In the second half of Sunday’s game, it appeared the Chicago Bears made the right decision to trade Brian Griese to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and start Kyle Orton at quarterback this Sunday. For on this Sunday, it appeared Orton would out-duel Griese in the second half to give the Bears a come-from-behind victory. Orton was 9-of-15 for 74 yards and two interceptions and no touchdowns in the first half, but came out in the second half and was 12-of-16 for 168 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions to give Chicago a 24-14 lead with just 6:38 minutes left in the game.
Griese had thrown three interceptions, which led to 17 Chicago points, but redeemed himself with three masterful series, including a field goal drive that cut Chicago’s lead to 24-17 with 3:11 left, and a touchdown drive that tied the game and forced overtime with seven seconds left in regulation. In overtime, Griese led the Bucs on a game-winning field goal drive, throwing a 38-yard strike to wide receiver Antonio Bryant, who had a career-high 10 catches for 138 yards and set the Bucs up at the Chicago 6-yard line. Two plays later, Matt Bryant capped Tampa Bay’s comeback with a game-winning 21-yard field goal that produced a 27-24 overtime victory that lifted the Bucs to a 2-1 record.
“I just want to say that I’m real proud of our team,” Bucs head coach Jon Gruden said after the game. “That was a team win and one of the greatest gut checks I’ve ever been associated with. We beat a heck of a football team. We made a lot of plays in the fourth quarter offensively. It’s a credit to a lot of guys.”
Tampa Bay’s defense shut down the Bears in the first half, sacking Orton three times and intercepting him twice. But Orton rebounded in the second half and connected with wide receiver Brandon Lloyd in the second half. Lloyd came through with some clutch catches that ignited the Bears offense, finishing with six catches for 124 yards, a touchdown and a two-point conversion. The Bears offense rolled up 405 yards against the Bucs defense, but converted only 4-of-15 third down opportunities (27 percent). Chicago entered Sunday’s game converting 52 percent of its third downs, which was third-best in the NFL.
After sluggish spells through the first three quarters, the Bucs offense came to life and finished with 454 yards. Griese accounted for most of that, completing 38-of-67 passes for 407 yards and two touchdowns to go along with his three interceptions. Tampa Bay was able to convert 38 percent (6-of-16) of its third downs and the Bucs’ offensive line was able to hold the Bears without a sack.
“For Brian Griese to be sitting there with three interceptions and down 10 [points] and for him to bring us back like he did today speaks volumes about the type of football player he is,” Gruden said.
Chicago out-rushed Tampa Bay 158-47 yards as the Bears stifled the Bucs’ running game with eight- and nine-man fronts and a myriad of run blitzes. Earnest Graham entered the game averaging eight yards per carry, but was held to just 16 yards on 12 carries (1.3 avg.). Warrick Dunn fared a little better, rushing for 31 yards on five carries (6.2 avg.).
Both the Bears and the Buccaneers were without some firepower on Sunday. Chicago was without return specialist and wide receiver Devin Hester, who had a rib cartilage injury from last week’s loss at Carolina, while Tampa Bay was without wide receiver Joey Galloway, who has posted three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons, and nickel cornerback Aqib Talib, who was the Bucs’ first-round draft pick this year. Talib injured a hamstring in last week’s win over Atlanta, and Galloway suffered a sprained ankle in the same game.
The game was incredibly chippy as both teams were called for a couple personal foul penalties. The Bucs had eight penalties for 64 yards, while the Bears were flagged six times for 61 yards. However, Bears cornerback Charles Tillman was called for the game’s biggest penalty – a 15-yarder – that gave the Bucs new life on their final overtime possession. Instead of punting from their own 10-yard line, the Bucs got a first down at their own 25.
Griese’s second pass of the game was tipped near the line of scrimmage by middle linebacker Brian Urlacher and intercepted by weakside linebacker Lance Briggs at the Tampa Bay 15. The pass was intended for fullback B.J. Askew. Tampa Bay’s defense came up big on its first series, though. Forte was stuffed for no gain on the first play, safety Jermaine Phillips broke up a pass intended for tight end Desmond Clark on second down and cornerback Ronde Barber blitzed off left edge and sacked Orton for a loss. With 12:43 left in the first quarter, the Bears took a 3-0 lead on Robbie Gould’s 40-yard field goal.
