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2023 Game Preview: Bears-Buccaneers, Week 2

Seeing their third straight 2-0 start to a season, the Bucs will open their 2023 home slate on Sunday with a visit from the dangerous Justin Fields and a Chicago Bears team that restocked its defense during the offseason

game preview week 2

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, fresh off a rousing Week One victory over the Minnesota Vikings in Minneapolis, return home in Week Two to face yet another former NFC Central division mate. Justin Fields and the Chicago Bears will visit Raymond James Stadium on Sunday, September 17, renewing a rivalry that has been contested seven times over the past nine years.

The Bears drafted Fields with the 11th-overall pick in 2021 and he has already established himself as one of the most dangerous running quarterbacks in NFL history. While his passing numbers – including 154.6 yards per game and a 25-22 TD-INT ratio – have yet to catch up, the Bears invested heavily in building up the offense around him going into his third year. That included a trade for wide receiver D.J. Moore, the drafting of right tackle Darnell Wright and the free agency addition of guard Nate Davis.

The Buccaneers have already encountered Fields once before, in just the fifth start of his rookie season. It was a lopsided affair, with Tom Brady throwing four touchdown passes and the Bears quarterback throwing three picks (more on the Bucs-Bears series history below), but much has changed in the two years since. Both teams have new head coaches since that last meeting and, of course, the Buccaneers have a new starting quarterback following the retirement of Tom Brady.

That new QB1 is Baker Mayfield, who joined Super Bowl champion Brad Johnson as the only quarterbacks in Bucs history to win a Week One starting debut with the team. Mayfield and the Bucs' new-look offense overcame a slow start in Minnesota to find a groove in the second half and finish off a 20-17 upset over the 2022 NFC North champion Vikings. Mayfield threw for 173 yards and two touchdowns on 21 of 34 passing and, critically, did not turn the ball over once. He also put his trademark grit on display on several key runs, including one that sustained the Bucs' final clock-killing drive.

Tampa Bay's defense got the season off to a good start with three takeaways, eight quarterback hits and a general commitment to swarm to the football. The Vikings were held to 41 rushing yards on 17 carries, a good sign for a defense that wants to get back to being the NFL's best at stopping the run. Of course, that won't be easy against a Bears offense that not only features Fields but also a crowded and talented backfield with Khalil Herbert, D'Onta Foreman and rookie Roschon Johnson. Johnson, a fourth-round pick out of Texas, opened his NFL career nicely, too, contributing 55 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown.

Johnson's good work came in a losing effort, however, as the Bears dropped their home opener to the rival Packers, 38-14. Chicago's defense allowed the Packers to convert 56.3% of their third-down attempts and failed to force a turnover against young quarterback Jordan Love. The Bears did limit Love to 15 completions in 27 attempts, but unfortunately the Packers averaged 16.3 yards on the balls that were completed. After finishing 31st in total defense and against the run in 2022, the Bears made an effort to get stronger up the middle, drafting defensive lineman Gervon Dexter and Zacch Pickens and using free agency to add defensive lineman Andrew Billings and off-ball linebackers T.J. Edwards and Tremaine Edmunds.

Three of the four teams in the NFC South won their opening game, so a division that was expected to be completely up for grabs in 2023 is off to a fast start. The Buccaneers hope to stick with the pace by claiming their first win at home on Sunday. The Bucs are seeking their third straight 2-0 start to a season, the first two of which led to eventual division crowns.


Chicago Bears (0-1) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-0)

Sunday, September 17, 1:00 p.m. ET

Raymond James Stadium (capacity: 65,844)

Tampa, Florida

Television: FOX (Local WTVT Channel 13)

TV Broadcast Team: Joe Davis (play-by-play), Daryl Johnston (analyst), Pam Oliver (reporter)

Radio: 98Rock (WXTB, 97.9 FM), Flagship Station

Radio Broadcast Team: Gene Deckerhoff (play-by-play), Dave Moore (analyst), T.J. Rives (sideline)


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The Buccaneers and Bears don't share the 'Black and Blue Division' anymore, but that hasn't stopped them from getting together on a nearly annual basis, at least over the last decade. When the two teams square off Sunday at Raymond James Stadium, it will mark the eighth game in the head-to-head series since 2014. The only seasons in that span that did not feature a Chicago-Tampa Bay reunion were 2019 and 2022.

