TAMPA – Down 20-10 in the fourth quarter, the Bears rallied for one touchdown but could get no closer in a 27-17 loss to the Buccaneers on a sweltering Sunday at Raymond James Stadium.
Justin Fields' 20-yard TD pass to Chase Claypool made it a three-point game with 6:17 remaining. The defense forced Tampa Bay to punt and the Bears took over at their own 7 with 2:24 to play. But on first-and-11 from the Chicago 6, Fields threw a middle screen to Khalil Herbert that was intercepted by linebacker Shaquil Barrett, who returned it four yards for the clinching touchdown.
"Disappointing loss," said coach Matt Eberflus. "I thought the guys battled until the end, gave us a chance to win it at the end, and then we didn't take care of the football at the end of it. But we had a chance to do it."
Fields was intercepted for a second time on the Bears' next drive with 1:07 to play.
The third-year quarterback completed 16 of 29 passes for 211 yards and a 61.1 passer rating and was sacked six times. After being targeted only twice in last weekend's loss to the Packers, DJ Moore had seven targets, catching six passes for 104 yards.
Baker Mayfield completed 26 of 34 passes for 317 yards, one TD and a 114.5 passer rating for the Buccaneers, who punted just once in the first three quarters. His favorite target was receiver Mike Evans, who caught six passes for 171 yards and one TD.
Defensively, the Bears did not register a sack or a takeaway and struggled to get off the field on third down for the second straight week, allowing the Buccaneers to convert 8-of-15 opportunities, a 53 percent success rate.
The temperature at game-time was 89 degrees with a heat index of 103 degrees.
With the loss, the Bears fell to 0-2.
Despite the setback, Eberflus felt his team performed better than it did in last weekend's season-opening loss to the Packers.
"I see improvement, I do," Eberflus said. "It was definitely better. I see guys fighting. I see us executing at a better clip. It's a long season, and to me we've just got to keep doing that. We've got to keep doing that and good things are going to happen. The guys believe in that, the coaching staff believes in that."
The Buccaneers took a 3-0 lead on Chase McLaughlin's 26-yard field goal on the game's opening possession. The kick capped a 12-play, 77-yard drive that was sustained by Mayfield completions of 16 yards to receiver Chris Godwin on third-and-8 and 22 yards to Evans on third-and-12.
The Bears responded immediately, grabbing a 7-3 lead on Fields' 1-yard touchdown run on a rollout to the right. The 6-play, 75-yard drive was highlighted by Fields' completions of 33 and 31 yards to Moore, beating blitzes on both plays.
The Buccaneers reached the Bears' 17 on their second possession. But Rasheem Green knifed through the line and blocked McLaughlin's 40-yard field goal attempt on the second play of the second quarter.
The Bears lost both of their starting safeties in a three-play span on Tampa Bay's second drive, with Jaquan Brisker exiting with an illness and Eddie Jackson leaving with a foot injury. They were replaced by Elijah Hicks and Quindell Johnson. Brisker returned to the game in the second half, but Jackson did not.
After the Bears went three-and-out, Tampa Bay took a 10-7 lead on running back Rachaad White's 4-yard TD run on third-and-goal. The touchdown came three plays after Mayfield's 70-yard completion to Evans. It appeared that Evans shoved Tyrique Stevenson to the ground with a forearm before the ball arrived, but no flag was thrown.
The Bears tied the score 10-10 on Cairo Santos' 52-yard field goal with 1:55 remaining in the first half. The kick was set up by Roschon Johnson's 29-yard run and two 11-yard completions from Fields to Cole Kmet.
McLaughlin's 25-yard field goal as time expired in the first half gave the Buccaneers a 13-10 lead they would not relinquish.
Tampa Bay widened the margin to 20-10 on its first possession of the second half on Mayfield's 32-yard TD pass to Evans with 4:06 to play in the third quarter. Evans had a 36-yard reception early on the 12-play, 89-yard drive.
On the shelf: Bears right guard Nate Davis missed Sunday's game due to personal reasons. Second-year pro Ja'Tyre Carter made his first NFL start in his place. The 2022 seventh-round pick from Southern appeared in three contests, all as a reserve, last year as a rookie.
Josh Blackwell sat out with a hamstring injury. With Blackwell unavailable and Kyler Gordon on injured reserve following hand surgery, Greg Stroman Jr. and Terell Smith split reps at nickel back.
The Buccaneers played without two injured defensive starters in cornerback Carlton Davis and rookie defensive lineman Calijah Kancey.