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QUARTERBACKS: Poor field position and pass protection severely hindered the efforts of QB Chris Simms and Tampa Bay’s offense vs. Chicago’s No. 1-ranked defense. Things got off to a shaky start for Simms on the first offensive series of the first quarter when he dropped back to throw on a third-and-9 play near his own goal line and was sacked by Bears defensive end Alex Brown, who caused a fumble and recovered the loose ball on the Bucs’ 1-yard line. It only took the Bears one offensive play to turn that turnover into a touchdown, which proved to be the difference in Sunday’s game. Although he engineered a couple of nice scoring drives, Simms was sacked four times and called for intentional grounding once, and he had four passes batted down at the line of scrimmage in the first half and a total of five knocked down during Sunday’s game. Simms’ best throw of the contest came in the first quarter when he launched a perfect strike down the right sideline to wide receiver Joey Galloway for a 39-yard gain. Simms completed 19-of-30 (63.3 percent) passes for 202 yards and threw no touchdowns or interceptions vs. the Bears.
*The Bucs converted just 2-of-12 (17 percent) third down attempts on Sunday.
Fullback Mike Alstott struggled in pass protection but did score a 2-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter and haul in two passes for 14 yards on the day. Alstott’s TD capped off an 11-play, 50-yard scoring drive. Backup FB Jameel Cook caught one pass for a 9-yard gain in the fourth quarter.
Bucs RB Michael Pittman broke off a 14-yard run on third-and-26 in the third quarter, which allowed the Bucs to punt from their own 22-yard line. He also hauled in a 6-yard pass from Simms in the fourth quarter.
*Tampa Bay rushed 25 times for 107 yards (4.3 avg.) vs. Chicago.
Once again, WR Joey Galloway emerged as the playmaker for the Bucs offense. His best grab of the game came in the first quarter on third-and-6 when he raced down the right sideline and hauled in a 39-yard pass from Simms, which put the Bucs on the Bears’ 27-yard line. That catch eventually led to a Matt Bryant field goal. Galloway’s 30-yard catch in the fourth quarter rivaled that play. Simms hit him for about a 10-yard gain, but Galloway made a move on a Bears defender and turned on the jets en route to moving the ball 20 yards up field to Chicago’s 39-yard line. Galloway finished the game with a team-high seven passes for 138 yards, but he did not score a touchdown for the second straight game.
Bucs WR Michael Clayton had a quiet game, and he dropped a perfect pass from Simms while running a slant pattern in the second quarter that led to a Bucs punt instead of a 15-yard gain and a first down. Neither Ike Hilliard nor Edell Shepherd saw much action due to the fact that Tampa Bay spent most of the game in max protection sets.
*Ten of Tampa Bay’s 15 first downs vs. Chicago game via the passing game.
*The Bucs produced 275 yards of total offense vs. the Bears.
Tampa Bay’s defensive line recorded two sacks, but it didn’t sustain enough of a pass rush to force Chicago QB Kyle Orton into making more mistakes.
In the second quarter, Bucs defensive end Simeon Rice sacked Orton and caused a fumble, but the Bears recovered the ball at midfield. Orton also had a fumbled snap during Sunday’s game, but a lucky bounce allowed the Bears quarterback to recover the ball before the Bucs could. Rice recorded two tackles, one sack, one forced fumble and one pass defensed.
Tampa Bay under tackle Anthony McFarland was outstanding against the run and led the defensive line with four tackles. Nose tackle Chris Hovan was also solid vs. the run and finished the game with three tackles. Neither player really got close to Orton on passing plays, though.
Bucs backup DT Ellis Wyms sacked Orton on third down in the first half to force a punt. Wyms finished the game with two tackles.
Defensive end Greg Spires recorded two tackles on Sunday. Spires’ backup, Dewayne White, missed a sack opportunity on Orton in the first quarter. That allowed Orton to scramble eight yards up field for a first down on a third down play. White didn’t record a tackle on Sunday.
