Chicago beat down the Bucs. It wasn’t close. Ever. From the jump, the Bears had the upper hand and Tampa Bay was never able to bounce back after falling behind early.
Whether it was simple misfortune, or a series of subpar chess moves, this loss was sealed fairly early as you’ll see in our key plays from Week 4 of the 2018 NFL season.
The Play: Tarik Cohen gets going from the start.
That’s right. The very first play.
Cohen is the very talented and very versatile running back who, for some reason, coming into this weekend’s game had topped out at eight combined touches in one game.
Still, the Bucs defense had to be aware of this young player’s presence as he possesses the exact skill set to give the defense fits. Which he did.
On this first play of the game, the Bears get creative and put both of their primary running backs on the field with Jordan Howard lined up in the backfield and Cohen in the slot.
The pass to Cohen gets him in space and on the edge. The defense forces the speedster out of bounds after a five-yard gain, so it seems harmless.
However, as we saw during the remainder of the game, this was an early tell that Chicago was going to get Cohen involved early and often and that he was going to exploit a fairly soft edge presented by the Buccaneers defense.
The Play: Kwon forgets who he’s dealing with.
On this 2nd-and-1 play, linebacker Kwon Alexander is moving with Tarik Cohen from the snap. As the shifty back takes the hand-off he runs into a semi-circle of Bucs defenders.
When the Bears playmaker makes a stutter step to the inside, Alexander bites into the hole trying to make the stop for a loss which would have brought up a third down play with the game very much in reach and Chicago outside of field goal range.
Problem is, this is Tarik Cohen, and he does what Tarik Cohen does. He switches directions on a dime and the now overcommitted linebacker is stuck by a blocker while the running back hits the edge.
The loss of contain turns what could have been a stop for a loss or at worst a short gain, into a 19-yard run which not only put the Bears in field goal range, which eventually turned into a touchdown.
With Lavonte David eating a blocker, Alexander needed to be aware of who he was matched up with and the fact that he was the only guy left to contain the edge. Trust in his teammates inside who were both in position to make a play on a cutback, and prevent this from happening.
The Play: A touchdown - but wait! - there’s more!
This play is the one which really got me worried. Mitch Trubisky isn’t all that accurate on the outside parts of the field and the closer he gets to the sidelines the worse he gets.
Not this time though, as this pass was dropped in the perfect spot in the end zone. Far enough towards the boundary so M.J. Stewart couldn’t make a real play for the ball with just enough space for Allen Robinson to bring it in.
But, there’s more to this play, and it’s something which would creep up again and again as the game went on. Look at the left side of the field behind the play. See the Bears player all by himself at the 10-yard line or so?
That’s running back Jordan Howard. Not a huge receiving threat, but with 10-yards of nothing between himself and the end zone, the Bucs essentially gave this score away when three defenders carried Tarik Cohen into the end zone on a seam route.
I guess it’s good the defense was paying attention to him, but did they really need three guys on him from just outside the 20?
Miscommunications plagued the team all day, and while this one didn’t directly lead to the score, it was an early example of it.
The Play: Not just the defense.
Sunday’s loss to the Bears isn’t all on the defense. Not by a longshot. Here’s an example to show just how off the offense was as well. Specifically, quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Down two touchdowns, the Buccaneers moved into the red zone and had an opportunity to stop the bleeding a bit. The play call was perfect. Tight end O.J. Howard is split left against a much smaller and talent-deficient cornerback.
As the play progresses, Chris Godwin - who also came open during the play - draws the Bears safety away from Howard eliminating any help the smaller defender guarding Howard might hope for.
The Alabama tight end executes this perfectly. He eats the space between he and the cornerback and immediately posts him up in the end zone. Better yet, the defender has given up inside position, and is really in trouble!
All Fitzpatrick has to do is fire the ball to the left shoulder of Howard who is now facing him, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are back in the game with an impressive touchdown drive to finish the first quarter.
Not only does Fitzpatrick throw the ball towards Howard’s outside shoulder, he sails the ball over the head of the 6’6 tight end so badly that not even his outstretched arm can make even a little contact with the ball.
This mirrored some of the issues Fitzpatrick had against the Steelers the week prior, and was undoubtedly one of the contributing factors to Jameis Winston being inserted for the second half.
The Play: Speaking of which....
Ok, maybe this didn’t have a whole lot of impact on the outcome of this game. It was 38-3 when Winston made his return to the field, and with the way things were going it wasn’t likely a comeback was in the cards.
Still, after all that’s happened this off-season it was nice to see the franchise quarterback in waiting back on the field and slinging the ball around.
Just in time for a bye week and key divisional match-up with Atlanta in Week 6.