TAMPA — Bears rookies played like seasoned veterans Sunday at Raymond James Stadium, making major contributions in a 26-21 win over the Buccaneers.
Rookies accounted for all three takeaways the defense produced as safety Jonathan Anderson had an interception and forced fumble, linebacker Jonathan Anderson registered a forced fumble and linebacker John Timu had two fumble recoveries.
All three of those players entered the NFL this year as undrafted free agents, Timu and Anderson with the Bears and Jones-Quartey with the Arizona Cardinals.
"We don't really think about us being rookies going out there playing," Timu said. "It's just a matter of a team, a Chicago Bears team, each having each other's back and going out there being well-prepared and executing well."
Veteran outside linebacker Pernell McPhee, who registered the Bears' only sack of the game, was happy to see his young teammates step up.
"It was awesome," McPhee said. "We've got talent all around the field and we have a lot of young guys that have talent and it showed today. We have some special young talent on this team."
Familiar look: Jay Cutler's familiarity with former Bears and current Buccaneers coach Lovie Smith's defense helped the veteran quarterback in Sunday's game.
"Just going against them in practice all the time, you know where the soft spots are, you know how to attack it, and they were true to their colors," Cutler said. "They played their defense and we stayed in rhythm, we limited our penalties. We did all the things that typically we have to do against a defense to win football games."
Cutler threw mostly short passes, completing 20 of 27 passes for 156 yards with one touchdown, no interceptions and a 100.2 passer rating. Cutler praised offensive coordinator Adam Gase for sticking with the game plan and "not getting greedy at all and just saying, 'Hey, we're going to be methodical and if it gets boring, it's boring. But that's how we have to do it.'"
Not again: Cutler had a screen pass intercepted by a defensive lineman for the second straight week Sunday when William Gholston picked off a deflected pass and returned it 24 yards to the Chicago 15. But unlike last weekend against the Vikings, the play was nullified by a facemask penalty on defensive end Jacquies Smith.
"I came off and I was like, 'Adam, I'm not throwing another screen until 2016, I'm done with screens,'" Cutler said, "I got a laugh at that, and then you see the flag and you don't really know what it's for. Usually you don't get that break, so to get that turned around, I think we went down and scored after that, that's a huge break for us."
Line changes: The Bears offensive line had a different look Sunday as Vladimir Ducasse replaced Patrick Omameh at right guard. Ducasse had started the first six games this season at right guard and the next three at left guard, while Omameh had opened the last eight contests at right guard.
Further changes were necessary in the second half when center Hroniss Grasu missed two series with an injury. Matt Slauson moved from left guard to center and Omameh stepped in at left guard. It was the first time Slauson played center since starting three straight games there in November.
"It was fine," Slauson said. "I felt really comfortable with it from the very first snap. I haven't taken a rep at that spot since [playing in] St. Louis [Nov. 15]. I was pretty proud about that, that I could slip in there and not have any second thoughts about it."
Cutler was not surprised that Grasu fought through his injury to return, saying: "I knew he had that in him. That's nothing new. He's such a tough player. He takes things really personal out there. It's extremely important to him, which is what you want. You want more guys like that in our locker room."
News and notes: In addition to making all four of his field goal attempts from 26, 27, 50 and 39 yards, Robbie Gould recorded touchbacks on six of seven kickoffs. ... Gould's 26-yard field goal with 3:00 left in the second quarter put the Bears ahead 10-7, their first lead since Dec. 6 against the 49ers. They never led in their previous two games versus the Redskins and Vikings. ... Tight end Zach Miller led the Bears with seven receptions for 69 yards. ... The Bears' plus-three turnover ratio Sunday was their best of the season. ... The Bears did not commit a turnover for the fourth time this year, but they are only 2-2 in those games. ... The Bears have been outscored 41-6 in the first quarter of their last six games, including 7-0 Sunday. ... The Bears have scored first in only four of 15 games this season, including just one of their last eight contests.