The Chicago Bears' offense only gained 68 yards in the first half, but the third quarter was a different story as Matt Forte rushed for two touchdowns and Alshon Jeffery hauled in a touchdown reception to give the team a 21-13 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Forte rushed for 89 yards on the day and hauled in five passes to complete his day. Jay Cutler was relatively quiet on offense, but he did throw for 130 yards and a touchdown as the Bears won their second consecutive game.
The Bears started out the game with the football, but their first quarter offensive struggles continued as a Brandon Marshall false start penalty helped set up a three-and-out on the opening possession.
Defensively, the Bears didn’t look much better in the early going, as Josh McCown found Doug Martin and Vincent Jackson open for first down passes. The defensive line finally stepped up after that, with Cornelius Washington blowing up a second down run with an excellent swim move inside and Stephen Paea hitting McCown as he released a pass, allowing Chris Conte to intercept the floating ball.
It appeared that the Bears were going to go three-and-out once again on their second drive, but they were bailed out as the Buccaneers were flagged for roughing the kicker. Even that penalty wasn’t enough to kick start the Bears, as Cutler was blasted by Gerald McCoy thanks to some poor blocking from Brian de la Puente. The ball ended up coming loose, and the Buccaneers recovered in Bears’ territory.
As the second quarter got underway, the Buccaneers’ offense finally broke through, and it was their star wide receiver that was able to do it. Mike Evans juked Kyle Fuller at the line of scrimmage off the snap, and he cruised wide open into the end zone to catch a touchdown pass from McCown to make it 7-0 early in the frame.
The Bears and Buccaneers exchanged three and outs on their next two possessions, and when Chicago got the ball back about halfway through the second quarter, they moved it down the field a bit thanks to Marquess Wilson and Dante Rosario each making nice catches. An illegal block in the back by Alshon Jeffery halted the momentum however, and after Forte was stopped well short of a first down, Robbie Gould’s 54-yard field goal attempt bounced off the upright to keep the Buccaneers ahead by seven.
The offensive woes for both teams continued as the corner wound down, but on their final possession of the first half, the Bucs were able to penetrate deep into Chicago territory. Jackson hauled in a catch on third and 23 to extend the drive, and even though the Bears did stop them short of a first down, Patrick Murray booted through an easy field goal to make it a 10-0 game as the half came to an end.
After the Buccaneers were forced to punt the ball away to start the third quarter, the Bears’ offense finally came to life and was able to get on the board. Big completions to Marshall and Martellus Bennett set up a first and goal for Chicago, and on the third and goal play Jeffery got separation in the end zone and hauled in a bullet pass from Cutler to make it a 10-7 contest.
The Bears’ defense came to life after that touchdown, with Paea blasting McCown with a hit to force another punt. Unfortunately for them, the team’s offense wasn’t able to respond to the gift, and they too went three-and-out on their next possession to allow Tampa to hold onto their lead.
In spite of this setback, the defensive line once again came up big for the Bears and gave the offense prime field position. David Bass chased down McCown on a roll out to the left side and stripped the ball out, and Christian Jones fell on it. On the first play from scrimmage, Forte used a great block from Jeffery to find a seam and rush into the end zone, giving the Bears their first lead of the day at 14-10.
McCown continued his struggles on the first play of the next Tampa possession, throwing an interception into the waiting arms of Ryan Mundy. Four straight runs by Forte yielded positive results, and on third and goal he dove in over the goal line to give Chicago a 21-10 lead with just three minutes remaining in the third quarter.
The Buccaneers’ offense finally came back to life after the quick Chicago scores, with McCown completing three straight passes for first downs. He ended up finding Jackson for a fourth, but the receiver had the ball punched out of his arms by Demontre Hurst, and Tim Jennings recovered the fumble to give Chicago their fourth forced turnover of the game late in the third quarter.
Both teams exchanged unsuccessful drives as the fourth quarter got underway, but the Bears were able to finally start eating away some clock as they ran the ball effectively. On a third and six play they opted for a passing play however, and Cutler’s toss fell incomplete and forced Pat O’Donnell to come out and punt the ball away once again.
McCown’s struggles were nowhere to be found as Tampa started out their next possession, and he made some key throws to move them down the field. None were bigger than a long pass on third down that Jackson was able to haul in for a first down, and even though Washington and Paea each picked up sacks on the next two plays, the Bucs still got a field goal for their troubles as Murray booted it through the uprights to make it a 21-13 game with just under five minutes left in the game.
The Bears went three-and-out on their next drive, but to make things worse they committed a false start penalty on the ensuing punt and then O’Donnell shanked the kick, putting it out of bounds at the 45-yard line. Their defense stood tall once again however, as Will Sutton made a huge stop on a 4th-and-1 quarterback sneak attempt by McCown to stop the drive.
With just 20 seconds left, the Bears did have to punt the ball back to the Buccaneers one more time, but the visitors couldn’t muster a comeback as they dropped to 2-9 and gave the Bears their second consecutive win.
The Bears won’t have much time to savor this victory as they will have to prepare for a Thanksgiving showdown with the Detroit Lions on Thursday morning.