*Tampa Bay held Chicago to 118 yards rushing on 33 attempts (3.6 avg.) and limited RB Thomas Jones to 72 yards on 25 carries (2.9 avg.).
*Chicago was just 4-of-15 (27 percent) on third down attempts vs. Tampa Bay.
Barber recorded five tackles and an impressive four pass breakups. However, his first pass breakup of the game in the first quarter should have been hauled in for an interception, but Barber dropped it. Had he intercepted the ball, the Bucs offense would have started the drive in field goal range.
While Barber couldn’t come up with the pick, Kelly did late in the second quarter by hauling in Orton’s deep pass down the right sideline. Kelly’s pick gave the Bucs offense the ball on their own 6-yard line, but it also stalled a Bears drive that was deep in Bucs territory. Kelly was called for illegal hands to the face on a third-and-10 incompletion by Orton. Replays showed that the call was absolutely bogus, but the penalty gave the Bears an automatic first down and allowed K Robbie Gould, who had made just 69 percent of his kicks on the year, to hit an easy 25-yard field goal right before the end of the half. Kelly recorded four tackles, one interception and two passes defensed.
Dexter Jackson started at free safety after missing the past four games with a hamstring injury. He made a key pass breakup on a third-and-goal play with just seconds remaining in the first half. That play forced the Bears to kick a field goal. Jackson recorded four tackles and a pass defensed on Sunday.
Strong safety Jermaine Phillips finished the game with three tackles.
Cornerback Juran Bolden recorded five tackles and made a critical tackle on Thomas Jones after the running back hauled in a quick pass from Orton and sprinted up field for a 41-yard gain to the Bucs’ 31-yard line in the third quarter. Bolden saved what would have been a touchdown, and the Bears eventually had to kick a field goal, which put them up 13-3.
*Bears QB Kyle Orton completed 14-of-28 (50 percent) of his passes for 134 yards and one touchdown and one interception.
Bucs punter Josh Bidwell had a busy game, punting seven times for 292 yards (41.7 avg.). He pinned two punts inside the 20-yard line and would have had a third had WR Michael Clayton been able to bat the ball to long snapper Dave Moore at the 1-yard line before having his feet touch the end zone in the first half.
Punt returner Mark Jones averaged 11.2 yards on six attempts. He broke off an 11-yarder to the Bucs’ 45-yard line in the first quarter. However, Jones’ big return in the second half was negated by an illegal block in the back by linebacker Ryan Nece. The Bucs still got the ball on the 50-yard line.
Kickoff returner Edell Shepherd averaged 23.5 yards per attempt.
Bucs CB Torrie Cox forced Bears PR Rashied Davis to fumble midway through the second quarter, but three Bucs defenders, all of whom were around the loose ball, failed to recover it.
Penalties were one of the main reasons why the Bucs had poor field position throughout Sunday’s game. Rookie S Donte Nicholson was called for holding on the opening kickoff of the second half.
Bucs head coach Jon Gruden chose to pass up an opportunity to kick a 49-yard field goal in the first half because of what he and his staff deemed to be a strong wind, but a field goal wound up being the difference in Sunday’s game. When the Bucs did punt from the 31-yard line instead of attempting the field goal, Clayton appeared to make an acrobatic play to throw the ball to Moore at the 1-yard line, but the officials ruled that Clayton’s feet had touched the end zone before he let go of the ball. The play looked like it was worth reviewing, but Gruden decided against it. Gruden was flat as a playcaller throughout most of the game but did nice job of calling plays in the fourth quarter. However, that was too little too late for the Bucs.
Bucs defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin’s troops essentially held the Bears to six points, but they failed to capitalize on turnover opportunities. The same can be said for the Bucs special teams unit, which found a way to not recover a fumble with three players surrounding a loose ball.
*Tampa Bay was penalized five times for 52 yards vs. Chicago.
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