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Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Chicago Bears Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Buccaneers at Bears recap: Ugly performance results in 20-19 loss

Tampa Bay drops to 3-2 after what was an embarrassingly ugly loss to Chicago on Thursday Night Football.

After a 38-31 home victory over the Chargers on Sunday got them to 3-1, the Buccaneers didn’t have much time before turning the page to a Thursday Night Football matchup in Chicago against the Bears.

Tampa Bay came into its first primetime game of the season dealing with plenty of injuries. Chris Godwin, Justin Watson and LeSean McCoy were both ruled out ahead of Thursday, plus it was confirmed early in the week that O.J. Howard would be out for the rest of the season with an Achilles injury. Even the guys that played were banged-up, as Leonard Fournette, Mike Evans and Scotty Miller both had injury designations this week before ultimately suiting up. Fournette was even listed as doubtful before ultimately being active. So, with the injury bug hitting them pretty hard, would the short-handed Bucs be up to the task of playing in the spotlight for the first time this season—and on the road, at that?

The Bears came in with a 3-1 record, though they didn’t come by those three victories very easily. Comeback wins against the Lions (27-23) and Falcons (30-26), as well as a narrow 17-13 win over the Saquon Barkley-less Giants very well could have been flipped to losses. Nonetheless, Chicago entered Thursday night looking to avenge its first loss of the season—a 19-11 defeat at the hands of the Colts on Sunday—and it did so with Nick Foles under center after Mitch Trubisky’s benching in Week 3. Foles, of course, beat Tom Brady’s Patriots in Super Bowl LII a couple of years ago when he was with the Eagles, so the Foles vs. Brady storyline was a popular one heading into this game, despite the fact that both quarterbacks are with different teams this time around.

Even though they were the visitors at Soldier Field on a short week, the Bucs were three-point favorites, with ESPN’s FPI giving them a 65.6% chance to win.

The game started decently well for the Bucs, who went up 10-0 in the first quarter. They led 13-0 with two minutes to go in the first half, only to allow 14 straight points to head into the locker room down by one. The second half was an ugly one for both teams, as they traded field goals before Chicago ultimately got the game-winner with 1:13 to go. The ugly, embarrassing loss dropped Tampa Bay to 3-2, while Chicago picked up its fourth unimpressive win of the year, getting to 4-1.

Game Recap

Chicago won the opening coin toss and deferred, putting the ball in the hands of Tom Brady and the Buccaneer offense. After a touchback, the unit got to work. Ronald Jones II took his first carry of the game for four yards before an incomplete pass set up a 3rd & 6. With Mike Evans off on the sideline, Brady connected with Jaydon Mickens for 11 yards and a first down. A couple of plays later, Brady found Rob Gronkowski for a 13-yard gain, but a hold on Ryan Jensen eventually set things back to a 1st & 20. Jones picked up 11 yards on a first-down run to get the Bucs across midfield, then rookie Tyler Johnson came up with his first career catch, a 17-yarder to the Bears’ 25-yard line. A short while later, however, a Tanner Hudson drop forced a 39-yard field goal by Ryan Succop. After an 11-play, 54-yard drive that lasted 5:12, the Bucs led 3-0.

On the Bears’ first possession of the game, they picked up a quick first down with a throw from Nick Foles to Darnell Mooney, but the defense held strong from there, forcing a punt that was caught by Mickens at the Tampa Bay 15-yard line. The Bucs went just about nowhere on their second drive, though, so Bradley Pinion punted it right back to Chicago. He did a great job flipping the field, though, delivering a 56-yarder that was downed at the Bears’ 25.

The Bears’ second drive started with a bang, as Foles hit Allen Robinson for a 24-yard gain to midfield. A couple of plays later, Foles avoided some pressure and found Jimmy Graham for 13 yards to Tampa Bay’s 36. But the Buccaneer defense came up with a huge play to turn the tide, with a pass going off of Robinson’s hands before Carlton Davis snatched it away and returned it 34 yards to midfield. It was Davis’ third interception in three games.

The Bucs quickly got into scoring range after the turnover, with Jones picking up six yards prior to a 35-yard catch by Johnson, who was excellent after the catch.

That got the ball to Chicago’s 9 and two plays later, Brady found Jones for what looked like a touchdown. It was initially ruled an incomplete pass, but a Bruce Arians challenge led to the officials calling it a catch. But despite the fact that Jones had rolled into the end zone untouched, they ruled him down at the 2, saying the play had been blown dead as a result of the incompletion. Regardless, Brady found Evans for a touchdown on the next play and the PAT made it a 10-0 first-quarter lead for the Bucs.

Cordarrelle Patterson took the ensuing kickoff back to Chicago’s 38, then the first quarter came to an end two plays later with Tampa Bay on top by a score of 10-0.

Starting the second quarter with a 1st & 10, the Bears nearly struck for a big play, with Mooney getting wide open down the field... only for Foles to miss him badly. A short run by David Montgomery set up a 3rd & 6, but not before Chicago’s first timeout. Coming out of the timeout, Foles fired for Robinson, but Antoine Winfield Jr. swatted it away to force another Bears punt. It was excellent coverage from the rookie, and it continued to be an early disaster for the Bears offense. The punt was caught by Mickens at the 10, giving the Buccaneer offense a long field to deal with.

