ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Bears linebacker Lance Briggs ended a wild two-play swing of traded turnovers by picking a ball out of the air and racing 74 yards for a touchdown, and Chicago led the Dallas Cowboys 24-10 after three quarters Monday night.
Chicago had its first fumble of the season midway through the third quarter when DeMarcus Ware sacked Jay Cutler, forcing the ball loose. Mario Butler recovered for Dallas at the Bears 27.
It only took one play before the Bears got the ball back, and scored their second defensive touchdown of the game.
Tony Romo was trying to escape pressure when he was hit from behind by Henry Melton. The ball popped forward into the air and Briggs, a 31-year-old linebacker, grabbed it and rumbled to the end zone on a play ruled an interception instead of a fumble. It was the first pick he returned for a score since 2005.
Charles Tillman, another of the five 30-something defensive starters for the Bears, returned an interception 25 yards for a touchdown before halftime.
Chicago opened the second half with a 73-yard drive capped by Cutler’s 34-yard TD pass to Devin Hester, who raced passed rookie cornerback Morris Claiborne and had to make a lunging catch at the goal line.
Despite a screen shot frozen on the huge video board over the field that raised the question of whether the ball might have hit the ground as Hester rolled over, referee Walt Anderson confirmed the on-field ruling of touchdown after reviewing the play.
There was another play involving Claiborne overturned on review later in the third quarter. When Alsho Jeffery was going down after a catch, Claiborne stripped the ball and started running the other way. It was originally ruled a fumble, but the replay showed the receiver still controlled the ball when his elbow hit the ground.
Romo completed 25 of 33 passes for 264 yards with three interceptions, his first three-pick game since last Oct. 2. Cutler was 15 of 20 for 189 yards.
The interception by Tillman, on a ball thrown right into his hands by Romo when intended receiver Dez Bryant was still running down the field, came on the third play after Robbie Gould’s field goal late in the second quarter.
Dallas responded to that quick 10-point surge by going 80 yards on nine plays, capped by Romo’s 10-yard TD pass to Miles Austin with 14 seconds left in the half. Austin had three catches for 41 yards in the half, all on that drive.
Pro Bowl running back Matt Forte returned to the Bears lineup after missing the last game with a sprained right ankle and being limited in practice all week. He had 10 carries for 48 yards through three quarters.
The Bears had an NFL-high 14 sacks through the first three weeks of the season, and upped that total on the first series when Melton sacked Romo on third-and-7 from the Bears 40.
Melton is from nearby Grapevine and played running back at the University of Texas.
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