After a three-and-out by the Buccaneers, the Bears drove 52 yards for another scoring opportunity. Forte picked up two first downs on the drive, one on a 12-yard catch and the other on a rush. The rookie from Tulane picked up 17 yards on the ground during the drive, but Chicago’s drive stalled at the 25-yard line where Gould connected on a 43-yard field goal to give the Bears a 6-0 lead with 6:10 left in the first quarter.
The Bucs removed return man Dexter Jackson from the lineup after he slipped on his first two returns, and inserted Michael Clayton, who returned his first kick 37 yards. But a holding penalty on Adam Hayward brought the ball back to the Tampa Bay 19 where Griese went to work. He threw a 14-yard gain to Bryant to give Tampa Bay its initial first down of the game.
It would be the first of many on this drive as Warrick Dunn ripped off an 18-yard gain across midfield on a beautifully executed draw play. Griese hit tight end Jerramy Stevens on a 31-yard gain down the left side off play action down to the Chicago 18. After a 7-yard run by Earnest Graham, Ike Hilliard picked up a first down at the 8-yard line with a nice catch. After tight end John Gilmore gained three yards with a catch on first down, Hilliard caught a 4-yard touchdown pass on third-and-goal. Griese was a perfect 5-of-5 on the drive for 55 yards. With 1:50 left in the first quarter, the Bucs led the Bears, 7-6.
Daniel Manning returned the ensuing kickoff 46 yards to the Chicago 48, but the Bears were forced to punt after going three-and-out due to a sack by defensive end Greg White on third down. The Bucs and Bears then exchanged turnovers as wide receiver Maurice Stovall fumbled at the Tampa Bay 38 after being stripped by cornerback Charles Tillman. Urlacher recovered the fumble for the Bears.
But two plays later, middle linebacker Barrett Ruud picked off Orton in the end zone on a pass intended for Forte. Ruud broke up the pass and then tipped it to himself for the interception.
After trading a couple of three-and-outs with the Bucs, the Bears were on the move once again thanks to a 12-yard scramble by Orton and a 19-yard screen pass to Forte down to the Bucs’ 40-yard line. But Tampa Bay’s defense clamped down with defensive end Kevin Carter sacking Orton for a 9-yard loss on first down, and defensive end Gaines Adams picking off Orton and returning the ball 45 yards for a touchdown. Adams recognized the middle screen pass intended for Clark, stepped in front of him and took his first interception back for a touchdown down the left sidelines.
The officials originally ruled Adams out at the Chicago 1, but head coach Jon Gruden challenged the call on the field and won the instant replay decision. With 5:26 left in the second quarter, Adams’ touchdown increased the Bucs’ led to 14-6.
Chicago got in another score just before halftime thanks to a 38-yard run on a fake punt by running back Garrett Wolfe down to the Tampa Bay 19. Return man Dexter Jackson saved a touchdown with a tackle. The Bears advanced the ball to the Bucs’ 9-yard line, but were stopped on third down. That led to a third Gould field goal, this time from 28 yards. At halftime, the Bucs led the Bears, 14-9.
Griese drove the Bucs from their own 6-yard line to the Bears’ 31 with passes of 18 yards to Askew, 14 yards to Bryant and 20 yards to Smith. But on third-and-11, Griese’s pass to Bryant was low and outside and picked off by cornerback Nathan Vasher at the Chicago 14.
That turnover would key a Bears’ scoring drive. Orton hit Brandon Lloyd with a 22-yard gain down the left sidelines, followed by an 18-yard pass to Rashied Davis down to the Chicago 49. Orton threw a third pass down the left sideline, hitting Lloyd with a 27-yard gain against Barber down to the Tampa Bay 6. On the next play, Orton hit Forte with a 6-yard touchdown pass in front of safety Sabby Piscitelli. The Bears converted a two-point play with a pass to Lloyd over Barber, and with 2:54 left in the third quarter, Chicago led 17-14.
