GLENDALE, Ariz. – Call it old fashioned, but the Bears followed a simple plan for success Sunday.
Let the defense lead the way.
The Bears tallied two defensive touchdowns in a 28-13 win against the Arizona Cardinals, which increased their record to 6-0 this season when the defense finds the end zone.
"We have won a lot of games that way," Bears coach Lovie Smith said.
A lucky bounce and an alert play by Zack Bowman set up the Bears’ first defensive touchdown. Bowman pounced on a fumble by Cardinals running back Beanie Wells and reached across the goal line for the Bears’ first score of the game and the defense’s eighth touchdown of the season.
Bowman said he merely was in the right place at the right time.
“I ran around the corner and I was like, ‘Whoa! Hey! A ball!’ ” Bowman said with a grin. “Obviously, I jumped on it and I scored. It was good. A nice little early Christmas present.”
Pro Bowl cornerback Charles Tillman delivered touchdown No. 9 when he intercepted Cardinals quarterback Ryan Lindley and sprinted 10 yards into the end zone. The play marked Tillman’s third interception return for a touchdown in 2012 and the ninth of his career, extending a franchise record.
With nine touchdowns, the Bears’ defense is one shy of matching the NFL single-season record of 10 that was set by the 1998 Seattle Seahawks.
Wrong way: Devin Hester’s sideways season took another unwanted turn against the Cardinals.
Hester twice let punts bounce to the turf instead of stepping forward to make a fair catch, but the Cardinals’ hapless offense managed to score only three points off of the miscues.
Late in the second quarter, Hester allowed a punt to drop and watched it careen off of the shoulder of teammate D.J. Moore. The ball bounced loose, and Cardinals special-teams contributor Michael Adams recovered it at the Bears’ 36-yard line.
Hester repeated his mistake in the third quarter when he allowed a punt to bounce off of Bowman’s leg. Bears special-teams ace Eric Weems quickly scooped the loose ball to prevent another turnover.
Bombs away: Bears offensive coordinator Mike Tice tipped his hand during a pregame interview with the team’s flagship radio station, WBBM-AM 780.
Tice said he would be aggressive with his play-calling after being too tentative in recent weeks.
“I’m just going to have at it,” Tice said.
A couple of hours later, Tice held true with his promise. He called for Jay Cutler to heave a deep pass down the left sideline to Brandon Marshall on the offense's first play from scrimmage, but the pass fell incomplete.
Bears bits: Marshall collected another franchise record in his first season with the Bears. His 30-yard reception in the second quarter pushed him past Marcus Robinson (1,400 receiving yards in 1999) for the most receiving yards in a single season. Marshall has 113 catches for 1,466 yards entering Week 17. … The Bears improved to 4-3 on the road.