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Bears blasted by Bucs in Tampa

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TAMPA - Every time the Bears take a step forward, it seems like they take two steps back.

That was the case again Sunday in Tampa, where the Bears not only failed to build off an impressive win over the Vikings but followed their best game of the season with one of their worst.

Facing a much less formidable opponent than Minnesota, the Bears committed five turnovers—four in the first half—and suffered another serious injury in an embarrassing 36-10 loss to the Buccaneers.

View photos from the game as the Bears take on the Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.

Jay Cutler was responsible for four of the turnovers, throwing two interceptions and losing two fumbles. One of his picks was returned by former Bears safety Chris Conte 20 yards for a touchdown and one of Cutler's lost fumbles rolled out of the end zone for a safety.

"Our whole team was off today," coach John Fox said when asked about Cutler's performance. "I don't know how you can put it on one guy. We just weren't as consistent as we were [against the Vikings]. I think we had a great week of preparation. We had good plans in really all three phases."

With the loss, the Bears fell to 2-7 overall and 0-5 on the road. The Buccaneers (4-5) entered the game having lost six straight and 18 of their last 21 home games dating back to 2013.

Adding injury to insult, the Bears lost Pro Bowl guard Kyle Long to an ankle injury in the second quarter. Long, who missed the previous game with a triceps injury, was carted off the field.

The Buccaneers defense entered Week 10 with just four interceptions this season before picking off two Cutler passes on back-to-back plays in the first quarter.

The first came when cornerback Brent Grimes jumped a slant pattern intended for Alshon Jeffery at the Tampa Bay 28. The second was costlier as Conte intercepted a pass Cutler floated to tight end Logan Paulsen and returned it for a score.

The Bears responded as Jordan Howard gained 13 yards on back-to-back runs to set up Connor Barth's season-long 54-yard field goal, closing the gap to 7-3 with 2:42 left in the first quarter.

Safety Harold Jones-Quartey then intercepted a Jameis Winston pass that deflected off receiver Cecil Shorts III at the Tampa Bay 24, giving the Bears a golden opportunity to take the lead.

But on third-and-goal from the 4, Cutler fumbled when he was sacked from behind by Noah Spence and Kwon Alexander recovered the loose ball and returned it four yards to the Bucs' 14.

One play earlier, Long suffered an ankle injury that caused him to be removed from the field on a cart. Players from both teams came over to the Pro Bowl guard to console him.

The Bears then committed their fourth turnover on five possessions when Howard was stripped by defensive lineman William Gholston after a 10-yard run and safety Bradley McDougald returned the fumble six yards to the Chicago 29.

The Buccaneers converted the turnover into Winston's 10-yard touchdown pass to tight end Cameron Brate, who beat Adrian Amos to increase the margin to 14-3 with 3:33 left in the half.

After Roberto Aguayo's 30-yard field goal made it 17-3 with :31 remaining before intermission, the Bears stunned the crowd as Cameron Meredith hauled in a deflected Hail Mary pass from Cutler for a 50-yard touchdown as time expired in the first half.

Meredith's TD drew the Bears to within 17-10 and gave them some much-needed momentum after a disastrous first half. But the Buccaneers wasted little time re-establishing a commanding lead.

Two plays on the opening possession of the second half summarized the Bears season. First, three pass rushers chased Winston back into his own end zone but couldn't get him down. He heaved a pass downfield to Mike Evans, who leaped over Tracy Porter for a 39-yard reception. Remarkably, Winston kept the play alive for 12 seconds before he threw the ball.

On the next play, receiver Freddie Martino caught a 43-yard touchdown pass from Winston, beating cornerback Cre'von LeBlanc to make it 24-10.

The Buccaneers widened the margin to 29-10 on Aguayo's 27-yard field goal and a safety that resulted when Robert Ayers sacked Cutler, causing a fumble that rolled out of the end zone. Doug Martin's 1-yard TD run later made it 36-10 with 5:55 left in the game.

"All we can do now that it's behind us," Fox said following Sunday's blowout loss, "is regroup, work to get better and do our best to not let it happen again."

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