The 2-8 Buccaneers are trying to start a winning streak and build upon last week’s 27-7 win at Washington. What are the six things PewterReport.com’s Scott Reynolds is looking for in Tampa Bay’s upcoming game? Find out right here in SR’s Pick 6.
Who: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Chicago Bears
Where: Soldier Field – Chicago, Ill.
When: 1:00 p.m. ET – FOX
Last meeting: 24-18 loss to Bears in 2008 in London
Series notes: Bears have a 36-18 advantage over Bucs all-time
1. CUT DOWN CUTLER
There has been one common denominator on defense in Tampa Bay’s two wins this season – getting to the quarterback. The Bucs defense sacked Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger five times and forced a takeaway due to pressure at Pittsburgh in Week 4 and won 27-24. In last week’s win at Washington, the Bucs defense sacked Robert Griffin III a season-high six times and forced three takeaways.
Bucs linebacker Lavonte David was correct in saying the defense had to rattle Bears quarterback Jay Cutler this Sunday. Cutler, who has been sacked 23 times this year, has thrown two interceptions in five games this season, so he can be prone to turnovers if pressured. With time to throw, Cutler is an accurate quarterback that has completed 67 percent of his passes this year, including 72.1 percent of his throws in last week’s win over Minnesota. It will be imperative that defensive ends Jacquies Smith (three sacks) and Michael Johnson (three sacks) and defensive tackles Gerald McCoy (6.5 sacks) and Clinton McDonald (three sacks) get to Cutler on Sunday.
2. STOP FORTE ON THE FLANK
It’s one thing that Chicago running back Matt Forte is a dangerous runner, rushing for 733 yards (4.2 avg.) and three touchdowns. But where Forte can really hurt Tampa Bay is in the flat as a receiver out of the backfield. The Pro Bowl all-purpose back has 67 catches for 575 yards and three touchdowns this season and is very dangerous with the ball in the open field. He’s very close to establishing news highs in terms of receptions (74) and receiving yards (594).
The Bucs have been susceptible to screen passes this year, most recently last week at Washington where Redskins running backs Alfred Morris and Roy Helu attacked the flank of Tampa Bay’s defense. The Bucs will want to get after quarterback Jay Cutler and apply pressure, but must be wary of screen passes designed to take advantage of Tampa Bay’s pass rush. The Bucs gave up a 30-yard touchdown on a screen pass to Helu last week and that is something that Bears head coach Marc Trestman will want to try to exploit.
3. McCOWN NEEDS TO CHILL IN THE WINDY CITY
Part of the reason why the Buccaneers were victorious against the Redskins last week was the calm play of quarterback Josh McCown. Since returning to the starting lineup, McCown has played more relaxed than he was at the start of the season when he threw four interceptions in his first two and a half starts. McCown threw two touchdown passes and two late interceptions in trying to rally the Bucs to a win against Atlanta. In last week’s win at Washington, McCown threw touchdowns and no interceptions and was as poised as he’s been all season.
McCown is an emotional player and will have to rein in those emotions as he returns to Chicago to play against his former team. While in Chicago last year, McCown threw 12 touchdowns and just one interception while subbing for injured starter Jay Cutler. If McCown gets too amped up in his return to Chicago he could be prone to pressing and throwing costly interceptions that could spell doom for the Buccaneers.
4. BREAK DOWN BEARS’ TWIN TOWERS
Tampa Bay did a great job of neutralizing Washington receivers DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon in last week’s victory. The Bucs will have a tall order – literally – containing the Bears’ version of the twin towers. Both Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall are Pro Bowlers and stand 6-foot-3 and weigh in excess of 215 pounds. Each receiver has the same type of talent that Bucs rookie sensation Mike Evans possesses – size, speed and physicality.
The Bucs will have to use bigger cornerbacks like Johnthan Banks, who leads Tampa Bay with three interceptions and Brandon Dixon, in addition to Alterraun Verner and Crezdon Butler to help defend against the Bears’ big receivers. Jeffery leads Chicago with 55 catches for 761 yards and four touchdowns on the season, while Marshall has 49 receptions for 586 yards and eight TDs. Tampa Bay’s defensive backs must also be wary of 6-foot-6 tight end Martellus Bennett, who has 53 catches for 591 yards and five scores. He’ll present matchup problems for Tampa Bay’s safeties and linebackers, especially in the red zone.
