ARLINGTON, Texas — Lance Briggs plucked the ball out of the air and started rumbling down the field. As the Chicago linebacker approached the end zone, he fully extended his right arm over his head with the ball in his hand.
Briggs and the rest of those 30-something Bears defenders showed Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys how much they can still play.
Charles Tillman, another of the five defensive starters in their 30s, also returned an interception for a touchdown in the Bears' 34-18 victory Monday night.
"A lot of our older guys are playing really well right now because we understand everything so much more," said Briggs, whose 74-yard run was his first interception return for a TD since 2005. "Whether we've lost a step or some people believe we've lost a step, we make up for it in knowledge."
Though Romo was only sacked once, on the game's first series, he was pressured relentlessly and threw five interceptions. That matched his career high, first done five years ago in his first full season as a starter.
"Just outstanding play by our defense," Bears coach Lovie Smith said. "It seemed like everybody had a say in it. How about Lance Briggs? You guys didn't know he could run that fast."
Briggs' interception came in a wild two-play exchange of turnovers midway through the third quarter.
Bears quarterback Jay Cutler was nearly flawless after halftime, when he completed 11 of 12 passes for 219 yards and two touchdowns. That included a 34-yard score to Devin Hester to start the half and a 31-yarder to Brandon Marshall with 61/2 minutes left.
Cutler was 18 of 24 overall for 275 yards. Marshall had seven catches for 138 yards.
Major Wright, who returned an interception for a touchdown in Chicago's last game, had two of the five interceptions. D.J. Moore has nine career interceptions, three of them against Romo after getting another one Monday night.
"We have a pretty good feel for what their front is going to do, what their pressures were, what their coverages were," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. "They're just very good at it. It's not very exotic."
Chicago's first fumble of the season came when Cutler was sacked by DeMarcus Ware and Victor Butler recovered at the Bears 27.
On the very next play, Romo was trying to escape pressure when he was hit from behind by Henry Melton. The ball popped forward into the air and Briggs grabbed it and scored to put the Bears (3-1) ahead 24-7.
"I haven't run that long in a long time, that far," Briggs said.
Once again, the Cowboys (2-2) are a .500 team. They are also one of the lowest-scoring teams in the NFL with only 65 points going into their bye week, and then play four of their next five games on the road.
"This has to be a wakeup call for us. I don't say that nonchalantly. It has to be," Cowboys tight end Jason Witten said. "You can't bounce back and forth like this and try to compete come December-time. You can't do it. We have been in that situation before. You cannot do it. And we know that, and we'll get better."
Since the start of the 1997 season, Dallas is 122-122 in regular-season games. They have won only one playoff game in that span after three Super Bowl titles in a four-year span in the first half of the 1990s.
Romo finished 31 of 43 for 307 yards and a touchdown. When the Cowboys got the ball back in the final 3 minutes, Kyle Orton got his first action since the veteran quarterback signed a free agent deal during the offseason to be Romo's backup.
Orton threw a 5-yard TD pass to Witten with 34 seconds left, capping a 10-play, 89-yard drive.
Witten, the seven-time Pro Bowl tight end who uncharacteristically had several drops the first three games after missing most of the preseason with a lacerated spleen, had 13 catches for 112 yards.
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