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DEFENSIVE LINE Tampa Bay's defensive line was disruptive and active vs. Chicago on Sunday.
Although the Bears rushed for 158 yards on 37 carries (4.3 avg.), the Bucs did a fairly good job of containing running back Matt Forte and Co.. The rookie rusher carried the ball 27 times for 89 yards (3.3 avg.). His longest run went for 11 yards. Garrett Wolfe's 38-yard run on a fake punt inflated Chicago's rushing total as it pertains to Tampa Bay's defense.
Forte's lack of success via the ground game led to the Bears offense converting just 1-of-7 third downs in the first half and 4-of-15 (27 percent) for the game. That's an impressive feat seeing as Chicago entered Sunday's game converting 51 percent of its third down attempts. Those third down stops proved to be huge, especially in the first half, where the Bears started drives at the Bucs' 15- and 38-yard line and came away with just three points.
Near the end of the first quarter, defensive end Kevin Carter got his arms up and batted down a pass from quarterback Kyle Orton. In the middle of the second quarter, Carter caused more havoc by sacking Orton after DT Ryan Sims pressured Orton and forced him up in the pocket. Carter came up big again in overtime when he pressured Orton and forced one of his passes to fall short of the receiver to set up a third-and-7 play. Carter recorded five tackles, one sack and two quarterback hurries on Sunday.
One of the biggest plays of the game came courtesy of second-year defensive end Gaines Adams. Midway through the second quarter on a second-and-19 play, Orton dropped back and attempted to throw a screen pass to tight end Desmond Clark. But Adams read the play well and sat in front of the pass, which allowed him to intercept it. Not only did he intercept it, Adams returned the ball 49 yards down the left sideline and dove into the end zone for a touchdown. He finished the game with one tackle, one interception and one touchdown, the first of his pro career.
Defensive end Greg White also had a strong outing vs. Chicago. Near the end of the first quarter on a second down play, White sacked Orton after DL Jimmy Wilkerson forced Orton to step up in the pocket. In the second quarter, White made a nice open field tackle. White notched three tackles and a sack vs. the Bears.
Bucs defensive tackles Jovan Haye and Chris Hovan quietly recorded six tackles apiece vs. the Bears.
LINEBACKERS Forte did most of his damage in the passing game, catching seven passes for 66 yards, including a 6-yard touchdown in the third quarter that capped off an eight-play, 86-yard drive. Forte also did quite a bit of damage in the first quarter on a 10-play, 52-yard drive. However, Bucs LB Cato June made a key tackle for a 3-yard loss on Forte. That forced the Bears to settle for a 42-yard field goal, which put them up 6-0. June also came up big late in the second quarter when he defended a pass from Orton intended for tight end Greg Olson on a third-and-1 play. June finished the game with six tackles.
Bucs middle linebacker Barrett Ruud made one of the biggest plays of the game at the beginning of the second quarter. Chicago started its drive at Tampa Bay's 38-yard line due to wide receiver Maurice Stovall's fumble. Orton threw a deep pass down the right sideline intended for Forte. Although he didn't turn around for the ball, Ruud instinctively put his hand out and hit the ball out of Forte's hands, onto Ruud's knees and pulled it up into his hands and arms for the interception as he fell in the end zone. Late in the fourth quarter, Ruud came up big again when he drilled a scrambling Orton on a third-and-2 play to stop him short of the first down marker at the two-minute warning, which allowed the Bucs offense to get the ball back and eventually drive for the tying touchdown. Ruud notched a team-high seven tackles, one interception and two passes defensed.
Bucs weakside linebacker Derrick Brooks played with a hamstring ailment for the second straight week. He notched four tackles. Rookie LB Geno Hayes also recorded two tackles.
SECONDARY Bears quarterback Kyle Orton completed 22-of-34 (64.7 percent) of his passes for a career-high 268 yards and tossed two touchdowns and two interceptions.
Orton struggled in the first half, throwing two interceptions. However, he found a primary target in wide receiver Brandon Lloyd, who hauled in six passes for 124 yards and one touchdown. All of Lloyd's production came in the second half.
Bucs cornerback Ronde Barber was involved in several of Lloyd's plays, but he got of to a great start in the first quarter on a third-and-10 play when he blitzed and sacked Orton to force the Bears to kick a field goal after their drive started at the Bucs' 15-yard line. In the beginning of the second quarter, Barber made a great open field tackle on Forte on a third down play to stop him short of the marker and force a punt.
Things started to unravel for Tampa Bay's secondary late in the third quarter when Barber missed a tackle on Lloyd near the sideline, which resulted in a 21-yard gain. A few plays later, Orton hit Lloyd down the left seam and Lloyd made a great catch down to the Bucs' 5-yard line. One play later, Orton hit Forte in the end zone after he had gotten by safety Sabby Piscitelli for a 6-yard touchdown. That score put the Bears up 15-14 and they decided to go for two. Orton threw a fade to the left corner of the end zone to Lloyd, who adjusted to the underthrown ball to get by Barber for the score, which made it 17-14 in favor of the Bears. Midway through the fourth quarter, Orton used a pump fake to get Lloyd open down the left sideline for a touchdown vs. Barber, which put the Bears up 24-14 over the Bucs.
