Not this time
Rick Stroud, The St.Petersburg Times, published 28 November 2005

That's the thing about living with fourth-quarter comebacks week after week in the NFL. It can raise the blood pressure the way quarterback Chris Simms did for the Bucs on Nov.13, twice rallying his team against the Redskins. Or it can quicken the pulse, the way kicker Matt Bryant did with a late field goal at Atlanta a week later. But sooner or later, the palpitations can leave a team with only a feeling of sickness. "People want to call us the Cardiac Kids or whatever," cornerback Ronde Barber said. "But eventually, your heart is going to stop."

It happened to the Bucs in Sunday's 13-10 loss to the Bears. Bryant sent a tying 29-yard field goal wide right with 2:47 left, enabling the Bears (8-3) to escape with their seventh consecutive victory. Bryant's miss came after Simms threw incomplete to Mike Alstott on third and 2 from the Chicago 11.

One week after receiving a standing ovation from teammates in the locker room for kicking the winning 45-yard field goal with 42 seconds left in a 30-27 win at Atlanta, Bryant was left alone to explain his first miss of the season from shorter than 46 yards. "I just missed it. That's it," Bryant said. "I missed it. It was one of those days where something like that should never happen, but it happened. You've got to move on."

Jon Gruden said Bryant sustained a slight hamstring pull on the opening kickoff, but it did not seem to affect him during the game. He made a 27-yard field goal in the first quarter and was 15-of-17 before missing. After overcoming fourth-quarter deficits in their previous two games, the Bucs (7-4) nearly did it again, this time against a defense that entered No.1 in the league. Tampa Bay pulled within a field goal when Alstott hurdled into the end zone from 2 yards with 7:00 left. Simms completed five passes to five receivers in helping the Bucs score the first touchdown allowed by the Bears in 38 possessions.

The Bears defense was every bit as good as advertised. In fact, it was responsible for Chicago's only touchdown. On the Bucs' first possession, end Alex Brown knocked the ball out of Simms' hands and Tommie Harris recovered at the Tampa Bay 1. On the next play, rookie Kyle Orton used play-action to toss a touchdown to tight end John Gilmore. Brown, the former Florida Gators star, had a monster game with two sacks, a forced fumble and four passes defensed.

Meanwhile, the Bucs defense missed several opportunities to get turnovers. In the first quarter, cornerback Ronde Barber dropped a pass inside the Bears 20 that could have been returned for a touchdown. In the second quarter, Orton was sacked by Simeon Rice and fumbled near midfield, but fullback Bryan Johnson recovered. "That was the story line of the day," Gruden said. "We had a fumble of our own. They capitalized, and we were unable to make a couple of opportunities work for us. Our defense ... played good; at times, very good. It is unfortunate."

There were other errors. The Bears got out of a hole on second and 16 from their 11 in the third quarter when Thomas Jones cut back for a 19-yard run. Three plays later, on third and 8, Jones beat a blitz on a screen pass and gained 41 yards. "I was an inch away from knocking that ball down," linebacker Derrick Brooks said. "That's how small it was. That easily could've been a tip or an interception the other way."

Simms still managed to bring the Bucs back. Taking over at the Tampa Bay 31 with 5:06 left, he hit Joey Galloway on a short hitch that turned into a 30-yard gain. After Cadillac Williams' 4-yard run, Simms and Galloway connected again for a 16-yard gain. But on third and 2 from the Bears 11, safety Mike Brown blitzed and obstructed Simms' passing lane, prompting him to throw the ball away. "The comeback Chris Simms engineered in the last couple of possessions was one I will be most proud of in my relationship with him," Gruden said. "They were tremendous. He is very poised. Joey Galloway was clutch, and I thought (Simms) managed the offense tremendously, running back-to-back drives."

But this time, the parachute didn't open. Tampa Bay is tied with the Falcons, one game behind first-place Carolina (8-3) in the NFC South. But they now face a grueling stretch of three consecutive road games: at Baton Rouge, La., against the Saints, at Carolina and at New England. "We've got to find a way to put teams away," cornerback Brian Kelly said. "We've got to find a way to not come down to the last drive. It's fun to have two-minute games and win them, but it's horrible when you come into two-minute games and lose them."