Lloyd continued to torment the Bucs, catching a 25-yard pass from Orton to the Chicago 40 on third-and-5 to start the fourth quarter. A 10-yard catch by Forte drove the Bears to midfield. Two plays later, Forte dashed off right guard for 11 yards down to the Tampa Bay 38. But on third-and-7 from the Tampa Bay 35, Orton’s pass to Clark only traveled four yards. That brought out Gould for a 49-yard field goal attempt, which would have tied his career-high, on fourth-and-3, but he pushed it wide right. It was Gould’s first miss of the season.
Griese threw his third interception on third-and-8 from the Tampa Bay 46. His pass intended for Stevens sailed high and was picked off by rookie defensive back Kevin Payne and returned to the Chicago 46. Orton hit Lloyd on first down for an 8-yard gain, followed by a 12-yard pass to Forte down to the Tampa Bay 32. Orton then hit Davis with a gain of six yards and found fullback Aaron McKie for a gain of 12 down to the Tampa Bay 14. After a 5-yard false start penalty, Orton then hit Lloyd with a 19-yard touchdown pass, again over Barber. With 6:38 left in the fourth quarter, the Bears increased their lead to 24-14.
Tampa Bay drove 63 yards to cut into Chicago’s lead. From the Bucs’ 20-yard line, Griese hit Dunn with a gain of two yards to start the drive. Then Griese found Bryant for a gain of eight. Successive completions to Clayton and Hilliard moved the ball to the 50. An 18-yard pass to Hilliard brought the Bucs down to the Chicago 32. Dunn caught a 6-yard dump off pass set up second-and-4 at the Bears’ 26. On third-and-4, Stevens hauled in a 9-yard pass to pick up the first down at the Chicago 17. But after three straight incompletions, the Bucs had to settle for a 35-yard field goal from Matt Bryant. With 3:11 left in the game, Chicago led 24-17.
The Bucs defense forced a punt after a three-and-out and took over at their 21-yard line with 1:49 left and two timeouts. After an offside’s penalty on Chicago, Hilliard picked up a first down with a 6-yard catch at the Tampa Bay 31. On third-and-10, Griese found Stevens for an 18-yard gain out to the 50 with 1:05 left. Clayton hauled in a 13-yard catch down to the Chicago 37 where Tampa Bay called timeout. On the next play, Hilliard caught a 17-yard pass down to the Chicago 20. On second-and-10, Griese threw a strike to Bryant for 19 yards down to the Chicago 1. The Bucs called a timeout with 12 seconds left. On second-and-goal from the 1, Griese hit Stevens for a touchdown pass with seven seconds left to tie the game at 24-24 and force overtime.
The Bucs won the coin toss, elected to receive and started their drive at their own 23-yard line. Dunn rushed for 11 yards on a draw to get a first down at the 34. Griese then hit Stovall with a 9-yard pass, followed by a Dunn run for three yards. Smith hauled in an 8-yard pass to the Bears’ 46 before Bryant caught a 7-yard pass from Griese down to the Chicago 39. But Griese was forced to get rid of the ball to avoid a sack and was flagged for intentional grounding. That set up a second-and-20 at the Chicago 49, but after two incompletions, the Bucs had to punt.
Chicago took over at its own 14-yard line and converted a big third down with a 24-yard gain to Lloyd on a crossing route. But the Bears could only drive to their own 47-yard line before having to punt the ball back to Tampa Bay.
The Bucs took over at their 7-yard line and were forced to punt after picking up just three yards. But a 15-yard personal foul penalty on Charles Tillman gave the Buccaneers a first down at their own 25-yard line. Graham rushed for five yards on first down, but the Bucs lost that yardage as Clayton was penalized for a false start, setting up third-and-10 at Tampa Bay 20.
But Clayton made up for his gaffe with a 17-yard pass reception, who advanced the ball to the Tampa Bay 42. A 9-yard pass to Dunn advanced the ball to the Chicago 49. Graham picked up a first down with a 5-yard run down to the Chicago 44. On second-10, Griese found Bryant down the left side for a gain of 38 yards down to the Chicago 6. Bryant beat Vasher on the play to set up a first-and-goal situation for the Bucs. After a 3-yard run by Graham, Bryant was called on to kick a 21-yard game-winner with 4:21 left in overtime.
