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Key Matchups

3 key matchups in Bears-Buccaneers game


When the Bears take on the Buccaneers on Sunday, keep an eye out for the following matchups:

Bears C Cody Whitehair vs. Buccaneers DT Gerald McCoy
Bears center Cody Whitehair has done a nice job protecting quarterback Mitchell Trubisky this year. The third-year center has played every offensive snap and has started every game since entering the league in 2016. Whitehair and the rest of the offensive line have limited opposing defenses to nine sacks this season and have improved since the first week. After giving up four to the Packers in Week 1, the Bears allowed just two and three sacks in Week 2 and Week 3, respectively. The former Kansas State standout will have his hands full on Sunday against Buccaneers defensive tackle Gerald McCoy. The six-time Pro Bowl selection has made a career out of being explosive off the snap and penetrating through offensive lines. McCoy has 50 career sacks which puts him in the top-25 amongst active players. The 2013 first-team All Pro recorded only one tackle in Tampa Bay's loss to Pittsburgh on Monday night. The Buccaneers have a young secondary that's given up the most passing yards of any team, so Whitehair's ability to keep McCoy's 6-4, 300-pound frame away from the quarterback will allow Trubisky to take shots through the air.

Bears DT Akiem Hicks vs. Buccaneers QB Ryan Fitzpatrick
Bears defensive tackle Akiem Hicks will look to continue the defense's dominance in Week 4. Hicks recorded three tackles and a sack in the Bears' win over the Cardinals on Sunday. The defense's 14 sacks and seven forced fumbles both lead the NFL. On Sunday, Hicks will look to turn Buccaneers quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick's nickname from "Fitz-magic" to "Fitz-tragic." After putting up huge numbers in the first two weeks, Fitzpatrick threw three interceptions last week in the Buccaneers' first loss. Despite the interceptions, the 14th-year league veteran still had his third straight week of throwing for at least 400 passing yards, and he passed for three touchdowns on 30 completions. A huge part of Fitzpatrick's success has been his range of targets. Nine different Buccaneers players have caught passes this year, and the team's 11 receiving touchdowns ranks second in the league. The more Hicks is able to get to Fitzpatrick, the more likely the Bears defense continues its streak of standout defensive performances.

Bears WR Taylor Gabriel vs. Buccaneers CB Brent Grimes
Bears receiver Taylor Gabriel has become a more popular target for Trubisky with each week of the season. After targeting Gabriel five times in Week 1 and seven times in Week 2, Trubisky went Gabriel's way 10 times against the Cardinals this past week. The first-year Bear had his best performance of the year with six catches for 34 yards. He'll be facing off against a Buccaneers defense that is dead last in the league in passing yards allowed, giving up an averaging of 363 yards per game, and last in completions allowed with 102 receptions given up. Tampa Bay was fortunate to get cornerback Brent Grimes back for the team's Week 3 game against the Steelers on Monday night. Grimes missed the first two games of the season with a groin injury, but he made his debut last week and tallied six tackles. The four-time Pro Bowler had three interceptions last season, and his 33 career picks rank fourth amongst active players. Trubisky has stressed that the offense is getting close to finding its rhythm, and a big day from Gabriel against Grimes and the Buccaneers secondary could provide the spark for a breakthrough offensive performance.

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