ARLINGTON, Texas — Pro Bowl cornerback Charles Tillman was in the right place at the right time Monday night. But the Bears’ defense helped put him there.
Tillman took advantage of a Dallas Cowboys misplay to intercept a Tony Romo pass and return it 25 yards for a touchdown to give the Bears a 10-0 lead with 2:46 left in the first half.
Safety Chris Conte’s blitz forced Romo to throw a quick pass to Dez Bryant in the flat. But Bryant was running a downfield route, allowing Tillman to make the play. He bobbled it near the ground before controlling it, with an easy path to the end zone.
‘‘You’re thinking, ‘Don’t drop it, don’t drop it. Ahhh, I got it — now just run, outrun everybody,’ ’’ Tillman said. ‘‘I got lucky on that play, I suppose. It comes down to rush and cover.’’
‘‘It was just basic coverage,’’ Bears coach Lovie Smith told WBBM-AM (780) at halftime. ‘‘We had a blitz on and the quarterback and receiver weren’t on the same page. It was a great play by Charles Tillman.’’
It was Tillman’s 31st career interceptions and sixth touchdown. He also has 30 career forced fumbles, with nine fumble recoveries.
According to STATS, Tillman and former Eagles safety Brian Dawkins are the only players in the NFL since 1991 to have 30 or more forced fumbles and interceptions.
Defense gets offensive
Interception returns for a touchdown by Charles Tillman (25 yards) and Lance Briggs (74 yards) gave the Bears’ defense three touchdowns this season. The defense has allowed 33 net points in four games — allowing 54 and scoring 21 — which is tied with the Houston Texans for the lowest total in the NFL.
Though the Bears’ defense allowed a nine-play, 80-yard touchdown drive right after Tillman’s interception return had given them a 10-0 lead, the Bears are now 19-0 when they take a 10-point lead with Jay Cutler at quarterback.
Bits & pieces
The Bears are now 8-2 on Monday Night Football under Lovie Smith and 5-1 with Jay Cutler at quarterback.
◆ Former Bears quarterback Kyle Orton relieved Tony Romo after Romo’s fifth interception and was 9-of-10 for 89 yards and a five-yard touchdown to Jason Witten for a 137.1 passer rating.
◆ According to press-box statistics, safety Chris Conte led the Bears with 11 tackles. Nickel back D.J. Moore had 10, Lance Briggs six and Tim Jennings, Charles Tillman and Major Wright five.
◆ Jay Cutler’s passer rating (140.1) was his second-highest with the Bears. Only his performance against the Eagles last year (146.2) was better.
Following Tillman’s touchdown, the Cowboys drove 80 yards on nine plays for a touchdown on Romo’s 10-yard pass to wide receiver Miles Austin to cut the Bears’ lead to 10-7 at halftime.
Before that, the Bears had held the Cowboys to 98 yards on 22 plays, including four plays for negative yardage — from Lance Briggs, Brian Urlacher and Conte on running plays and Henry Melton’s fourth sack of the season.
‘‘We made plays until our last drive,’’ Smith said at halftime. ‘‘Too many missed tackles ... and we gave them a cheap one there at the end.’’
Chris Williams, who started at left tackle the last time the Bears played the Cowboys at Cowboys Stadium, was inactive Monday night. Jonathan Scott, who was signed after Week 1, was active for the first time this season. Scott also is the backup long snapper.
Wide receiver Earl Bennett (hand) also was inactive. Dane Sanzenbacher replaced him on the active roster. Sanzenbacher was targeted once in the first half, but Cutler threw behind him, or appeared to, for an incompletion.
The other inactive players were tight end Evan Rodriguez, guard/center Edwin Williams, defensive tackle Matt Toeaina, defensive tackle Nate Collins and defensive end Cheta Ozougwu.
With the regular officials back this week, Walt Anderson’s crew worked the Bears-Cowboys game. The Cowboys are 1-4 in games officiated by Anderson’s crew and were penalized 11 times for 108 yards in the lone victory. The Bears beat the Vikings 39-10, penalized three times for 15 yards, in their only game with Anderson’s crew last season.