Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald hauls in the second of his three touchdown catches Sunday during the Cardinals' 48-23win in Chicago.
CHICAGO – The score looked pretty, the game itself, a little less so.
But the Cardinals knocked around the Bears, 48-23, at Soldier Field Sunday, as they should with a better roster against a team that was missing its best receiver and, for most of the game, their starting quarterback. And if nearing the 50-point barrier in a game that wasn't exactly streamlined to perfection, perhaps that's a sign of what could be.
"There was a different flow to the game," said wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who had his first regular-season game with three touchdowns. "A lot of weird things happened today."
Some of those were good. Fitzgerald's scores, a feat he had only done against the Eagles in the 2009 NFC Championship game. Rookie David Johnson, whose last touch had been a 55-yard catch-and-run
touchdown against the Saints, opening the game with a franchise-record 108-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. Safety Tony Jefferson making his first NFL interception and returning it for a score.
Some were bad, like the Bears (0-2) moving the ball early to keep the game close, and then the back-to-back turnovers with less than two minutes to go in the first half, giving Chicago two cheap field goals.
"That was a very nice win, especially when you don't play your best," coach Bruce Arians said.
Fitzgerald and Johnson became the stars. Fitzgerald ended up with eight catches for 112 yards, while Johnson added 42 rushing yards on only five carries, including a 13-yard touchdown. Aside from his kickoff return, of course.
"On the road, it's tough to get momentum early, and we got it right away," quarterback Carson Palmer said.
Palmer did throw his first interception late in the first half when Bears linebacker Jared Allen made an impressive leap to bat a pass in the air and then come down with it. But Palmer had four touchdown passes, on 17-for-24 for 185 yards. Wide receiver John Brown also churned out 80 extra yards when he drew two long pass interference calls in the first half, leading to two touchdowns.
"We had 300 yards of offense," Arians said, "but it felt like a lot more."
Bears quarterback Jay Cutler started excellent, completing his first eight passes. But his ninth was a bad pass thrown behind the receiver and right to safety Tony Jefferson, who grabbed it and returned it 26 yards for a touchdown to give the Cardinals (2-0) a two-score lead.
Cutler tried to tackle Jefferson on the play, and left the game for good with a hamstring injury. His backup, Jimmy Clausen, did not fare well. He dinked and dunked his way to only 121 yards on 14-of-23 passing, getting picked off by cornerback Patrick Peterson. He was also sacked twice.
Penalties also messed with the flow of the game. The Bears were flagged 14 times for 170 yards. The Cardinals had eight themselves, for 58 yards.
The Bears actually ended up officially outgaining the Cards, which didn't set well afterward.
"We gave them a big run here and there and I don't like that," defensive end Calais Campbell said. "We're too good for that. There's a lot of stuff to clean up. I'm happy to get a 'W,' but there's room for improvement."
Peterson's interception early in the third quarter led to Fitzgerald's second touchdown – a flea-flicker from running back Chris Johnson flipping back to Palmer – and basically ended any Bears threat, but "we'd like to put them away earlier," Brown said.
Said Arians, "I was really pleased with the resiliency of the bunch," Arians said.
As for Fitzgerald, who has spent the last couple of years with people wondering what he has left, he's on pace for 1,500 yards after two games and has become one of Palmer's most important targets. Plus, he's doing it for a team that has started well as a whole.
"What I am capable of doing, what I have done, it speaks for itself," Fitzgerald said. "At this point I'm just moreso happy to be on a team that has a chance to do something special."
Images from the Cardinals' Week 2 game against the Bears in Chicago