TAMPA – Even after committing four turnovers during an ugly first half, the Bears somehow, some way were still in Sunday's game against the Buccaneers at halftime.
Tampa Bay led by only one score at intermission, 17-10, after Cameron Meredith hauled in Jay Cutler's Hail Mary pass for a 50-yard touchdown as time expired in the first half.
"We felt good getting into the locker room," Cutler said. "We hit a Hail Mary and we're down one score, as bad as we had played. We had some turnovers. Third down wasn't very good. Red zone we weren't very good. So to be down one score at half we felt good about where we were at."
Jameis Winston pressured by Leonard Floyd
It appeared that the Bears had carried their momentum back on the field with them when they prevented the Buccaneers from gaining any yards on the first two plays of the second half. But then, on third-and-10 from the Tampa 23, the whole game changed.
In a play that looked like it came from a backyard football game, Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston retreated back into his own end zone while eluding pass rushers Leonard Floyd, Willie Young and Cornelius Washington before heaving the ball down the field.
Tampa Bay receiver Mike Evans used his entire 6-foot-5 frame to leap over cornerback Tracy Porter to haul in the ball for a 39-yard gain. On the next play, Winston hit a wide open Freddie Martino with a 43-yard touchdown pass that gave the Buccaneers a 24-10 lead.
"We've got to get off the field on third down," said inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman. "We've got to go just make it happen. There are going to be some 50/50 balls. We've got to get [Winston} down and we've got to do what we've got to do to get off that field."
That hurts: The injury bug took another major bite out of the Bears when Pro Bowl right guard Kyle Long had to be carted off the field in the second quarter after hurting his ankle.
Asked about the severity of the injury after the game, coach John Fox said: "Nothing that I can report at this point that's concrete. All these ankles [the Bears have hurt this year] have been minimum high-ankle sprains. But I'm not a doctor and we'll get a little bit more information as we go."
Long was back in the starting lineup Sunday after missing the Bears' previous game—a Halloween night win over the Vikings—with a triceps injury.
"It's tough," Cutler said. "He's had a bunch of injuries to one side of his body and now the lower half takes a hit, too. I'm not sure of the diagnosis. If there's a chance for him to come back, he's a guy who can make it happen. If not, he's going to be a hard guy to replace."
Other injuries: Long, who was replaced Sunday by Ted Larsen, wasn't the only player the Bears lost due to an injury. Running back Jordan Howard (ankle/Achilles), right tackle Bobby Massie (concussion) and nose tackle Eddie Goldman (ankle) also did not finish the game.
Before exiting, Howard rushed for 100 yards on 15 carries—his second straight and fourth 100-yard game of the season. He now has 605 yards on 114 attempts this year.
Goldman returned for the first time since hurting his ankle in a Week 2 loss to the Eagles and recorded one of four Bears sacks. Floyd was credited with 1.5 sacks and now has 4.5 in his last three games. Pernell McPhee also registered a sack for the second straight game.
Statistically speaking: Cutler completed 16 of 30 passes for 182 yards with one touchdown, two interceptions and a 55.1 passer rating. His counterpart, Winston, connected on 23 of 33 passes for 312 yards with two TDs, one interception and a 107.1 rating.
Roster notes: Cornerbacks Bryce Callahan (hamstring) and Deiondre Hall (ankle) and defensive lineman Mitch Unrein (back) sat out with injuries. Other inactives were safety DeAndre Houston-Carson, linebacker John Timu, offensive lineman Eric Kush and tight end Daniel Brown.
News and notes: The Bears still haven't recorded back-to-back wins since they beat the Chargers and Rams last November. Since then, they are 0-5 in games immediately following a victory...The Bears converted just 2-of-11 third-down opportunities (18 percent), while the Buccaneers were successful on 8-of-15 tries (53 percent)...Connor Barth made his only field-goal attempt of the game, a 54-yarder, and has now hit eight straight since opening the season 4-of-7.