CHICAGO (AP) As long as Carson Palmer is in the lineup, the Arizona Cardinals believe they can beat anybody. And they will be tough to knock off if he keeps playing like this.
Palmer threw for four touchdowns to lead the Cardinals to a 48-23 victory over the Chicago Bears, who lost Jay Cutler to a pulled hamstring Sunday.
Palmer connected with Larry Fitzgerald for three of his TDs, giving the quarterback seven in two games after returning last week against New Orleans from a torn anterior cruciate ligament that cut short his season after just six games a year ago.
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”I’ve never been around this deep of a team,” Fitzgerald said. ”I was around Hall of Famers in Anquan (Boldin) and Edgerrin James and Kurt Warner, but besides that, on the offensive side of the ball I’ve got some guys that really can play over there.”
Palmer was 17 of 24 with 185 yards to improve to 15-2 in his last 17 starts. Fitzgerald had 112 yards, and with those three TDs, he matched a career high he set against Philadelphia in the conference final seven years ago.
David Johnson returned the opening kickoff a club-record 108 yards and added a rushing TD, becoming the first player in NFL history with a rushing touchdown, receiving touchdown and kickoff-return touchdown in his first two games to begin a career.
Chris Johnson ran for 72 yards with Andre Ellington sidelined by a sprained right knee for the Cardinals (2-0). And, coach Bruce Arians gained a measure of revenge after the Bears hired Marc Trestman over him in January 2013.
”I think the running game is so much better,” Palmer said. ”It just gives us another dimension. I think last year, teams were a little less aggressive and kind of sitting back waiting for the pass.”
Cutler walked to the locker room after he was stiff-armed trying to tackle Tony Jefferson on a 26-yard interception return for a touchdown late in the first half.
That was the biggest development in a game that included several big plays and ended with Chicago (0-2) remaining winless under new coach John Fox. The seven touchdowns allowed tied the franchise record for the Bears, who had never given up 48 points in a home game. They also tied a club record with 170 penalty yards.
Cutler completed his first eight passes for 120 yards before getting picked off. He threw a 48-yard touchdown to Josh Bellamy. But the injury on Jefferson’s interception return was another big blow for a team that was already missing its top receiver with Alshon Jeffery out because of a hamstring problem.
Cutler was not available for comment afterward, and Fox would not say if he expects his quarterback to return this season.
”It takes a while to run tests,” Fox said. ”Our medical people will inform me and then I will inform you.”
Now, the Bears could be missing their quarterback when they visit defending NFC champion Seattle. That would likely mean a start for Jimmy Clausen, who was 14 of 23 for 121 yards after Cutler went down.
”You’ve just got to keep pushing forward,” Clausen said. ”I felt the air was deflated a little bit, but guys did a great job just trying to (say) `let’s go, let’s go, let’s go’ and pick up the tempo a little bit, try to move the chains.”
Clausen’s long pass on the opening drive of the second half got picked off by Patrick Peterson, leading to a 28-yard touchdown catch by Fitzgerald that made it 35-20. David Johnson added a 13-yard scoring run to make it a 22-point game, sending Arizona to a lopsided victory after a wild first half.
Along with Johnson’s team-record return on the game’s opening kickoff, there were two long pass interference penalties by Chicago’s Kyle Fuller and Alan Ball that led to touchdowns for the Cardinals. The Bears also got a pair of field goals in the final minute of the half, thanks to a fumble recovery on a punt and an interception by Jared Allen.
All that was overshadowed by Cutler’s injury.
Arizona had just grabbed a 21-14 lead when he threw a pass behind Martellus Bennett, resulting in an easy interception for Jefferson. As he tried to make a tackle, Cutler got stiff-armed and landed on his right shoulder. But the Bears said he injured his hamstring.
NOTES: Cardinals WR J.J. Nelson left with a shoulder injury. LB LaMarr Woodley also hurt his shoulder, but returned. … For Chicago, Bellamy’s TD was also his first career reception. He is in his fourth year in the league. … Bears rookie Jeremy Langford scored his first TD on a 1-yard run.
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