PEWTERREPORT.COM PLAYER OF THE GAME Tampa Bay quarterback Brian Griese was almost the culprit in the Buccaneers’ loss to the Bears due to his three interceptions, which led to 17 Chicago points. Instead, he was the reason the Bucs were able to bounce back from a 10-point deficit with just over three minutes left to tie the game and then win it in overtime. Griese completed 55 percent of his passes for 227 yards after his third interception, throwing a 1-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jerramy Stevens with seven seconds remaining in regulation to tie the game and force overtime. In the extended period, Griese was 7-of-14 (50 percent) for 90 yards and drove the Bucs into field goal position to get the win. The victory was Griese’s 10th fourth quarter comeback.
IT WAS OVER WHEN… After a costly 15-yard personal foul penalty on Bears cornerback Charles Tillman gave the Bucs new life at their own 25-yard line in overtime, quarterback Brian Griese hit wide receiver Michael Clayton for a gain of 17 yards and running back Warrick Dunn for a gain of nine yards out to the Chicago 49. Three plays later on second-and-10 from the Bears’ 44, Griese connected on a deep pass to wide receiver Antonio Bryant for 38 yards down to the Chicago 6-yard line. Two plays later, Bucs field goal kicker Matt Bryant drilled a 21-yard field goal to win the game.
STATS THAT COUNT Quarterback Brian Griese set franchise records and personal records with 67 attempts. His personal bests were 53 attempts, set against Baltimore on 9/30/02 (with Baltimore) and 36 completions at San Diego on 12/12/04 (with Tampa Bay). Griese’s 38 completions were just two completions short of tying Brad Johnson’s team record of 40 (set 11/18/01 against Chicago). Griese’s 407 passing yards was the third-highest total in team history. … Cornerback Marcus Hamilton played in his first NFL game on Sunday. … Linebacker Barrett Ruud picked off his first pass of the season in the first quarter against the Bears. Ruud led the Bucs with seven tackles and also had two passes defensed. … Defensive end Gaines Adams recorded his first NFL interception and returned it 45 yards for his first NFL touchdown. … Defensive end Greg White recorded a sack at Chicago and leads the team with 3.5. … Cornerback Ronde Barber recorded his first sack of the season at Chicago, while defensive end Kevin Carter notched his first full sack of the season and now has 1.5 sacks on the season. … Wide receiver Antonio Bryant had a personal-high 10 catches for 138 yards. Those numbers led all receivers in Sunday’s game. … Tight end Jerramy Stevens played in his first game this season after serving a two-game suspension. He hauled in five passes for 61 yards, including a 1-yard touchdown that tied the game in the fourth quarter with seven seconds left.
SUNDAY’S STARTING LINEUPS The announced Tampa Bay starting lineup for Sunday’s game was as follows:
BUCS STARTING OFFENSE WR Ike Hilliard TE Alex Smith LT Donald Penn LG Arron Sears C Jeff Faine RG Jeremy Zuttah RT Jeremy Trueblood TE Jerramy Stevens TE John Gilmore RB Earnest Graham QB Brian Griese
BUCS STARTING DEFENSE LE Kevin Carter NT Chris Hovan UT Jovan Haye RE Gaines Adams SLB Cato June MLB Barrett Ruud WLB Derrick Brooks LCB Phillip Buchanon RCB Ronde Barber FS Tanard Jackson SS Jermaine Phillips
MISSING IN ACTION Here is a list of Tampa Bay’s inactives for the Bucs game:
WR Joey Galloway CB Aqib Talib DL Greg Peterson OL James Lee RB Michael Bennett G Davin Joseph QB Jeff Garcia (emergency quarterback) QB Josh Johnson
BUCS INJURIES The Buccaneers didn’t suffer any reported injuries on Sunday.
KICKOFF CONDITIONS The announced attendance for the Buccaneers vs. Bears game at Soldier Field was 62,051. The temperature at kickoff was 76 degrees with 82 percent humidity under partly sunny skies.
UP NEXT The Buccaneers (2-1) host the Green Bay Packers (2-0) on Sunday at Raymond James Stadium. Kickoff is set for 1:00 p.m. ET. This week, Green Bay hosts Dallas on Sunday Night Football.
Scott Reynolds is in his 25th 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 spent six years 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: email@example.com