Smith, the coach who led the Chicago Bears to the Super Bowl in
2006 and built a dominating defense that was known for forcing
turnovers, is now the Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach. Since he was fired
following the 2012 season, the Bears' defense has gone from one of
the best in the NFL to one of the worst.
Nonetheless, at least for a day, Chicago played defense like it used
The Bears, who had just 14 takeaways in 10 games, took the ball from
the Buccaneers four times -- including three times on consecutive
possessions in the third quarter. That was the difference in the
Bears' 21-13 victory over the Buccaneers.
Chicago's last two touchdowns, both scored on short runs by running
back Matt Forte, followed takeaways on successive Tampa Bay
offensive plays. The two touchdown drives totaled just 28 yards and
In fact, the Bears were held to a season low 204 yards total offense
but nonetheless won their second straight game -- both by the same
score and both after trailing 10-0 -- to move within a game of .500
and facing a critical Thanksgiving Day matchup at Detroit.
"Defense won the game today," said Bears quarterback Jay Cutler.
Cutler had one of his poorer games, completing 17 of 27 passes for
130 yards, but he was much better than his former backup, Buccaneers
quarterback Josh McCown, who frequently seemed totally unaware of
backside pressure, overthrew open receivers, and wound up getting
sacked five times, throwing two interceptions and fumbling twice,
McCown led the Buccaneers to a first-quarter touchdown and a field
goal just before halftime for a 10-0 lead; Chicago went scoreless in
the first quarter for the sixth game in a row.
"Marc (Trestman, the Chicago coach) challenged us, and the players
challenged each other (at halftime)," Cutler said. "We knew if we
continued down this road, we were going to lose."
"Verbally, we questioned guys ... and made sure when we left the
locker room, everybody's minds were on what we were trying to
Trestman admitted the Bears "were very fortunate" to start the
second half with only a 10-0 deficit.
"Finishing strong, that's what it's about for us," said Smith. "The
first series of the second half (three plays, minus-4 yards, a punt
barely past midfield), we lost momentum there."
The Bears, who had just 68 yards of offense and three first downs at
halftime, drove 58 yards to a touchdown the first time they had the
ball in the third quarter and then began to feast on the Tampa Bay
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First, McCown, running out of the pocket on a 2nd-and-8 play, was
unaware of defensive end David Bass bearing down on him. Bass
knocked the ball loose from behind, rookie linebacker Christian
Jones recovered, and, one play later, Forte scored on a 13-yard run
for a 14-10 Chicago lead.
On the first play after the kickoff, McCown threw another of his
too-high passes, running back Charles Sims leaped but it went off
his hands and was intercepted by safety Ryan Mundy at the Tampa Bay
15-yard line. Forte ran the ball four straight times, scoring from
the one for a 21-10 lead.
"We have to score on defense," said Gerald McCoy, the Bucs' standout
defensive tackle. "Who cares where they get the ball? The great
defenses are made with getting stops in the red zone and forcing
them to kick a field goal, and we didn't do that. So we have to be
better with staking the ball away."
McCown's statistics weren't bad -- 25 of 48 for 341 yards, with a
pair of 100-yard receivers -- but he was rarely able to connect with
6-foot-5 wideout Mike Evans despite a big height edge and injuries
that left the Bears without cornerback Kyle Fuller or linebacker
Lance Briggs in the second half.
Chicago's two straight victories, which have left the Bears with a
5-6 record, have come against Minnesota and Tampa Bay teams who are
a combined 6-16. But the Bears will take anything that seems like a
"We'll take two straight versus anybody, regardless of record,"
NOTES: The Bucs had to play without LB Lavonte David (hamstring),
who shared the league lead in tackles -- with more than twice as
many as any other player on the Bucs -- including a team-high 14
tackles for losses. ... With RT Jordan Mills (ribs) unable to play,
the Bears have had their season-opening offensive line available for
only one other game this year. ... Bucs FB Javorskie Lane was
knocked out of the game with a right ankle injury early in the
second quarter. ... The Bears had to play the second half without
two defensive starters who sustained first-half injuries -- LB Lance
Briggs (groin) and CB Kyle Fuller (knee).
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