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Bucs at Bears: Five keys to victory

Tampa Bay will have its hands full against the top pass rush in the league.

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Ryan Fitzpatrick was sacked three times a week ago. Tampa Bay has to protect its quarterback better in week four.
Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

Tampa Bay struggled in multiple facets of the game during its loss to Pittsburgh on Monday night. The Buccaneers committed four turnovers, lost out on a punt return touchdown due to a hold, and allowed Pittsburgh to ice the game with a poor final drive on defense.

That being said, the Bucs don’t have any time to hold their heads as they enter a tilt with a Chicago Bears team that boasts one of the top defenses in the NFL. On the other side of the ball, Tampa Bay’s defense may finally be able to find a rhythm against a struggling Bears offense after getting diced up by Ben Roethlisberger last week.

Once again, this game will come down to Ryan Fitzpatrick’s performance. Despite a 400+ yard performance a week ago, Fitzpatrick tossed three crucial interceptions in the first half that cost Tampa Bay points. He can’t afford to do that again in week four, or else it might be Jameis Winston time.

1. Limiting turnovers

As previously mentioned, Tampa Bay turned the ball over four times during its loss to Pittsburgh. And though one of the turnovers was an intercepted pass off of a deflection, the Buccaneers have to take better care of the football against Chicago.

The Bears have already proven themselves as a team that gets after the football. Chicago is ranked No. 3 in the league with five interceptions and No. 8 with two fumble recoveries.

The Bucs have to harp on ball security heading into a battle against the No. 5 ranked defense in the NFL.

2. Slowing down the Chicago pass-rush

The Bears were already good at getting to the quarterback a year ago and they’ve only improved in that area after adding arguably the top pass-rusher in the league.

Khalil Mack currently leads the team with four sacks but he’s far from the only threat on this Chicago roster. Defensive tackle Akiem Hicks and linebacker Danny Trevathan both have notched two sacks each while six other players across the roster have at least one sack.

On the other side, Tampa Bay’s offense wasn’t very good at protecting Fitzpatrick against Pittsburgh. After allowing just two sacks over the first two games of the season, the Buccaneers gave up three to the Steelers.

They’ll have to be more efficient with their blocking against Chicago or the Bears will make it a long day for the Tampa Bay offense.

3. Flustering Mitchell Trubisky

Likewise, a Buccaneers defense that has struggled against the pass has to take advantage of one of the worst offenses in the league. Chicago is ranked No. 26 in total offense and has allowed nine sacks in three games.

The Bears have been very bad through the air and they’ll like try to use the run to open up the passing game. Unfortunately for Chicago, Tampa Bay is ranked No. 2 in rushing defense. That’s one of the few areas this defense has looked competent in so far.

If the Buccaneers can force the Bears to rely on the pass, they can push Mitchell Trubisky into questionable throws. He’s tossed three interceptions to two touchdowns in three games.

Gerald McCoy and Jason Pierre-Paul will be two of the playmakers to watch on the defensive front. It’ll also be interesting to see how Vita Vea plays in his debut.

4. Scoring touchdowns in the red zone

Tampa Bay lost by three points in week three to the Steelers. In the loss, the Buccaneers were forced into field goals during two drives that stalled inside Pittsburgh’s ten-yard line. Touchdowns on those possessions could’ve changed the entire dynamic of the game.

The first drive was near the end of the first half. The Buccaneers had a first and goal at the five-yard line before a short run and two incomplete passes made them have to settle for a field goal.

The second drive might’ve been even more frustrating. Tampa Bay started the second half with the ball and methodically moved downfield, reaching first and goal at the Steelers six-yard line. Once again, the Bucs stalled. A sack and two incomplete passes forced them into another field goal attempt.

The final result of the drive? 14 plays for 65 yards that took up a whopping 7:53 of the third quarter and netted just three points.

Tampa Bay was 2/5 in the red zone a week ago. That has to change against Chicago.

5. Finding more balance on offense

Though the Buccaneers couldn’t really find much rhythm a week ago on the ground due to being behind for most of the game, the matchup with Chicago will give them more of a chance to work out the kinks in the running game.

Tampa Bay has averaged just 72.7 yards per game on three yards per carry over the first few weeks of the 2018 season. It would make this offense just that more explosive if the Bucs could find consistency on the ground.

It’ll be tough against a Bears defense that has allowed just 65.3 yards per game, but the Buccaneers offensive line should be up for a challenge after struggling to pave holes in the running game through three games.