Tampa Bay quickly went three-and-out on its next drive, with Johnson coming up just short on 3rd & 10. Surprisingly, the Bucs called timeout and went for it on 4th & 1 at their own 19, and Brady picked up the first down with a keeper. It was a gutsy call by Arians, but it paid off. The drive kept going from there, with a first-down catch by Tanner Hudson and a defensive facemask getting added to the end of that. A second false start penalty on Donovan Smith set Tampa Bay back, but a 10-yard pass to Cameron Brate and an eight-yard run by Jones got a first down into Chicago territory. A defensive pass interference penalty in coverage against Cyril Grayson gave the Bucs a free 16 yards, but the drive stalled from there, with Brady missing Evans on third down. That led to a 35-yard field goal by Succop, extending the visitors’ lead to 13-0 with 7:03 left in the first half.

On the Bears’ next possession, Foles completed a couple of easy throws for a first down before a pass to Montgomery behind the line of scrimmage led to a loss of six. The Bucs ended up forcing a 3rd & 12, but a Shaquil Barrett neutral-zone infraction made the third down more manageable. It looked like it should’ve been a false start, but it went in favor of the Bears and they took advantage by beating the third-down blitz for a first down to the Bucs’ 44. A short run by Patterson and a 13-yard pass to Robinson brought the ball to the Tampa Bay 28 before a 25-yard pass to Patterson brought us to the two-minute warning.

With the ball at the 3 after the two-minute warning, Montgomery punched it in for the Bears’ first rushing score of the season—and their first touchdown of the game. With the PAT, the Bucs’ lead was down to 13-7 with 1:48 left in the half.

Tampa Bay had 1:48 to work with before halftime, and it needed points considering Chicago was set to receive the opening kickoff of the second half. Instead, things went horribly wrong. Two straight incompletions led to a 3rd & 10, then a catch by Ke’Shawn Vaughn turned into a fumble with a big hit. It was reviewed and rightfully called a clean hit, but it was said to be an incomplete pass. Then, the officials went and reviewed it to see if it was a catch and a fumble. They eventually ruled that it was, giving the Bears possession deep in Tampa Bay territory. Oh, and while the officiating crew was getting its air time, they missed a roughing-the-passer call, with a defender taking Brady’s legs well after he released the ball.

After the turnover, it took just a few plays for the Bears to take the lead. A Foles-to-Graham connection from 12 yards out and the PAT made it 14-13 Chicago with 36 seconds to go before halftime. For some unearthly reason, the first call of the next drive was a run, and that drive ended up going nowhere. The Bears took their 14-13 lead into the locker room.

A 30-yard return by Patterson on the opening kickoff of the second half gave the Bears decent field position to work with, but a holding penalty killed their drive before it could really get going. A nine-yard pass to Anthony Miller on 3rd & 17 forced a punt, giving the Bucs a big stop to open the second half. Despite falling down, Mickens picked up a 12-yard return on the punt, setting the offense up at its own 32 for its first drive of the half. The officials missed a pretty obvious facemask call on the Bears there, too.

On the first play of Tampa Bay’s next drive, Jones busted up the middle and cut for a gain of 37 yards to the Bears’ 31.

However, the drive died immediately after that. Khalil Mack beat Tristan Wirfs on 1st & 10 for a sack of Brady, then Gronkowski was called for an illegal block to push it to 2nd & 27 for the Bucs. A couple of completions to Evans got some yards back, setting up a 46-yard field goal attempt for Succop. He delivered, giving the Bucs a 16-14 lead with 9:04 left in the third quarter.

The Buccaneer defense grabbed some momentum on the next drive, courtesy of Vita Vea. The big man stopped a run for just one yard on first down before getting to Foles for a sack on second down. On third down, Jason Pierre-Paul was held while pressuring Foles, but the Bucs declined after the ball fell incomplete. On the punt, the Bears were called for another penalty, which gave Tampa Bay possession at midfield.

The offense’s next drive was by far the ugliest of the year. A sack on second down forced a 3rd & 15. On third down, Brady escaped pressure and found Brate for a 20-yard gain to Chicago’s 35-yard line, but that was the end of the progress. Tampa Bay kept shooting itself in the foot, with a Wirfs holding call and an Evans pass interference penalty pushing the Bucs back to 1st & 30. On the next play, Brady was sacked again, though holding on Smith and unnecessary roughness on Mack offset for another 1st & 30.

The penalties continued to pile up from there, with a personal foul on Jensen pushing the ball even further back. And just for good measure, Alex Cappa was called for holding on Brady’s third-down incompletion. Ugly, pathetic work from the offensive line on that possession.

After a 40-yard punt by Pinion was caught at the 12, Chicago’s offense got back to work. An eight-yard pass from Foles to Graham and then three straight catches by Robinson got the ball to the 43. A four-yard run by Montgomery then brought about the end of the third quarter, with the Bucs leading 16-14.

