Bucs bear down 42-35
Michelle Kaufman, The St.Petersburg Times, published 9 October 1989

Hugh Culverhouse, a huge cigar peeking out from the pocket of his orange sports coat, waited impatiently at Tampa Stadium's south end zone as his team put the finishing touches on, arguably, its biggest win in six years. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers owner fidgeted with the cigar as the clock ticked down to :00, then wasted no time pulling the stogie into plain view when the Bucs' 42-35 victory over the previously unbeaten Chicago Bears (4-1) became official.

There was cause for celebration. The largest crowd in franchise history (72,077) gushed with enthusiasm as the Bucs raised their record to 3-2 for the first time since 1981. Players ran off the field with their noses just a little bit higher than usual. Coach Ray Perkins, not one to show his emotions, jogged into the tunnel pointing toward the sky.

And probably most satisfying, Chicago coach Mike Ditka and throngs of Bears fans left a Bucs game wondering what went wrong for the first time since Tampa Bay beat Chicago 26-23 in overtime the final game of the 1982 season. The Bucs jumped to a 21-0 lead early in the second quarter Sunday and held on despite a late-game rally by the Bears. Chicago scored two touchdowns in the final four minutes. “I wasn't here in '79 (when the Bucs won the division title), but it couldn't have felt much better than this,” said center Randy Grimes, who had never experienced a win over Chicago in six years as a pro. “After the dry spell we've had around here, this feels so, so good. I'm overwhelmed by it. This is my biggest win since I've been playing football. It's much bigger than winning the Southwest Conference.”

Linebacker Winston Moss said: “People start talking about you when you beat the best. Maybe they'll start talking about us now. We don't just play hard and come close anymore. We proved we can beat one of the best teams in the NFL. That's something we had to do.”

The Bucs remain tied with Green Bay and Minnesota for second place in the NFC Central Division. Chicago leads and Detroit (0-5), the Bucs' next opponent, is in last place. At least one Buc claimed he wasn't at all surprised with Sunday's outcome. “I didn't think the Bears were as great as everyone said they were,” said linebacker Ervin Randle. “They weren't as good as their record. From what I saw on film, (Mike) Tomczak wasn't that great a quarterback. It was just that the team responded great to situations. By Friday, my mind was set that we'd win. They were feeling a little cocky, and I could tell they didn't have that much respect for us. We had to go out and get it.”

Linebacker Kevin Murphy called Sunday's win the “most complete game” the Bucs have played in a few years. There were big plays by the defense - an interception, two fumble recoveries, and two sacks. Quarterback Vinny Testaverde, who left the game with a bruised knee in the fourth quarter, completed 22 of 36 passes for 269 yards and three touchdowns with two interceptions. Bruce Hill and Mark Carrier each had more than 100 yards receiving and a touchdown. Lars Tate ran for a personal-best 112 yards on 18 carries, two of those for touchdowns.

Testaverde, who was 11-of-12 for 140 yards and two touchdowns at one point Sunday, said he doesn't think his knee injury is serious and he expects to play against the Lions next Sunday. Ditka ended his post-game press conference in a huff after being asked his opinion of Testaverde's play. “I've answered that,” he snapped. “I said the quarterback played good. Read my lips: `Played good.' “

The Bears coach said he felt his team was outplayed and outcoached. “We outsmarted ourselves,” he said. “Sometimes if you give a person enough rope, you hang yourself.”

The Bucs' passing attack apparently caught the Bears off guard. Tampa Bay had been running the ball more this season, especially on first down. Sunday, they began their first drive with three consecutive passes. “Testaverde threw more than we expected,” said Bears linebacker Ron Rivera. “We thought they'd run the ball more.” “They did a great job of keeping us off balance,” said Chicago linebacker Jim Morrissey.

Perkins said the Bucs' game plan was to throw early in an effort to put points on the board in the first quarter. They hadn't scored a first-quarter touchdown in the first four games. Against the Bears they got two - an 11-yard catch by Carrier and a one-yard run by William Howard. “I think we surprised them a lot with the passing game,” said Hill, who caught six passes for 107 yards. “That was our plan, and I think it worked real well.”

Carrier, who had six catches for 105 yards, said: “You could tell they were waiting for us to run. We really stretched their defense. It was a receiver's dream. Usually, we don't get thrown to until third down.”

The Bucs had a chance to make it 21-0 in the first quarter on a drive set up by a fumble recovery by safety Harry Hamilton, but they failed to move from the 1-yard line to the goal line in four tries. Four straight rushes up the gut of the Bears defense netted about six inches. No matter. Tampa Bay safety Mark Robinson snagged a Mike Tomczak pass at the Bears' 14-yard line a minute later, and Testaverde hit tight end William Harris from three yards out less than a minute into the second quarter. “It didn't surprise me at all that we were up 21-0,” said tackle Rob Taylor. “We had been up 21-0 before. The difference was that this time we were mature enough not to be shocked by that. What surprised me was how close it got at the end.”

Two touchdown runs by Chicago's Neal Anderson - a 5-yarder and 1-yarder -- sandwiched a 22-yard touchdown catch by Hill, and the score was 28-14 at halftime. The Bears closed to within seven with a 16-yard touchdown reception by Thomas Sanders, but back-to-back touchdown runs by Tate put the Bucs on top 42-21 midway through the fourth quarter.

Jim Harbaugh replaced Tomczak at quarterback with 6:46 left in the game, and led the Bears to two scores, but it wasn't enough. Tomczak was 16-of-29 for 162 yards. Harbaugh was 6-of-8 for 80 yards with a touchdown run of 26 yards. “This is the win we were looking for,” said Perkins. “This kind of win should go a long way in getting us over the hump.”

Respect was one of the most popular words in the Bucs locker room after the game. “I don't think a team could play us now and not respect us,” said Taylor. “They can't look at us as a laughingstock anymore. If they do, we'll take advantage, and we'll do the laughing.”

“We can't sit here and say, `Oh, we beat Chicago so we're the greatest team in the league,' but we'll definitely turn some heads with this one,” said Robinson. “We want respect by our peers, and I think we've got it now. We're not there yet, but we're on our way.”