times for 58 yds).
Time of Possession: Cards 30:04 - Bears 29:56
When given time (which was almost always) Palmer hit his target with pinpoint accuracy.
David Johnson seems to have an uncanny ability to see/follow his blockers and glide untouched down the field as though he was invisible. He also displayed speed for a 220 lb human being and must have been flying below everyone's radar prior to the draft (that is everyone but Steve K and his staff).
We cannot remember a Cardinal receiver failing to come down with a catchable ball.
The number of Bear penalties caused by John Brown.
The Card O line gave up zero sacks.
Larry Fitzgerald evidently was the "open guy" for most of the game, and Palmer didn't ignore this. (8 Catches for 112 yards and 3 TD's isn't chopped liver). We don't think Fitz's success has anything much to do with his being better this year (or this game) than last. Rather it's that other Cardinal receivers are forcing opposing defenders to cover him more loosely.
We held Forte to 61 yards and Bennett to 4 catches.
The Dark Side
As Calais Campbell pointed out, we came out with a "W" but have a lot of things to clean up.
Someone blew the coverage on Bellamy's TD
"Late 1H Syndrome Continues" - This time, we lost the ball on a muffed punt with about 2-minutes left in the half and then Palmer followed this up by throwing a pick with 0:59 to go till halftime. We have the habit of blowing up just before halftime. Gotta stop this.
We have difficulty living with success. We were up 28 - 14 nearing the 2:00 mark in the half, and had just forced the Bears to punt. We were clearly in the drivers seat. Except we weren't. Instead of putting the pedal to the metal in a smart fashion, we got sloppy and a bit mentally lazy and it cost us a half-dozen gimme points. At 2 & 0, we have to make sure our difficulty handling success doesn't become a paradygn for the entire season.
Short list this week (That's what happens when you win 48 - 23).
Seattle lost. St. Louis lost. San Francisco lost. The only team in our division that won was...us. That still leaves 14 games & the playoffs to go, so we shouldn't become awe-struck by our own media-hype. Our theme still remains "one game at a time." What is helpful, though, is that we now know (after 2 regular season games) that we have the collective chops to beat our division opponents (and just about every team in the NFL) if we play hard, smart and mentally tough. (Sounds easy, but trust me, it isn't).