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Cardinals defense finding legs but not enough to beat Bears

Arizona Cardinals defensive back Bene' Benwikere (23) celebrates a pass broken up on Chicago Bears wide receiver Allen Robinson (12) wth Tre Boston (33) during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 23, 2018, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Tre Boston’s night served as a microcosm of where the Arizona Cardinals stand on defense.

Oh. So. Close.

The safety found himself in the right places at the right times Sunday in a 16-14 loss to the Chicago Bears at State Farm Stadium. He just didn’t handle himself as well as he’d like with those opportunities presented to him.

Take one play midway through the third quarter with Arizona leading 14-3 and its defense holding the Bears off after the Cardinals’ offense went AWOL.

Boston broke on a pass from Chicago quarterback Mitchell Trubisky but in colliding with Bears receiver Allen Robinson went flying. He couldn’t bring in a would-be interception deep in Arizona territory, missing his second pick of the night.

“No matter if he hits my legs or not, got to make that No. 2,” Boston said of the play, which Chicago followed with a touchdown two plays later.

Two Bears possessions later, Boston lined up receiver Taylor Gabriel, who couldn’t make a grab while streaking over the middle. Arizona’s safety shouldered Gabriel to the ground, earning a late unnecessary roughness penalty to turn a 2nd-and-12 on the Chicago 41 into a 1st-and-10 on Arizona’s 44-yard line.

The Bears would score their go-ahead field goal to wrap that drive.

“The biggest thing is we got to learn how to finish,” Cardinals head coach Steve Wilks said. “Penalties were an issue tonight. Sort of hurt us at certain times there. Given an opportunity right there to have an interception in the red zone, we got to come up with that particular play.”

Long story short, Arizona’s defense felt like it was a few key plays away from dragging its offense to the first win of the Wilks era.

The Cardinals recorded three sacks, including a strip-sack by tackle Robert Nkemdiche in the first quarter that set up a quick, 21-yard touchdown strike from Sam Bradford to David Johnson that put the Cardinals ahead 14-0. Boston later picked off a Trubisky pass by blitzing behind pass-rusher Chandler Jones, who tipped the ball on the Bears’ side of midfield.

Arizona’s offense went three-and-out with a minute left in the first half, failing to build a bigger halftime lead.

“We’re getting closer. It sucks that we lost the game,” Boston said. “It’s something Coach said, I said soon as a I walked into the locker room: ‘We’re getting closer.’ Rome wasn’t built in one day. We’re starting to play football the way it’s supposed to be played.”

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