Bucs Stumble in Lopsided Loss to Bears
Scott Smith, Buccaneers.com, published 1 October 2018|
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers brought the NFL's top-ranked offense into Soldier Field Sunday to face Khalil Mack and a fierce Chicago defense, but it was quarterback Mitchell Trubisky and the Bears' offense that stole the show.
Trubisky, who entered the week with two touchdown passes on the season, fired six scoring passes in a 48-10 Chicago victory. The Bears built a 38-3 lead by halftime and cruised to the 38-point decision, generating 483 yards of offense in the process.
Tampa Bay's young secondary, which started two rookie cornerbacks (Carlton Davis and M.J. Stewart) and a first-year safety (Isaiah Johnson), had apparent communication problems throughout the afternoon, repeatedly resulting in wide-open targets for Trubisky.
Second-year safety Justin Evans stumbled and fell in coverage on Trubisky's first touchdown pass, to TE Trey Burton on the game's first drive, but more often than not Burton, running back Tarik Cohen and wide receiver Taylor Gabriel were simply exploiting break-downs 20 or 30 yards down the field. Gabriel scored twice while Cohen had 174 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown.
In fact, the Bears' offense, which had been averaging 4.45 yards per play before Sunday's game, good for 30th in the NFL, recorded nine plays of 25 or more yards and picked up 8.33 per snap. While the Bucs young secondary might have had a rough day, Head Coach Dirk Koetter said that everybody, including him and his staff, shared the blame for the lopsided loss.
"We were horrific in all aspects of football today, all aspects," said Koetter. "Based on that game today, we couldn't make enough changes. That was horrific. This was 100 percent on us. Give Chicago credit for making plays, but we were not good in any aspects. We got beat in all aspects of football today…and coaching."
The loss dropped the Buccaneers to 2-2 on the season as they head into their Week Five bye. The Bears improved to 3-1 and remained in first place in the NFC Central. "It's certainly not the way that we want to go into our bye week, of course not," said Koetter. "We got off to a hot start and now two losses in a row going into the bye week. But at the same time, it is one of 16. I don't say that with any happiness in my voice. We stunk today in all facets."
Not that Mack and the Chicago defense failed to live up to their swarming reputation. Mack collected four tackles, a sack, a forced fumble and a pass defensed and also had a hand in one of the Bears' three interceptions. Chicago's defense collected four sacks and seven hits on the quarterback while breaking up six passes. That kept the Buccaneers from ever establishing a rhythm on offense, something that hadn't been a problem in the previous three weeks. Tampa Bay finished the game with 311 yards after averaging a league-best 473.3 per game in wins over New Orleans and Philadelphia and a high-scoring loss to Pittsburgh
After setting an NFL record with three consecutive 400-yard passing games to open the season, QB Ryan Fitzpatrick was largely contained, completing nine of 18 passes for 126 yards, no touchdowns and one interception. He did hit a pair of deep balls to WR DeSean Jackson, who finished the game with 112 yards on five catches, but had more difficulty connecting with WRs Mike Evans and Chris Godwin and TE O.J. Howard, all of whom had put up big numbers through the first three games of the season. Those three combined for just one catch in the first half, that one a five-yarder by Evans, and Howard left the game with a knee injury in the second quarter.
The Buccaneers made a change at quarterback at halftime, turning to Jameis Winston to start the second half. Winston had served a three-game suspension to start the season and was in uniform for the first time on Sunday. Winston completed 16 of 20 passes for 145 yards and a touchdown and was intercepted twice, the first one when Mack hit his arm as he was throwing, causing an off-target floater.
"It was a chance to get Jameis some real football [work]," said Koetter. "And we put Jameis in a terrible situation today, and I told him that. I told him that right off the bat at halftime. We put him in a bad situation. I knew Jameis would go in and give us everything he had, and he did."
Winston's second-half relief effort could transition into his return to the starting lineup after the Buccaneers' bye week. Head Coach Dirk Koetter conceded that was a possibility after the game but made it clear no decision had been made yet. Koetter also stressed that Sunday's loss shouldn't be pinned on Fitzpatrick.
"Probably, but we'll worry about that on another day," said Koetter when asked if Winston had done enough to earn the next start. "Ryan Fitzpatrick didn't lose this game for us, either. If this is on any one person, it's got to be on me.
The Buccaneers' efforts were also hurt by a rash of penalties, including an offensive pass interference call that erased a touchdown pass to TE Cam Brate. Tampa Bay committed 11 infractions on the day for 99 yards, including a flurry of flags thrown on that young secondary. The Bears were flagged four times for 38 yards.
"There's nothing that anybody could say right now that's going to make me feel too good about anything we're doing," said Koetter. "We have to stew in it for two weeks. It's two weeks from today until we can get this taste out of our mouth and even see if we can play with an NFL team. It's going to be a rough two weeks because it's going to be all you're going to be thinking about. But at the same time, I've also seen us play good football this year. But we didn't today."
