Dramatics from cornerback Bryce Callahan and linebacker Khalil Mack let the Chicago Bears achieve something they failed at for five seasons.
Along the way, they also prevented dramatics by Arizona Cardinals rookie quarterback Josh Rosen in his pro debut.
Callahan made a key fourth-quarter interception of Rosen Sunday with the Cardinals on the verge of field- goal range and Mack's strip-sack produced a critical turnover near the red zone as the Bears rallied for a sloppy 16-14 road victory.
"Us being down at half, handing some adversity, seeing the guys rally together and come out on top, that's what it's about in this league," Mack said.
Cody Parkey's 43-yard field goal with 4:31 left provided the points to give the Bears (2-1) sole possession of first place in the NFC North for the first time since the next-to-last week of the 2013 season, and they pulled above .500 for the first time in four years.
Unlike last week against Seattle, it was a comeback win after the defense faltered early against Arizona (0-3).
"Our defense was not used to that," Bears coach Matt Nagy said. "We haven't been giving up those plays early on. So how were we going to respond as a team and as a unit?"
Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky overcame a poor first half, and Mack and the Bears defense got better as the game went on. The defense finished by forcing second-half turnovers on four straight Arizona possessions prior to Sherrick McManis' game-ending sack of Rosen at the Cardinals 39.
Rosen, the 10th pick of this year's draft, came in for an ineffective, turnover-prone Sam Bradford in the fourth quarter with the game on the line and marched the Cardinals to the Bears' 42. But Callahan made an interception at Chicago's 37 on fourth-and-5 and all but sealed the Bears' second straight win.
"Really, in the end, all that matters is that's a win, and that's all we care about," Nagy said.
The Bears got up off the floor after first-quarter TD passes by Bradford of 35 yards to Ricky Seals-Jones and 21 yards to David Johnson. Bradford completed 13 of 19 for 157 yards.
But coach Steve Wilks benched Bradford after Mack's strip-sack on a third-down, fourth-quarter scramble deprived the Cardinals of a chance at a key field goal with the Bears losing 14-13.
Mack now has four sacks and three strip-sacks in his first three games despite being double-blocked much of the time.
"He's a wrecking ball out there," Trubisky said. "He's creating plays."
Trubisky withstood a lost fumble and an interception in the first half. He finished 24-for-35 for 220 yards, and hit a key 39-yard pass to Allen Robinson to trigger the 67-yard drive to Howard's TD. He threw for 20 yards on a 59-yard drive to the winning field goal.
"We were settling for field goals, but we want touchdowns," Trubisky said.
It's unclear if Rosen will continue as Arizona's quarterback, or if Bradford will come back next week. The Cardinals hadn't scored a touchdown this season until Bradford's TD pass.
"I threw a pick and almost a second pick-6," Rosen said, "so I've got a lot to work on."
Wilks said he made the quarterback change to Rosen because, "I felt like we needed a spark."
It's unclear now whether Rosen will continue as the quarterback or Bradford will start.
"We're going to evaluate Josh as well as Sam," Wilks said. "We're going to watch the tape and we'll see exactly what I want to do as far as moving forward with that."