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09/23/2013 1:10 AM EDT
Bears stay unbeaten with 40-23 win over Steelers
CHICAGO 40, PITTSBURGH 23

By WILL GRAVES
AP Sports Writer

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Julius Peppers picked up the ball, turned
toward the wide swath of open field in front of him and took
off.

Sure, the Chicago Bears' defensive end admits he doesn't have
the "blazing speed" of his youth. The way the Pittsburgh
Steelers are backpedaling these days, it was hardly required.

Peppers scooped up a Ben Roethlisberger fumble and ran 42 yards
with just under 4 minutes remaining to clinch a 40-23 victory
Sunday night that kept the Bears (3-0) perfect.

"I happened to be at the right place at the right time and the
ball bounced to me," Peppers said. "I got a hand on it and took
it in, so there wasn't much else to talk about. That was the
longest run I had with the ball, yes, I will tell you that."

The Bears forced five turnovers in all, converting four of them
into points to stave off a second-half rally by the Steelers
(0-3). Pittsburgh trimmed a 21-point deficit to four in the
fourth quarter but couldn't stop from stumbling to the
franchise's worst start since 2000.

Roethlisberger completed 26 of 41 passes for 406 yards and threw
two touchdowns to Antonio Brown, but also fumbled twice and
threw two interceptions.

"We can't, I can't, turn the ball over, plain and simple,"
Roethlisberger said.

Major Wright returned an interception 38 yards for a touchdown
in the second quarter and Peppers' stroll to the end zone capped
kept Chicago unbeaten. The Bears needed a pair of fourth-quarter
rallies to win their first two games, but never trailed against
Pittsburgh thanks to a defense that specializes in havoc.

"We came in here and got the job done," Peppers said. "They got
close down the stretch, but we have veterans on our team that
stayed cool. We don't panic no matter what."

Jay Cutler passed for 159 yards and threw a 17-yard touchdown
strike to Earl Bennett with just under 6 minutes remaining to
give the Bears breathing room after the Steelers pulled within
27-23 on Shaun Suisham's 44-yard field goal with 10:43 to play.

Chicago's offense, which generated little after a 17-point
outburst in the first quarter, responded behind Cutler.

The quarterback scrambled for 13 yards on third-and-10 to start
the drive. Cutler then hit Brandon Marshall for 41 yards on
third-and-12 to move into Pittsburgh territory. Facing
third-and-5 at the Pittsburgh 17, Cutler found Bennett in the
back corner of the end zone.

Officials ruled the pass was incomplete, but the play was
overturned after replays showed Bennett deftly dragged his right
foot before sliding out of bounds.

"The (defensive) back was there, but the throw was perfect and I
was able to make the play," Bennett said. "The way we played in
the fourth quarter, that really shows how resilient we are."

Pittsburgh tried to get back into the game, but Lance Briggs
stripped Roethlisberger, and Peppers pounced. The veteran
defensive end followed a parade of blockers down the sideline
for Chicago's second defensive score of the night and third in
two weeks.

"We try to scoop up every loose ball and run it back for a
touchdown in practice," linebacker D.J. Williams said. "Even if
it's not a fumble, we pick it up and go with it. We knew they
had some problems with their offensive line, so we wanted to
pressure them as much as possible. We were able to get past
their tackles and pressure Ben quite a bit.

Roethlisberger's second interception on a late stat-padding
drive was Pittsburgh's ninth turnover through three games. The
Steelers defense, meanwhile, hasn't recorded a takeaway through
12 quarters.

It's a recipe that rarely leads to victory.

"As of right now we have way too many turnovers and it goes both
ways," Steelers defensive end Brett Keisel said. "We've got to
find ways to get the ball. That's what great defenses do."

And none do it better than the Bears. While not the snarling
force it was when recently retired linebacker Brian Urlacher was
running things, the Bears make up for their lack of bark with a
pretty feisty bite.

When opponents get loose with the ball, the Bears swarm.

The mistakes started early. Pittsburgh turned it over twice in
the first half. Williams stripped Roethlisberger in the first
quarter, leading to a 5-yard touchdown run by Matt Forte.

Chicago was up 17-3 midway through the second quarter when
Roethlisberger threw off his back foot in the face of a blitz.
The bail sailed into the hands of Wright, who sprinted down the
sideline for a touchdown to give the Bears a commanding 21-point
lead.

The score marked the second straight week and the 10th time
since the start of the 2012 season that the Bears returned an
interception for a touchdown, easily the most in the NFL.

"That's what we do, we take the ball away," Peppers said. "We
stress it in practice every day, and it carries over to the game
... we have to continue to do that on a weekly basis to continue
to win, and I believe we'll be able to do that."

NOTES: Steelers TE Heath Miller caught 3 passes for 35 yards in
his first game back from torn ligaments in his right knee. ...
The Bears lost DT Henry Milton to a knee injury early in the
fourth quarter. ... Pittsburgh outgained the Bears 459-258. ...
Steelers WR Antonio Brown finished with nine receptions for a
career-high 196 yards and two touchdowns.

---

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org

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