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Bears beat Bucs to snap 3-game skid

Posted Dec 28, 2015

An opportunistic defense and an efficient offense led the Bears to a 26-21 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Sunday at Raymond James Stadium.

TAMPA — An opportunistic defense and an efficient offense led the Bears to a 26-21 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Sunday at Raymond James Stadium.

In winning for the first time since Thanksgiving night in Green Bay, the Bears (6-9) snapped a three-game losing streak and surpassed last year's victory total.

The defense generated three takeaways, matching a season high and equaling its output in the previous five games. The unit limited running back Doug Martin to 49 yards on 17 carries, a 2.9-yard per carry average, and forced him to lose two fumbles.

After a slow start, the offense scored on six of its final eight possessions, helping the Bears overcome deficits of 7-0 in the second quarter and 14-13 in the third period. The 26 points were the most the Bears have produced in six games, since a 37-13 win in St. Louis.

Running back Ka'Deem Carey accounted for both Bears touchdowns with a 1-yard run and 1-yard reception from Jay Cutler, while Robbie Gould kicked field goals of 26, 27, 50 and 39 yards without a miss.

Plagued by penalties and other self-inflicted mistakes during the three-game skid, the offense drew three penalties, allowed just one sack and did not turn the ball over.

"We still had more penalties than we would have liked," said guard Matt Slauson. "But we talked all week about mental toughness, and that's the decision in your heart and in your mind that ‘I'm not going to get a penalty, my guy isn't going to be the one that makes the play.' I think when we put it in terms like that it really kind of helped guys tighten up all the screws."

The Bears rushed for 174 yards—their most since the season opener—behind Jeremy Langford (19 carries for a career-high 83 yards), Matt Forte (11-54) and Carey (7-16). Forte exited the game in the second half with a back injury and did not return.

Cutler completed 20 of 27 passes for 156 yards with one touchdown and a 100.2 passer rating. Playing without injured big-play receiver Alshon Jeffery against former coach Lovie Smith's cover-two defense, the Bears quarterback threw primarily screens and other short passes.

"We knew going into this game it was going to kind of be a dink-and-dunk," Cutler said. "If we get some plays on the outside, get them. But we wanted to run the ball efficiently and try to be there in the fourth quarter and make some plays."

The Buccaneers (6-9) took a 7-0 lead on Martin's 4-yard touchdown run midway through the first quarter. The TD came one play after Tampa Bay's Jeremiah George slipped past LaRoy Reynolds and blocked Pat O'Donnell's punt deep in Bears territory.

The Buccaneers appeared ready to increase their lead when defensive lineman William Gholston intercepted a deflected Cutler screen pass and returned it 24 yards to the Chicago 15. But the pick was nullified by a facemask penalty on defensive end Jacquies Smith.

The Bears took advantage of the break, tying the score 7-7 on Carey's second TD run of the season. Gould added a pair of field goals to give his team a 13-7 halftime lead.

The Buccaneers regained a 14-13 advantage early in the third quarter on Jameis Winston's 50-yard touchdown pass to running back Charles Sims. Winston completed 15 of 29 passes for 295 yards with two TDs, one interception and a 96.2 passer rating.

Tampa Bay was on the brink of increasing its lead on its next possession when Bears rookie safety Harold Jones-Quartey made his second big play of the game.

On third-and-11 from the Chicago 12, Winston threw a jump ball to Sims at the 1 while under heavy pressure. Jones-Quartey wrestled the ball away from the running back for his first NFL interception, returning it 23 yards to the Bears' 24.

The Bears went three-and-out, but the defense produced another takeaway on a second straight play as Jonathan Anderson forced a Martin fumble that John Timu recovered at the Tampa Bay 23. It was Timu's second fumble recovery of the game, with the first coming in the second quarter when Quartey-Jones had knocked the ball away from Martin.

This time the Bears capitalized on the turnover, taking a 20-14 lead they would not relinquish on Cutler's TD pass to Carey on the first play of the fourth quarter.

Gould provided some breathing room with a pair of field goals that widened the margin to 26-14. The Buccaneers scored the game's final points on a Hail Mary with :01 remaining as Austin Seferian-Jenkins hauled in Winston's 43-yard heave.