5. BEAT THE BEARS, NOT YOURSELVES
One of the most troubling aspects of the 2-8 Buccaneers this season is Tampa Bay’s penchant for beating itself. The Bucs have given up four fourth quarter leads this year and lost two overtime games due to costly penalties at inopportune times. With 80 penalties, the Buccaneers rank in the top five in the NFL with that dubious distinction.
One of the biggest areas the Bucs have beaten themselves is on special teams. Tampa Bay is the only team in the NFL to have a blocked field goal and a blocked punt in the same game this year, and the Bucs special teams have been so bad it’s happened twice (vs. St. Louis, at Atlanta). In last week’s 27-7 win at Washington, Tampa Bay return specialist Marcus Thigpen muffed a punt and fumbled. If the Bucs can play disciplined football on Sunday they will have a good chance to win, but that might be a tall order for this undisciplined team.
6. FOR THE LOVE OF LOVIE
Despite Tampa Bay’s 1-8 mark this year, the Buccaneers have hung together and continued to listen to head coach Lovie Smith, who has done a good job of preaching patience and unity. The Bucs players adore Smith and know how much this game means to him as he returns to the city where he was the Bears head coach from 2004-2012.
The Bucs want to claim victory in this game to start a winning streak, but also because it would mean so much to their fearless leader, who was fired by Chicago after a 10-6 season in 2012. Tampa Bay should come out emotionally charged and not wanting to let down Smith in a game he wants to win so badly. The fact that there are several former Bears on this team, including defensive backs Isaiah Frey and Major Wright and quarterback Josh McCown, could only add fuel to Tampa Bay’s fire in Chicago on Sunday.
SR’s Prediction: Buccaneers 26, Bears 23
Scott Reynolds is in his 22nd year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds enjoys giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
The fact that there are several former Bears on this team, including defensive backs Isaiah Frey and Major Wright and quarterback Josh McCown, could only add fuel to Tampa Bay’s fire in Chicago on Sunday.
Who are the others?
Just to let you know Scott that you are not alone picking the Bucs , the following media prognosticators have also picked the Bucs to win: Mike Florio/ProfootballTalk, Jason La CanFora and Will Brinson/CBSSports, and Pat Yasinskas/ESPN. And of course, yours truly picks the Bucs 28-21!
We should win this game if we put pressure on Cutler. I think we will. Bucs 27, Bears 16.
They do better when all say they will loose.
For the first time all season I feel good going into this week. The bears D is really really bad. Cutler is a sketchy QB and I think our Dline can disrupt the bears Oline consistently. Bucs 30 Bears 17. Bold prediction- Josh is going to throw for 300+ yards and 3 TDs and out play Cutler on all aspects.
Not getting my hopes up too much should be close game we aren’t really a better team than the Bears at this point. I could see Bucs winning maybe 27-24? That is If we can protect McCown. Evans had been hot and Bears pass defense not great. If we don’t protect QB well we all know what happens when McCown is pressured. Like to see run game get going would help a lot. Cutler has been pretty erratic lately but can also be very good at times. Probably come down to who can run the ball and who doesn’t turn it over.
Bucs win 27-17
Last I checked, we had two wins. Proofread
For some reason my Scubog avatar doesn’t show up any more. Back in November 1989 I won a trip to the Bucs vs Bears game. It was freezing! Bucs won the game. Had a good time exchanging barbs with a Bears fans and we exchanged hats after the victory. His hat is proudly displayed on the wall on my Bucs Room as sort of a hunter’s trophy. Bears fans were much less obnoxious in Chicago than the ones who hibernate here. I’m hoping that last week’s defensive showing served as a revelation of how to play the “reincarnated” Tampa 2 defense. Also hoping we can convert a few more 3rd downs and run the ball. Come out with that same attitude and get up on the Bears early. Crowd will turn on their hometown team. Maybe even start a Lovie…….Lovie chant.
Bold calling for an outright win… I want to believe it, but there should only be a Pick One: Pressure. DB’s have zero percent chance of lining up and stopping the twin towers and Martellus Bennett if Cutler can sit in the pocket.
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