As they now have in three of their first four games, the Bears opened with a touchdown drive. This one was built on two long Trubisky plays. The first was a read-option keeper in which TE Trey Burton sprung the quarterback with a great block on Kwon Alexander, leading to a 23-yard gain. Trubisky rewarded Burton on the very next snap with a 39-yard touchdown pass, made easy when safety Justin Evans slipped while in coverage on the right sideline. Burton caught the pass as he crossed the goal line with no defenders nearby.
Tampa Bay's opening drive, in contrast, was a three-and-out with no yards gained. After the game's first punt, the Bears took over again at their own 34. This time the Bucs' defense held, forcing a three-and-out that ended in Pierre-Paul's 10-yard sack of Trubisky. A holding penalty on the ensuing punt pushed the Bucs back to their own 14 to start their second drive.
Fitzpatrick's eight-yard strike to TE Antony Auclair and third-down pass to Jackson gave the Bucs their initial first down of the game. However, a holding call on O.J. Howard and a sack by Akiem Hicks left the Bucs in a third-and-22 that they couldn't convert. Bryan Anger's second punt actually struck the leg of Bears blocker Deon Bush but return man Cohen was able to fall on it to avoid disaster for the home team.
The Bears took their third possession down the field for another touchdown, driving 73 yards on seven plays. Gabriel started it with a 10-yard end around and added a 10-yard catch that got the ball into the red zone after Cohen's 20-yard burst around right end. Trubisky completed the drive with a precise 14-yard touchdown to Robinson in the back left corner of the end zone.
The Buccaneers got into scoring range quickly on their next possession thanks to Jackson's 48-yard catch-and-run to the Bears' 17. However, the drive stalled there and the Bucs had to settle for Chandler Catanzaro's 30-yard field goal on the first play of the second quarter.
The Bears got across midfield on the next possession on a 33-yard catch by a wide-open Gabriel. Two plays alter Cohen ran an out-and-up on the left sideline and got behind the defense for a 35-yard catch to the Bucs' four. After a false start, Cohen faked out and cut back across the middle for an easy nine-yard score.
Tampa Bay's next drive went nowhere, ending on a third-down sack by Mack, who swatted the ball out of Fitzpatrick's hand. Jacquizz Rodgers recovered for the Buccaneers and the ensuing punt put the Bears back at their own 27. Moments later, Burton got wide open down the right numbers and Trubisky found him for a 47-yard gain to the Bucs 20. On the next day, WR Joshua Bellamy also got wide open on pump fake and scored on a 20-yard reception.
The Bears kept the pedal to the metal after another three-and-out by the Buccaneers' offense, with Trubisky hitting a diving Gabriel for 30 yards on the first play. Trubisky then scrambled up the middle for 26 yards down to the Buccaneers' one-yard line. Gabriel took an underneath handoff two plays later and ran it in for a three-yard score.
On the next drive, Fitzpatrick hit Jackson down the left sideline for a 42-yard gain to the Bears' 15. The Bucs appeared to score on a goal-line catch by Brate but the play was erased by an offensive pass interference call on the tight end. That put Tampa Bay back into a third-and-19 at the 24, and on the next play S Eddie Jackson intercepted a pass intended for Mike Evans.
A 31-yard screen pass to Cohen got the Bears back into scoring range in the final two minutes of the half, resulting in a 50-yard field goal by Cody Parkey and a 38-3 halftime lead. Winston took over to start the third quarter and completed his first five passes, including a quick out to Humphries to convert a fourth-and-one in Buccaneers territory. On his sixth attempt, however, Winston's arm was hit by Mack as the quarterback was trying to go deep to Jackson. The ball fluttered to the middle of the field and was intercepted by LB Danny Trevathan.
A pass-interference call on Ryan Smith immediately got the Bears down to the Bucs' 31, and a 28-yard catch by Cohen down the sideline took it down to the three. Three plays later, Trubisky rolled right and hit Gabriel near the pylon for another touchdown.
Winston finally got the Bucs into the end zone early in the fourth quarter, directing an 11-play, 79-yard drive that ended in a 15-yard touchdown pass to Brate. The drive was kept alive by two remarkable scramble plays by Winston, one in which he escaped a near sack by Mack and ran for a first down and another in which he reversed field several times in the backfield and eventually got off a pass that drew a pass-interference penalty. Winston also converted a fourth-and-three deep in Chicago territory with a double-pump pass to Godwin.
After the Bears countered with a field goal march, ending in Parkey's 46-yard boot, the Buccaneers ran one more unhurried drive that got across midfield. However, the drive ended in a leaping interception by Aaron Lynch with 1:22 left.