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Article updated: 12/23/2012 9:20 PM

Peppers, Tillman, Bowman lead charge against Cardinals

Peppers, Tillman, Bowman happily take their gifts in easy victory

Zack Bowman (38) celebrates his touchdown with teammate Tim Jennings (26) on Sunday in Glendale, Ariz.

Zack Bowman (38) celebrates his touchdown with teammate Tim Jennings (26) on Sunday in Glendale, Ariz.

 

Associated Press

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GLENDALE, Ariz. -- In the most important game of the season, defensive end Julius Peppers turned in his best performance of the year with a season-high 3 sacks, giving him a team-best 11½ for the season.

Cornerback Charles Tillman did what he's done better than almost anyone else for the past decade. He took the ball away with an interception and then scored on a 10-yard return. Tillman has 3 interceptions this season, and he's scored on each of them.

Peppers downplayed not only the victory over the 5-10 Cardinals but his own accomplishments.

"It's not anything special," he said. "We just won a game; that's what we expect to do."

This is Peppers' second straight double-digit sack total as a Bear and his eighth in 11 NFL seasons.

"In my eyes, it's not anything special," he said. "It's expected of myself. That's the goal every year -- 10 sacks. In the grand scheme of things, it's just a small individual accomplishment. Sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn't. I don't have an explanation for it. Sometimes you get them sometimes you don't.

"We still have to win a game next week to get to where we really want."

If the defense continues to play as it did Sunday, the Bears have an excellent chance. Tillman's TD boosted their lead to 28-6 early in the third quarter and essentially clinched the game. None of his defensive teammates were surprised to see the 10-year veteran come up huge.

"He's an incredibly talented player," defensive lineman Israel Idonije said. "He's just one of those guys that comes to work every day and really lives what this defense is based on -- effort, hustle and taking the ball away. He does it every day. He knocks out balls every day in practice, and when you need a big play you can count on 'Peanut' stepping up and making a big play to give us some momentum. (Sunday) he did that."

Backup cornerback Zack Bowman, who usually doesn't get much action in the base defense, also made a huge play with a rare opportunity. In with the Bears "Tank" personnel because of his size, the 6-foot-1, 196-pound Bowman came face to face with destiny.

With the Cardinals in an obvious running situation at their 3-yard line, Beanie Wells fumbled.

"I was just running around the corner and the first thing that came to my mind was, 'Oh (crud)'" Bowman said. "The ball was there and I thought, 'Let me jump on this.' So I jumped on it and kind of crawled into the end zone."

That started the scoring and the Bears on the path to victory.

"We've won a lot of games that way," coach Lovie Smith said. "Defense getting us off to a quick start, not just taking the ball away, but with a touchdown right away."

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