Bears Escape the Desert, Somehow Win 24-23

What in the Sam Hill happened in Arizona on Monday night? Rex Grossman threw four interceptions and lost two fumbles. Neither Thomas Jones nor Cedric Benson did a thing on the ground. Muhsin Muhammad had one catch for two yards. The offense managed just three points. The defense had no answer for Anquan Boldin. Matt Leinart threw two first-quarter TD passes. And the Bears won 24-23. What?

The Chicago Bears may have played as bad a football game as they were capable of playing, yet somehow, head coach Lovie Smith and his Monsters of the Midway walked out of desert with their unbeaten record intact.

They can thank their suffocating defense and electrifying punt returner Devin Hester for bailing them out. Arizona kicker Neil Rackers lent a helping hand in the closing minute.

The Bears were down 20-0 at the half but returned two fumbles for touchdowns to get them back in the game. Soon thereafter, Hester returned a punt 83 yards for the winning score with 2:58 remaining for their first lead of the ballgame. Chicago (6-0) overcame six turnovers by Rex Grossman to beat Arizona 24-23 on the first ever Monday Night Football game at newly-built Cardinals Stadium.

Rackers, who connected from 41, 28 and 29 yards, missed a 41-yarder just to the left with 53 seconds left for what would have been the game-winner for struggling Arizona (1-5).

After Grossman threw his fourth interception, the Cardinals did their best to keep the ball on the ground and run the clock. But Brian Urlacher stripped the ball from Edgerrin James on a second down play, and Charles Tillman scooped it up for a 40-yard TD return to cut Arizona's lead to 23-17 with exactly five minutes left.

On their next possession, the Cardinals picked up one first down on the drive but were ultimately forced to punt. Hester darted north and south in and out of potential tacklers, scoring his second punt return for a touchdown this season and giving Chicago the lead for the first time all night.

It was the third time Arizona had blown a late lead at home this season. Similar collapses occurred against St. Louis and Kansas City.

Rookie quarterback Matt Leinart, making his second NFL start, threw for two first-quarter touchdowns while Grossman was ineffective from start to finish. The Bears QB lost two fumbles, was intercepted four times, and struggled to hit receivers when he did manage to get the ball cleanly away. He finished just 14-for-37 for 148 yards with those six turnovers.


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