With touchdowns on offense, defense and special teams, the Arizona Cardinals enjoyed their best scoring performance in five years, rolling to a 48-23 Week 2 victory in Chicago.
Carson Palmer passed for four touchdowns, Tony Jefferson scored on a pick-6, while David Johnson began the game with a 108-yard kickoff return.
Johnson added a touchdown run, as well.
The Cardinals are the only 2-0 team in the NFC West.
Palmer went 17-of-24 for 185 yards to win his eighth straight start, seven of which has seen him throw multiple touchdown passes.
Three of the scores ended in the arms of Larry Fitzgerald. He finished with eight catches for 112 yards, leading the team in receiving for the second straight game.
Defensively, Jefferson led the team with nine tackles.
The Cardinals, who last returned a kickoff and interception for touchdowns in the same game back in 1974, are 2-0 for the third time in the last four years.
Well, that didn’t take long. Just 13 seconds into the game and the Cardinals had a 7-0 lead thanks a 108-yard kickoff return by David Johnson. The kick return was a franchise long, surpassing Roy Green’s 106-yard play against Dallas on Oct. 21, 1979, and first since LaRod Stephens-Howling ran one back 102 yards against Oakland on Sept. 26, 2010. Johnson, by the way, became the first rookie in NFL history with a 50+ yard touchdown catch and 100+ yard kickoff return touchdown in the first two games to begin a career.
The Browns helped the Cardinals score their second touchdown. First, John Brown drew a 42-yard pass interference penalty on Kyle Fuller, putting the ball at the Chicago 11. Two plays later, Jaron Brown caught a six-yard touchdown pass to make it 14-7 at 1:13 of the first quarter. Brown, John Brown, drew a second pass interference penalty in the second quarter, this one 38 yards on Alan Ball.
Quite the day for Fitzgerald. His first touchdown catch—eight yards—was the 90th of his career, becoming just the 10th player in NFL history with 12,000+ receiving yards and 90+ receiving touchdowns in their career. It also snapped a nine-game scoring drought, the longest of his career. The second score—28 yards on a flea-flicker—gave Fitzgerald his 15th career multi-touchdown game and the first since Nov. 23, 2013 against the Colts. And then just for good measure, Fitzgerald caught a nine-yard pass for his first career regular season three-touchdown game.
The interceptions by both Jefferson and Patrick Peterson were their first of the season. In fact, the Jefferson pick was the first of his career. On the return, Jay Cutler, who was 8-of-8 for 120 yards and a touchdown — before the interception — hurt his hamstring, trying to tackle Jefferson. The injury knocked him out of the game, putting the Bears offense in the hands of Jimmy Clausen for the final two-plus quarters.
In what appeared to be a blown assignment by the Cardinals defense, Josh Bellamy caught a game-tying 48-yard touchdown in which he was wide open down the left sideline. It was his first career grab and tied the game at 7 with 3:20 remaining in the first quarter. On the drive, Cutler was 4-of-4 for 83 yards and the score.
A week after allowing a Week 1-low 54 rushing yards, the Cardinals allowed 81 on the ground in the first half, many off of zone read looks. Cutler especially had early success with three carries for 24 yards. The Bears finished with 109 yards rushing on 28 attempts.
Two second-quarter turnovers resulted in six Bears points in the final minute of the second quarter. First, J.J. Nelson muffed a punt, then Palmer was intercepted by Jared Allen. Both turnovers ended with Robbie Gould field goals, 40 and 23 yards, pulling Chicago to within 28-20 at halftime.
Of the Cardinals’ five first-half penalties, three were neutral zone infractions by the defense. Josh Mauro, Cory Redding and Tyrann Mathieu all jumped offsides, the first two of which resulted in automatic first downs for the Bears. The Redding penalty came on 3rd-and-2. The Cardinals finished with eight penalties.
STAT OF THE GAME
3: The number of touchdown catches by Fitzgerald, who now has 101 total career scores, including the playoffs
HE SAID IT
“First thing I thought was get to the end zone. I know everyone saw that stiff-arm,” said Jefferson, adding “It’s my son’s birthday. It’s only right I get my first career interception.”
– The Cardinals improved to 18-4 against teams outside the division under head coach Bruce Arians
– The Cardinals have won back-to-back road games against the Bears for the first time since 1947-48
– The Cardinals, 4-2 on challenges last year, won their first challenge of 2015, getting a John Brown third down-catch that was ruled incomplete overturned for a first down in the first quarter
– LaMarr Woodley missed a handful of snaps after hurting his right shoulder early in the first quarter
– Fitzgerald extended his streak of at least one catch to 172 straight games, including playoffs, with a seven-yard grab in the second quarter
– The Cardinals’ 28 first-half points were the most since their last trip to Chicago when they had 31 on Nov. 8, 2009
– Nelson was ruled out of the game after hurting his right shoulder at the start of the second half
– Peterson returned his first punt since 2013 with a six-yard run early in the third quarter
– Fitzgerald passed Jimmy Smith (12,287) and moved into 20th place on NFL’s all-time receiving yardage list with his 24-yard grab in the third quarter
– Palmer improved to 4-0 in his career against the Bears and 15-2 in his last 17 starts for the Cardinals
– Palmer became the first Cardinals quarterback to win eight consecutive starts since Ray Mallouf won 10 straight in 1948
– Palmer became the first Cardinals quarterback with four passing touchdowns in a game since Kurt Warner’s five-score game on Nov. 8, 2009 at Chicago
– Palmer became the first Cardinals quarterback with at least three passing touchdowns in each of the season’s first two games since Charley Johnson in 1965
The Cardinals return home for back-to-back games within the NFC West.
Up first is division rival San Francisco on Sunday, Sept. 27. Kickoff is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. with pregame coverage beginning four hours earlier on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM.
The teams split their two meetings last season with each protecting home field.
The Cardinals’ victory came in Week 3, 23-14, behind 244 passing yards and two touchdowns from Drew Stanton, who got the start due to a shoulder injury to Palmer. Both of the scores, by the way, went to John Brown.
Overall, the Cardinals have lost 10 of the past 12 matchups.
This will be the 48th all-time meeting with the Niners holding a 29-18 edge in the series.
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