By Michelle Sabin, Sports Talk Florida
In Sunday’s game, the Buccaneers defense held the Bears to one field goal and allowed only two 3rd down conversions.The biggest impact in the game, however, were the five turnovers, including three interceptions and two forced fumbles recovered by the Buccaneers.
Head coach Bruce Arians said, “I thought it was a really good team win. I really loved the way our defense played in the second half. Offensively, we left about 20 points out there, but overall, it was a really good team win.”
On the opening drive of the game, Buccaneers safety Antoine Winfield, Jr. brought down quarterback Justin Fields for a 6-yard loss. It was Winfield’s first sack of the season and forced Fields to fumble the ball. The Bears recovered the fumble, but were not able to keep the drive alive.
Special teams took the field, and rookie receiver Jaelon Darden made his debut with a 43-yard punt return. With great field position, the Bucs were in the end zone in 2 plays, on a 2-yard rushing touchdown by running back Leonard Fournette.
Throughout the season, the Buccaneers have emphasized the “next man up” philosophy that every player must work and prepare as if they are going to be a starter. This has certainly paid off for the Bucs secondary, who has been repeatedly hit with injuries week after week.
Backup cornerbacks Dee Delaney and Pierre Desir were tasked with being the next men up and answered the call. In the first quarter, Delany was instrumental in the Bucs defense. On the Bears third possession, he made a tackle on first down, broke up the pass on second down, and intercepted Fields on third down.
Describing his first career interception, Delaney said, “Coaches told us to be on the receivers all week because it’s a running quarterback. He likes to scramble. I just [stayed] plastered to my man, and he just threw me one.”
At the end of the first quarter, linebacker Shaquil Barrett sacked Fields and forced a fumble recovered by Vita Vea. The Buccaneers got the ball back on the Chicago 35-yard line, and were in the end zone in 5 plays. Brady threw his 600th career touchdown on the 9-yard pass to Mike Evans.
Brady threw three incomplete passes, including attempts to Fournette and tight ends Cameron Brate and O.J. Howard. Kicker Ryan Succop’s 43-yard field goal attempt went wide right and was no good. The Bears kicker Cairo Santos had better luck on the other side of the field. Santos completed a 28-yard field goal to finally put Chicago on the board.
The Buccaneers answered on the next drive. After handoffs to Darden and Fournette, Brady made a short pass to receiver Chris Godwin to the Chicago 48-yard line. He then launched a 46-yard pass to Mike Evans taking them down to the 2-yard line, before connecting with Evans on the next play in the end zone. After another 8-yard touchdown pass to Evans to end the half, the Bucs led the Bears 35-3.
The third quarter was largely uneventful other than an interception by Bucs safety Jordan Whitehead. The pass was intended for receiver Darnell Mooney, but Whitehead snatched the ball and ran it back 17 yards. Tampa Bay’s offense was on the field for seven minutes, but were unable to get in the end zone. They made a final attempt on 4th and 1 with a run up the middle by back Ronald Jones. Bears linebacker Alec Ogletree made the stop and forced a fumble recovered by Chicago on the 2 yard line.
On the first play of the fourth quarter, Buccaneers cornerback Pierre Desir intercepted Fields and got the ball back. Brady completed a deep 34-yard pass to Godwin putting the Bucs on the 1-yard line. After a loss of 3 yards on Fournette’s run, Brady threw two incomplete passes to Brate and Fournette. They settled for a 22-yard field goal.
Overall, the Buccaneers more than made up for the loss in Chicago last year, and set a franchise record starting the season 6-1. However, they admittedly still have work to do and improvements to make.
Brady said, “The defense was amazing, they played great – obviously they played great. We got off to a fast start and then had a few goal line stands there that we just didn’t quite get it in, which is kind of going to leave a little bitter taste in our mouths. We left some meat on the bone.”
Godwin agreed adding, “We left a lot of things out there. I think offensively we can be a lot better. We were fortunate that our defense played lights out and we had a lot of short fields. But we’ll go back to work and we’re going to enjoy this one right now and correct the film tomorrow and keep pushing.”
Tampa Bay heads to the Crescent City next week to take on the New Orleans Saints on October 31.
The videos used in this story were provided by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers YouTube channel.