Barber, who finished the game with six tackles and one sack, wasn't Lloyd's only victim. Bucs second-year CB Marcus Hamilton, who was playing in place of suspended CB Elbert Mack, got off to a good start when he broke up a pass attempt on third-and-5 to start the third quarter. He followed that play up with a pass breakup down the left sideline on a deep ball intended for WR Marty Booker. But on third-and-5 early in the fourth quarter, Orton hit Lloyd after Hamilton slipped and fell to leave him open for a 25-yard gain. The Bears wound up settling for a 49-yard field goal. In overtime on a third down play, Orton hit Lloyd again for a 24-yard gain with Hamilton trailing on the crossing route. Hamilton finished the game with one tackle.
Safety Jermaine Phillips broke up a pass intended for TE Desmond Clark near the end zone on the first drive of the game. The Bears settled for a field goal. On the next series, a huge hole was opened up for Forte on the right side, but Phillips showed great backside pursuit and made the tackle to hold Forte to a 4-yard gain. Phillips and Tanard Jackson each recorded four tackles while Piscitelli notched three of his own. Bucs CB Phillip Buchanon recorded three tackles.
SPECIAL TEAMS Tampa Bay received a big break before Sunday's game even kicked off as Chicago return specialist Devin Hester was ruled out of the contest with a rib injury. The Bears still had some success returning kickoffs with Danieal Manning, who averaged 27 yards per return, including a 46-yarder in the first quarter that would have been a touchdown had it not been for wide receiver Maurice Stovall's TD-saving tackle.
Speaking of the return game, Tampa Bay's was ineffective behind rookie wide receiver Dexter Jackson, who continues to slide instead of hitting holes at full speed. That attitude prompted the Bucs to replace Jackson with WR Michael Clayton, who averaged 23 yards per kickoff return on three attempts. Jackson averaged just 0.3 yards per punt return and 20 yards per kickoff return. Clayton had a 37-yard kickoff return called back for a holding call on linebacker Adam Hayward in the first half. Jackson's longest punt return went for just 4 yards. However, he did come up big in the third quarter when the Bears executed a fake punt by direct snapping the ball to Garrett Wolfe, who gained 37 yards before Jackson made the TD-saving tackle at the Bucs' 18-yard line.
Kicker Matt Bryant came up huge for Tampa Bay on Sunday. He nailed two field goals in the second half. His first was a 35-yarder that capped off a 12-play, 63-yard drive in the fourth quarter. Bryant's second field goal came in overtime. His 21-yarder capped off a 12-play, 90-yard drive and won the game in overtime, 27-24. Bryant's kickoffs were also excellent.
Safety Will Allen was called for a hold on one of Clayton's kickoff returns late in the third quarter. Clayton appeared to fumble the football on the play, but was ruled down.
Fullback Byron Storer was called for a personal foul late hit out of bounds on a kickoff with no time remaining in regulation. That extended the fourth quarter for one play, but the Bears kneeled the ball to take it into overtime.
Punter Josh Bidwell averaged 44.7 yards on six attempts. He pinned one of those inside the 20-yard line.
COACHING Tampa Bay defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin came in with an excellent game plan that was executed to near perfection in the first half. The Bucs held the Bears offense to 146 yards and just 1-of-7 on third down attempts in the first two quarters of the game. Tampa Bay also came up with two interceptions, one by linebacker Barrett Ruud that prevented a touchdown and one by defensive end Gaines Adams that resulted in a touchdown. However, Kiffin and Co. didn't seem to have an immediate answer for the Kyle Orton-to-Brandon Lloyd connection, which resulted in six catches for 124 yards and one touchdown in the second half. All six of Lloyd's receptions came in the third and fourth quarter. Although it allowed over 400 yards of offense on Sunday, Tampa Bay's defense made its fair share of plays and helped to keep the game close in the first half when the Bucs offense was struggling to move the football.
Bucs quarterback Brian Griese threw three interceptions vs. the Bears on Sunday, but is it any wonder? Tampa Bay rushed the ball just 17 times and threw it 67 en route to its 27-24 win over Chicago. The Bucs had little success running the football, averaging just 2.8 yards per carry. Tampa Bay's longest run came in the first half courtesy of RB Warrick Dunn, who gained 18 yards, which played a big role in the drive that later resulted in a touchdown. Gruden's best play calls of the game came on Tampa Bay's final three scoring drives, which consisted of 63, 79 and 90 yards, respectively. The end result saw the Bucs generate 454 yards in total offense and erase a 10-point Bears lead vs. a very good defense.
Special teams coordinator Richard Bisaccia and Gruden need to seriously think about replacing rookie wide receiver Dexter Jackson, a 2008 second-round pick, on punts and kickoffs. He has not demonstrated the full-speed, straight-ahead mentality that is needed to be an effective return man in the NFL. To their credit, Jackson was benched in kickoffs in favor of WR Michael Clayton.