The Buccaneers have won three of their last five games against Chicago, including the most recent one, a 38-3 drubbing at Raymond James Stadium in 2021. Tom Brady threw four touchdown passes in that lopsided affair, three to Mike Evans, and the Bucs' defense sacked Bears then-rookie QB Justin Fields four times and intercepted him three times.

The two games in the series before that were both Bears wins in Chicago, including a 2020 decision in which Cairo Santos hit a game-winning 38-yard field goal with 1:13 left in regulation. The 2018 game in Chicago ranks as one of the most lopsided finals to go against the Bucs in the series, a 48-10 decision in the Windy City in 2018. In fact, that 38-point winning margin stands as the best ever for Chicago against the Buccaneers, though a 41-0 blanking by Tampa Bay at home in 2000 holds the top spot overall. Mitch Trubisky, now a backup in Buffalo, threw for 354 yards and six touchdowns in that dreary (for the Buccaneers) 2018 contest.

The Buccaneers have played the Bears 61 times, with the majority of those games taking place while both teams were in the old NFC Central for 25 years, from 1977-2001. Chicago owns a 41-20 edge in the series, though a much slimmer 17-15 advantage in games played in Tampa.

That series lead is mostly the result of the Bears' might in the 1980s coinciding with a rough stretch for the Buccaneers. Tampa Bay finally reversed its fortunes in 1997 and since that season the two teams have nearly split 23 games down the middle, with the Bucs up by one, 12-121. Since Tampa Bay left the Bears' division, which was then rebranded the NFC North, in 2002, Chicago has a 7-6 edge in the series.

Interestingly, four of the Buccaneers' 12 playoff seasons have included a win over Chicago in Tampa Bay's regular-season finale. The first was in 1982, when the Bucs won their last three in a strike-shortened season to sneak into the expanded playoff field, ending with a 26-23 overtime decision against the Bears in Tampa. The Bucs rallied from a 23-6 halftime deficit with two Jimmie Giles touchdown catches and two Bill Capece field goals, the second one from 33 yards in overtime.

During their stretch of five playoff berths in six seasons from 1997-2002, the Buccaneers won in Week 17 at home against the Bears in 1997 and in Illinois in 1999 and 2002. All three were comfortable victories. In 1997, then-rookie Warrick Dunn ran wild and picks by Donnie Abraham and Melvin Johnson keyed a stifling defensive effort in a 31-15 decision. In 1999 in Chicago, the Buccaneers won their first division title in 18 years when the Mike Alstott and Dave Moore scored touchdowns and Abraham had another pick. That game was unfortunately the last one of Paul Gruber's career as he suffered a broken leg and retired after the season. In 2002, the Buccaneers were able to clinch a first-round bye when they shut out the Bears, 15-0, in a game played at the University of Illinois in Champaign. All 15 points came on Martin Gramatica field goals on an evening in which the wind was screaming in one direction. Derrick Brooks had a key interception.

Tampa Bay's 2017 season began with a win over Chicago. That game was supposed to be the Bucs' home opener in Week Two but Hurricane Irma forced the Tampa Bay-Miami game in Week One to be moved to later in the season. After an impromptu Week One bye, the Buccaneers made their 2017 debut against Chicago, facing off against their former quarterback, Mike Glennon. Kwon Alexander had an interception and Mike Evans scored a touchdown among his seven catches for 93 yards, helping the Bucs win easily, 29-7.


· Buccaneers Assistant Head Coach/Run Game Coordinator Harold Goodwin was an assistant offensive line coach for the Bears from 2004-06 on Lovie Smith's staff. Prior to that, Tampa Bay Special Teams Coordinator Keith Armstrong coached special teams for the Bears from 1997-2000, working under Head Coaches Dave Wannstedt and Dick Jauron.

