Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald scores a touchdown in front of Bears cornerback Charles Tillman the last time the Cards and Bears played in 2009, a 41-21 Arizona win.
Larry Fitzgerald has battled Charles Tillman before – he beat him for a touchdown catch the last time the Cardinals played the Bears, back in 2009 – and he knows what the Bears cornerback can do.
Especially after the offense has already made a play.
Tillman already has 10 forced fumbles this season, an astounding number for anyone, much less a cornerback. The Bears as a unit have had 22 forced fumbles in 14 games.
"Tillman can definitely teach an instructional tape on how to force turnovers," Fitzgerald said. "But the whole defense has a knack for it. We have to be very careful."
The Cardinals have only lost 11 fumbles this season, and three were by Patrick Peterson on punt returns. Of the other eight, six have been lost by quarterbacks. The only two lost by a non-QB both were by the now-injured running back Ryan Williams.
The Bears, and Tillman in particular, go after the ballcarrier with a distinct punch whenever they have the chance. It has paid off.
"I guess I have gotten good over the years at punching, and if I don't get the punch or the forced fumble, the majority of the time I get the tackle," Tillman told the Chicago Tribune earlier this season. "It can misfire at times, but I would probably say 90, 95 percent of the time if I miss, or if I don't get the forced fumble, I am pretty confident that I can get the tackle."
The Cardinals have 11 forced fumbles as a defense this season, and make their turnover hay via interception. Peterson marveled at Tillman's prowess.
"It reminds me of one of my college teammates, Tyrann Mathieu," Peterson said. "There are guys who have a knack for getting the ball in certain situations. I believe it's a gift. I try to strip the ball out each and every time and it never comes out for me. It's a God-given gift that those guys get the ball out when they want."
The only member of the 2012 draft class yet to play this season is fifth-round guard Senio Kelemete. If there was going to be a time when Kelemete was going to get a shot, it would have probably been last week when starting right guard Adam Snyder moved to center as injuries shredded the position. Instead, Whisenhunt went with veteran Pat McQuistan to play there, and Kelemete remained inactive – which may remain the case the final two games.
"He probably had the furthest to go from where he was playing in college (tackle) to playing guard in the NFL," Whisenhunt said. "He's a good young prospect.
"The only way we will get a real test is to see him in a game, and I don't know if that will happen over the last two weeks."
Kelemete said he did have trouble making the transition from college tackle to inside, but added he felt he got past those issues around midseason.
"It's not like high school where you walk into the coach's office and say, 'Hey play me,' " Kelemete said. "I just keep my head down, keep working. I can wait for my opportunity."
MAYBE HOYER DOWN THE STRETCH
Ryan Lindley will start at quarterback Sunday. What happens with newcomer Brian Hoyer remains undetermined.
"Brian has looked good (in practice)," Whisenhunt said, "but you need to see him in a game."
Asked whether that could happen, Whisenhunt said "there's a chance." One of the things with which the Cardinals must deal is various injuries, which will impact who is active at other spots. If injuries are a factor, then it does not seem as if Whisenhunt would simply make Hoyer the backup and inactivate John Skelton.
CAMPBELL BACK TO FULL WORK
Defensive end Calais Campbell (calf) returned to full practice Thursday, while reserve offensive lineman Mike Gibson (calf) was downgraded to DNP for the Cards. Gibson joined receiver Early Doucet (concussion) and safeties Rashad Johnson (hamstring) and James Sanders (calf) on the sideline.
Still limited for the Cards were linebacker Quentin Groves (foot), fullback Anthony Sherman (knee), defensive end Ronald Talley (ankle), tight end Rob Housler (knee), nose tackle Dan Williams (hamstring) and tackle Nate Potter (ankle).
For the Bears, tackle Jonathan Scott and linebacker Brian Urlacher, each of whom are battling hamstring issues, sat out.
BEARS FINALE SELLS OUT
The Cardinals officially announced Sunday's game against the Bears is sold out, meaning the game will be aired on local television (Fox Ch. 10). It is the 73rd straight sellout at University of Phoenix Stadium – every Cards' game played in the building since it opened in 2006.