Defense allowed little, but that was enough
The unit was unhappy with its performance despite allowing the Bears 243 yards and no touchdowns.
The performance of the Bucs defense was capsulized in the final significant plays of the game.
The Bears, looking to close out a 13-10 victory, only needed to get a first down, then run out the clock after Brian Urlacher intercepted Shaun King with two minutes remaining.
On first down, running back Marlon Barnes gained 2 yards. Good.
On second down, Barnes was thrown for a 1-yard loss. Good.
On third down, he gained 10 yards for the first down. Not good enough.
"They ran a cutback run, and I think we overpursued it a little bit," Bucs coach Tony Dungy said. "We didn't get the job done and that's one time where you've got to stop them and at least force a punt. That leaves a bad taste in your mouth."
The bad taste is even more difficult to stomach when you consider the Bucs defense extended its two-year feast against Chicago by keeping it out of the end zone for the fourth consecutive game.
It has been 18 quarters since the Bears offense has scored a touchdown against Tampa Bay, but the statistic was hardly palatable after Chicago got 10 points off of turnovers.
"It wasn't good enough today," Dungy said of his defense's performance. "We wanted to force some turnovers, we weren't able to do that the way we wanted to. They pretty much played a smart game, I thought; had a good game plan for us, controlled the ball a little bit. We kept them out of the end zone but when you don't win, nothing is quite good enough."
The performance might have been good enough if the Bucs could have stopped Barnes. James Allen, the Bears starting running back who rushed for 67 yards, was on the sideline nursing an injury when Barnes was called upon to seal the game. No one seemed quite sure why Tampa Bay did not come up with the critical stop.
Safety Damien Robinson, who came up with the tackle after Barnes got the necessary yardage, said it was miscommunication. "We had a call to slide backside and one of the backers missed the call, and we didn't get it," Robinson said.
Warren Sapp said the Bucs were not in the proper defense. "We had the defense and (Derrick) Brooks said it was a bad read by him. He should've called 'check special' or something," Sapp said. "I don't know how it goes back there. But the man found a crease and got the first down."
Brooks said he could not be sure until the team studied film today, but he knew someone missed a gap.
Like the failure to stop Barnes, the Bucs' overall effort was an exercise in annoyance. Chicago managed only 243 yards of total offense, rushed for just 83 yards and converted only 33 percent of their third-down attempts. "It's frustrating, very frustrating," Brooks said. "I look at it personally every week. Did we or did we not win the turnover battle? Today we didn't, and we lost. That's the history of this team. Now when we win the turnover battle, we win the game. I think in all five losses we didn't."
Brooks is correct. The Bears had a 3-1 advantage in turnovers and the Bucs are minus-9 in their five losses this season.
Tampa Bay is plus-14 in its six victories and has not lost the turnover battle in any of those games.
"We just turned the ball over," Sapp said. "Give them credit, they caught it. We just turned the ball over. That's just the story of the game."
Said safety Dexter Jackson: "I think we played great, but we just didn't have all the pieces together. They came out and played great ball together and won."
Ernest Hooper , The St.Petersburg Times 2000