Defense carries surging Bears to seventh straight win
By Larry Mayer
November 27, 2005
TAMPA - After watching another dominant performance by the Bears' No. 1-ranked defense Sunday against the Buccaneers, coach Lovie Smith is convinced that his red-hot team is capable of having a special season.
The unit, which leads the NFL in total yards and points allowed, generated a key takeaway that set up the Bears' only touchdown and produced four more sacks in an impressive 13-10 victory at Raymond James Stadium.
Adewale Ogunleye fights off a blocker to sack Buccaneers quarterback Chris Simms during the Bears' 13-10 victory Sunday in Tampa.
"How far can it carry us? Hopefully all the way," Smith said about the defense. "You know if you don't let a team score, you have a heck of a chance of winning.
"I know that's simple, but that's kind of how it is. We play good defense, we run the football and we try not to make a lot of mistakes. That's a pretty good formula for success."
In winning their seventh straight in the same season for the first time since 1986, the surging Bears (8-3) maintained their two-game lead atop the NFC North over the Minnesota Vikings (6-5), who defeated the Cleveland Browns 24-12 Sunday at the Metrodome.
The Bears toppled an NFC South leader for the second straight week, but not before surviving a late scare. The Buccaneers (7-4) trailed 13-3 entering the fourth quarter but closed the gap to 13-10 on fullback Mike Alstott's 2-yard touchdown run with 7:00 remaining.
Tampa Bay then marched to the Chicago 11 on its next possession. But Matt Bryant pushed a 29-yard field goal attempt barely wide to the right with 2:47 left, enabling the Bears to escape.
Alex Brown led the defensive charge with two sacks of Chris Simms, a forced fumble that led to a touchdown and four pass breakups. The 2002 fourth-round pick would have had a third sack, but Simms managed to unload the ball and was penalized for intentional grounding.
"I'm from Florida and I grew up a Tampa fan, so it's huge to come down here and get a victory," Brown said. "We knew it was going to be tough. We knew it was going to be one of those games where every point counted and every yard counted and we won by two or three inches because if the (kick) goes left two or three inches, they make the field goal."
The Bears' defense wasted little time making an impact Sunday, picking up where it had left off last weekend against Carolina on Tampa Bay's third play from scrimmage.
After Brad Maynard had pinned the Buccaneers at their own 7-yard line with a 48-yard punt, Brown swatted the ball out of Simms' hand on third-and-eight near the goal line. Defensive tackle Tommie Harris recovered the fumble at the 1.
On the next play, Kyle Orton's 1-yard touchdown pass to tight end John Gilmore after a play-action fake gave the Bears a 7-0 lead with 11:50 remaining in the first quarter.
Running back Thomas Jones rushed for 72 yards on 25 carries in Sunday's win over the Buccaneers.
"When you're rushing the passer and you get to him, I go for the ball most of the time," said Brown, who registered two sacks for the second straight game. "I want the ball out.
"Last week I knocked it out twice, but we didn't (recover) one. This week I knocked it out and we got it and we were able to punch it in for seven (points)."
Gilmore's first career TD was his first catch of the season and just his second reception in the last three seasons. It came after the Bears forced a turnover on their opponent's first possession for the second straight game and the fifth time this season, tops in the NFL.
"It was just how (the coaches) drew it up," Gilmore said. "They told us it was going to go down just like that and that's how it happened. I came off the ball, the safety stepped up and (Orton) just put it out there. It looked just like practice."
Bryant's 27-yard field goal drew Tampa Bay to within 7-3 with 2:20 left in the first quarter. The kick came after speedy receiver Joey Galloway beat cornerback Charles Tillman for a 39-yard reception deep down the right sideline to the Chicago 11.
Bobby Wade, who lost three fumbles two weeks ago in a win over the 49ers, was benched in favor of Rashied Davis after fumbling away another punt return in the second quarter Sunday. A turnover was averted, however, as Israel Idonije recovered the loose ball at the Chicago 25.
Chicago advanced to the Tampa Bay 40, but Orton's overthrown pass intended for Justin Gage was intercepted by cornerback Brian Kelly at the 6 with 1:58 remaining in the second quarter.
After the Bears defense forced a three-and-out, Orton completed 4 of 8 passes for 33 yards to set up Robbie Gould's 25-yard field goal, which made it 10-3 with :17 left in the half.
Gould's 36-yard field goal extended the Bears' lead to 13-3 late in the third quarter. Thomas Jones set up the kick with a 19-yard run on second-and-16 and a 41-yard reception on a screen pass that beat a Tampa Bay blitz on third-and-eight.
Cornerback Charles Tillman plants Bucs running back Michael Pittman into the turf Sunday in Tampa.
"That was a tough catch," Orton said. "It looks like a real easy play, but when you're throwing the ball that short and that hard, you've got to kind of squeeze it in there because you're not blocking the defensive end. (Jones) made a real nice catch on it, turned up field and had two or three guys down the field blocking for him."
Orton completed 14 of 28 passes for 134 yards with 1 TD and 1 interception, while Jones rushed for 72 yards on 25 carries against the NFL's third-ranked defense.
"This is the best defense that we've played," Orton said. "They're the most athletic and the fastest defense that I've seen. They did a good job of mixing up stuff. I don't think they surprised me at all. But with their speed and athleticism, that's the first team that I've seen like that."
Simms completed 19 of 30 passes for 202 yards with an 82.9 quarterback rating and Cadillac Williams rushed for 84 yards on 20 carries for the Buccaneers.
After allowing their first TD in three games on Alstott's run, the Bears weathered Tampa Bay's comeback attempt. Fittingly, the defense sealed the win when Adewale Ogunleye sacked Simms after the Buccaneers had taken over at their own 29 with :15 left following a punt.
"With a 10-point lead, you're feeling pretty good with our defense," Smith said. "They got a little momentum going there at the end, but with the pressure we were able to get up front, Alex, Wale and the rest of the guys really came through for us. We feel good about the win."
GREEN BAY IS NEXT!!!
D-FENCE!! D-FENCE!! D-FENCE!!