GLENDALE, Ariz. (Oct. 16, 2006) -- Six turnovers, 3 points on offense, and somehow the Chicago Bears are still unbeaten.
Somehow, some way, the Bears rallied from 20 points down at halftime and escaped with a 24-23 victory in Arizona, leaving the shellshocked Cardinals to ponder yet another excruciating late-game collapse.
"Sometimes, when you're a team of destiny, things like that happen," Chicago coach Lovie Smith said.
The Bears are off to their best start in 20 years at 6-0. For that, they can thank their defense, punt returner Devin Hester and Arizona kicker Neil Rackers.
Rex Grossman gets no credit for this one.
"I've never played so bad and won a game like that," said the Bears quarterback, who threw four interceptions and lost two fumbles. "It was unbelievable."
Down 20-0 at halftime, Chicago returned two fumbles for touchdowns in the second half. Then Hester returned a punt 83 yards for a score with 2:58 remaining to take the lead.
Matt Leinart, who threw two first-quarter touchdowns and finished 24 for 42 for 232 yards, coolly directed Arizona downfield at the finish for a chance to claim a victory that appeared to be the Cardinals' all night.
But Rackers, a Pro Bowl kicker last season who connected from 41, 28 and 29 yards earlier in the evening, missed a 41-yarder to the left with 53 seconds left for what would have been the game winner for Arizona (1-5).
"I was ready to hit it," he said. "Unfortunately I hit the ground first, then I felt extremely sick to my stomach for my teammates and coaches and everybody else who deserved to win this game."
Just last week, he missed a 51-yard attempt at the finish that would have sent the game against Kansas City into overtime.
Arizona coach Dennis Green was seething. Judging by his comments, he clearly didn't believe the Bears lived up to the hype -- or deserved to win.
"The Bears are who we thought they were!" he said, yelling at the top of his lungs and pounding on the podium at his postgame press conference. "Now, if you want to crown them, then crown (them)! But they are who they thought they were! And we let them off the hook!"
Green then stormed away.
Anquan Boldin caught 12 passes for 136 yards and a touchdown for the Cardinals, who blew a late lead at home for the third time this season. Similar collapses occurred against St. Louis and Kansas City.
"The way things have turned out is just unreal," Edgerrin James said. "This is some of the weirdest stuff I have ever seen in these past six weeks."
James carried 36 times for only 55 yards, an average of 1.5 yards. It was the most carries in an NFL game by a player while averaging less than 2 yards per attempt, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
James also had one very costly fumble.
After Grossman threw his fourth interception, the Cardinals were trying to use up time. But Brian Urlacher stripped the ball from James and Charles Tillman scooped it up for a 40-yard return to cut Arizona's lead to 23-17 with five minutes left.
Urlacher finished with 11 tackles, seeming to find his way to the ball on nearly every play as the Cardinals were making their final drives.
"First of all they weren't blocking me, so that was easy," Urlacher said.
On their next possession, the Cardinals were forced to punt. Hester caught the ball, broke a few arm tackles and weaved around hapless defenders as he sprinted upfield, scoring his second punt return for a touchdown this season and giving Chicago the lead for the first time all night.
In addition to his four picks, Grossman fumbled the ball away twice and struggled to hit receivers when he did manage to get the ball cleanly away, going 14 for 37 for 148 yards. With their offense suddenly punchless, the Bears' defense provided the points.
The first came when defensive end Mark Anderson broke through untouched and blindsided Leinart, forcing a fumble that Mike Brown returned 3 yards for a touchdown that cut the lead to 23-10 with two seconds left in the third quarter.
Chicago entered the game with five turnovers in five games, 10 fewer than their foes. But it was evident early that this would be a frightful night with the roof open for the first time in Arizona's extravagant new stadium.
"In the NFL, when you have six turnovers, you lose," Bears defensive end Alex Brown said. "If you're fortunate enough to win, somebody upstairs is looking out for you."
Four of the turnovers helped the Cardinals to a 20-0 halftime lead in Arizona's first Monday Night Football appearance since 1999.
"We have a lot of character in that locker room," Smith said. "We just got together at halftime and just said 'We're not going to go out like that. We're a lot better football team."'
The Bears steamrolled into town with a fierce defense and an efficient offense that had blown out Seattle and Buffalo by a combined 77-13 score their previous two games.
But Leinart, in his second NFL start, ran the offense with precision and poise at the start, becoming the first rookie to throw a pair of first-quarter TD passes in his first two starts. This time, he did it without Pro Bowl receiver Larry Fitzgerald, sidelined with a hamstring injury, against a Chicago defense that had allowed two touchdowns all season.
Accustomed to the bright lights that came with three national championship game appearances at USC, Leinart was anything but intimidated. He was 5 for 5 on a 12-play, 77-yard touchdown drive on Arizona's opening attack.
"He's a good quarterback," Urlacher said. "He's young, we tried to throw a lot of stuff at him. He took care of the football, didn't have any interceptions. But we made the plays when we had to."
Notes: Ex-Cardinal and CBS analyst Dan Dierdorf was added to the team's ring of honor before the game. ... The Cardinals are 12-26 in Green's three seasons with the team. ... Chicago's Thomas Jones managed just 39 yards in 11 carries.