Bucs spring Bear trap
Tom Ford, The Tampa Tribune, published 9 October 1989

The masters of intimidation were intimidated. The team that was supposed to be a pushover shoved back. Six seasons of frustration ended for the Bucs on Sunday at Tampa Stadium, as the largest crowd ever for a Tampa Bay home game (72,077) witnessed a drama that brought back memories of yesteryear. But the Bucs were not thinking about the past after defeating the Chicago Bears 42-35 to snap a 12-game losing streak to the tough guys dressed in black an appropriate colour on a day of mourning for thousands of Bears fans scattered throughout the stadium. "Forget about '79 and '81 and all of that,'' Coach Ray Perkins said, referring to the years the Bucs were champions of the NFC Central Division. ""This is one of those big-time wins that could lead to great things for us.''

The usually reserved Perkins was so caught up in the whirlwind of emotion that accompanied the victory over the previously unbeaten Bears that he raised his arms in celebration and pointed index fingers skyward as he ran off the field. "I'm just really, really proud,'' Perkins said. By defeating Chicago (4-1), the Bucs (3-2) moved into a tie for second in the division standings with the Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers. The last-place Detroit Lions (0-5) play the Bucs on Sunday at Tampa Stadium. "Looks to me,'' Coach Mike Ditka said, "like they're tired of getting beat by the Bears.''

The teams will meet again Nov. 19 at Soldier Field, where Tampa Bay has not won since 1981. The Bucs have looked forward to rematches before, but seldom with as much confidence. "We're not going to be intimidated by Chicago anymore,'' linebacker Kevin Murphy said. "Things have a funny way of working out. Times change. People change.'' And teams change. From one season to another. From one week to the next. Seven days earlier, the Bucs' offense produced 158 total yards in a 17-3 loss to Minnesota. In that game, quarterback Vinny Testaverde completed six of 23 attempts for 82 yards. Sunday, the Bucs amassed 415 yards and scored the most points against Chicago since Detroit beat the Bears 48-17 in 1981. Testaverde completed 22 of 36 attempts for 269 yards and three touchdowns before hobbling to the sideline with a bruised right knee following a late hit by tackle Steve McMichael midway through the fourth quarter.

The Bucs' quarterback was so upset about the injury, which is not believed to be serious, that he threw his helmet to the ground and slammed a fist into the aluminium bench. It was one of the few times Testaverde punished something other than the Chicago secondary. "The first year,'' Testaverde said, alluding to his rookie season of 1987, "I feel like we were intimidated by them. Even in the first game last year. "Going into this game, I don't think any of us were intimidated. All we wanted to do was win.''

To do that, the Bucs felt they needed to get off to a fast start. They did, as Testaverde passed for two touchdowns (11 yards on a tipped ball to receiver Mark Carrier and 3 yards to tight end William Harris) and fullback William Howard scored on a 1-yard TD run. That gave Tampa Bay a 21-0 lead 50 seconds into the second quarter. The third touchdown was set up by strong safety Mark Robinson's interception of Mike Tomczak at the Chicago 14. The Bears had gained possession by stuffing the Bucs' offense four straight times from the 1. "We threw a lot on first and second down,'' said Carrier, who caught six passes for 105 yards. "We didn't get into situations where we needed to throw. It kind of surprised them.''

Chicago running back Neal Anderson scored the first of his three touchdowns on a 5-yard run to make it 21-7 following an interception of Testaverde by linebacker Jim Morrissey at the Tampa Bay 27. Bruce Hill, who had six receptions for 107 yards, scored on a 22-yard pass from Testaverde with 4:05 left in the half to make it 28-7, but the Bears drew within two touchdowns when Anderson scored from the 1 on fourth-and-goal at the 1:51 mark. In the locker room at halftime, the Bucs discussed the fact that the Bears had not blitzed up the middle as they usually do with great effectiveness. "We knew what they were going to do in the second half,'' right tackle Rob Taylor said. "We knew we'd have to be ready for it.''

They were. But first, the Bears pulled within 28-21 when running back Thomas Sanders, wide open in the middle of the end zone, caught a 16-yard touchdown pass from Tomczak at 9:31 of the third period. The Chicago defense, meanwhile, started blitzing up the middle as expected. The Bucs made the appropriate adjustment by pitching the ball wide to tailback Lars Tate, who would finish with a career-high 112 yards rushing. One of the tosses to the right side resulted in a 16-yard TD run by Tate with 11:08 left. It was 35-21.

A second pitch right allowed Tate to dash 48 yards to the Bears' 32. Testaverde was hurt on this series, but Joe Ferguson was certainly up to the task of getting the ball to Tate, who swept right for a 4-yard touchdown with 6:46 left. Holder Chris Mohr snagged a high snap and ran in the conversion to make it 42-21. In the time that remained, Chicago scored twice against the prevent defense on a 26-yard scramble by No. 2 quarterback Jim Harbaugh and another 1-yard run by Anderson. But when Carrier smothered the Bears' onside kick with 49 seconds remaining, it was over. There were times in the past when the Bucs built big advantages against the Bears only to lose: 27-26 two years ago after leading 20-0, and 38-28 in 1985 after leading 28-17. Sunday was different. Might the rest of the season be, too? "They definitely will be a contender,'' Bears offensive lineman Tom Thayer said. ""No doubt aboutt it.''.