The Bucs forced a 3rd & 2 when the game resumed, but defensive pass interference on Davis extended the drive. Chicago took a couple more plays to get to the 15-yard line, but Pierre-Paul came through with a big sack to push the ball back to the 32. He forced a fumble on the sack too, but the Bears recovered. A short run and a false start led to a 3rd & 29, but a short pass set up a 47-yard field goal by former Buc Cairo Santos. Bears, 17-16 with 10:34 to go.

A decent return from Mickens set the Buccaneer offense up at their 27-yard line, trailing by one with plenty of time to go. They went back to Jones on the first play of the drive, and he picked up 10 yards. That carry took him over 100 yards for the second straight week, marking the first time he’s done that in his career. Gronkowski drew a pass interference on the next play, getting the Bucs across midfield. The big tight end then caught a short pass and took it 23 yards to Chicago’s 27, putting the offense in scoring range.

Jones picked up two yards, then a nine-yard gain got the Bucs to the 16. But Mack struck again, sacking Brady after beating Smith on the left side. Tampa Bay nearly picked up a first down on 3rd & 17, with Gronkowski coming up juuuust short. That led to a 25-yard field goal by Succop, which put the Bucs on top, 19-17, with 4:49 to go.

On the first play of Chicago’s next drive, Jamel Dean nearly had a game-sealing pick six, but he had to settle for a pass breakup instead. William Gholston continued his strong game on the next play, though, getting through to sack Foles for a loss of nine. The defense had a chance to get off the field on third-and-long, but an absolutely awful roughing the passer call on Barrett inexplicably extended the drive. It was bad.

Tampa Bay’s defense wasn’t fazed, though, getting off the field after that anyway. Dean had another pass breakup and Ndamukong Suh came up with a third-down pressure. The Bears elected to punt, holding on to three timeouts with under three minutes left.

After a loss by Jones on first down at the 16, Chicago took its first timeout. The Bucs then helped the Bears out, calling back-to-back passing plays—both incomplete—to give the ball back. The Bears only had to use one timeout. Only 16 seconds ticked off the clock, and the punt wasn’t a great one—Chicago started its next possession at its own 48, needing only a field goal with two timeouts and the two-minute warning to work with.

Montgomery got one yard on first down, taking the clock down to the two-minute warning with the ball at the Chicago 49.

After the break, Foles threw for Graham, but Dean came through with another breakup to force a 3rd & 9. The Bears converted, though, with Foles hitting Miller for a gain of 10 to Tampa Bay’s 41. Vea and Devin White dropped Montgomery for a loss on the next play, but Vea was injured. He was in a lot of pain and had to be carted to the locker room. And to make things worse, it forced a timeout by the Bucs with 1:42 left.

The next play essentially sealed it, with Foles hitting Montgomery for a 17-yard gain to the Bucs’ 25. The Bears continued to run the clock down, but an incomplete pass kept some time on the clock. Eventually, Santos booted a 38-yard field goal to give the Bears a 20-19 lead with 1:13 to go.

Brady and the offense took the field at their 25 with no timeouts, needing a field goal to win the game. Brady and Evans linked up for a gain of 12 yards to the 37 on first down before an incompletion with 1:01 to go. The next play drained way too much clock, as Brady had to check down to Vaughn. That took the clock down to under 45 seconds, then an incompletion forced 4th & 5 with 38 seconds to go. An incompletion on the next play ended the game, though for some reason Brady thought it was third down. It wasn’t. The Bears took over and ran out the clock to finish off a 20-19 win, handing Tampa Bay a truly embarrassing loss.

Quick Notes & Stats

  • The Bucs dominated time of possession in the first half, holding the ball for 17 of 30 minutes. They led 13-0 at the two-minute warning, only to trail 14-13 at halftime.
  • Tampa Bay held Chicago to just 35 rushing yards. That marked the third straight game for the Buccaneer defense holding the opponent under 50 yards—a new franchise record.
  • The Bucs outgained the Bears 339-243, but failing to score touchdowns in the red zone cost them.
  • Tom Brady didn’t have his best game, completing just 25 of his 41 passes for 253 yards and a touchdown.
  • Tyler Johnson was the Bucs’ leading receiver in the first half, catching four passes for 61 yards. The problem? He was shut out in the second half and still finished as the team’s leading receiver.
  • Ronald Jones II averaged 5.6 yards per carry in the first half, totaling 56 yards on 11 carries. He ended up rushing for 106 yards on 17 carries, giving him his second straight 100-yard rushing game.
  • Tampa Bay’s offensive line allowed three sacks and eight quarterback hits in the game.
  • William Gholston was just about the only Buccaneer getting to the quarterback in the first half. He registered the team’s only two quarterback hits in the first 30 minutes. He ended up picking up a sack in the second half as well.
  • Jason Pierre-Paul and Vita Vea also added sacks in the second half.
  • Carlton Davis’ first-half interception marked his third pick in the last three games.
  • Jamel Dean finished the game with four passes defended.
  • Tampa Bay was penalized 11 times for 109 yards.

The Buccaneers (3-2) return to the field next Sunday (Oct. 18), hosting the Green Bay Packers (4-0) at Raymond James Stadium. Kickoff is set for 4:25 p.m.

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