· Skip Peete, who is in his first season as Tampa Bay's running backs coach, held the same position with the Bears in 2013 and 2014 under Head Coach Marc Trestman.

· Chicago's current placekicker, Cairo Santos, handled that job for the Buccaneers for the last seven games of the 2018 season. He made nine of his 12 field goal attempts and all 17 of his extra point tries for Tampa.

· Bears Linebackers Coach Dave Borgonzi spent four seasons (2014-17) with the Buccaneers as a defensive quality control/assistant linebackers coach under Head Coaches Lovie Smith and Dirk Koetter.

· Jon Hoke, the Bears' cornerbacks coach/passing game coordinator, was on the Bucs' staff under Koetter from 2016-18, tutoring the defensive backs.

· Carlos Polk, Chicago's assistant special teams coach, held the same position with the Buccaneers from 2014-18.


Tampa Bay:

• Head Coach Todd Bowles

• Assistant Head Coach/Run Game Coordinator Harold Goodwin

• Offensive Coordinator Dave Canales

• Run Game Coordinator/Defensive Line Coach Kacy Rodgers

• Pass Game Coordinator/Inside Linebackers Coach Larry Foote

• Special Teams Coordinator Keith Armstrong


• Head Coach Matt Eberflus

• Offensive Coordinator Luke Getsy

• Defensive Coordinator Alan Williams

• Special Teams Coordinator Richard Hightower



• LB SirVocea Dennis (fifth-round draft pick)

• OLB Yaya Diaby (third-round draft pick)

• TE Payne Durham (fifth-round draft pick)

• RB Chase Edmonds (FA)

• G Matt Feiler (FA)

• DL Greg Gaines (UFA)

• CB Josh Hayes (sixth-round draft pick)

• S Christian Izien (UDFA)

• WR Rakim Jarrett (UDFA)

• DL Calijah Kancey (first-round draft pick)

• G Cody Mauch (second-round draft pick)

• QB Baker Mayfield (UFA)

• K Chase McLaughlin (UFA)

• S Ryan Neal (FA)

• WR Trey Palmer (sixth-round draft pick)

• RB Sean Tucker (UDFA)


• QB Tyson Bagent (UDFA)

• DT Andrew Billings (UFA)

• LB Dylan Cole (UFA)

• G Nate Davis (UFA)

• DT Gervon Dexter (second-round draft pick)

• LB Tremaine Edmunds (UFA)

• LB T.J. Edwards (UFA)

• RB D'Onta Foreman (UFA)

• DE Rasheem Green (UFA)

• RB Travis Homer (UFA)

• RB Roschon Johnson (fourth-round draft pick)

• TE Marcedes Lewis (FA)

• WR D.J. Moore (trade-Carolina)

• DE Yannick Ngakoue (FA)

• DT Zacch Pickens (third-round draft pick)

• WR Tyler Scott (fourth-round draft pick)

• LB Noah Sewell (fifth-round draft pick)

• CB Terrell Smith (fifth-round draft pick)

• CB Tyrique Stevenson (second-round draft pick)

• TE Robert Tonyan (UFA)

• DE DeMarcus Walker (UFA)

• T Darnell Wright (first-round draft pick)



• Todd Bowles enters his second season as the Bucs' head coach with a new offensive coordinator on his staff. Former Seahawks Quarterbacks Coach Dave Canales takes over for Byron Leftwich, who spent four seasons in that role, the first three under Head Coach Bruce Arians. Canales helped quarterback Geno Smith go from journeyman to the NFL's Comeback Player of the Year in 2022 and has roots in the Kyle Shanahan/Sean McVay systems.

• The Buccaneers made a number of other changes to Bowles' staff after the 2022 season, bringing in George Edwards (a former Vikings defensive coordinator) to coach outside linebackers, Brad Idzik to tutor wide receivers, and Skip Peete to take over the running backs room. David Raih and Jordan Somerville also joined the team as senior offensive analyst and assistant quarterbacks coach, respectively. With the arrival of Edwards, defensive Pass Game Coordinator Larry Foote switched from the outside linebacker room to the inside linebacker group. Thaddeus Lewis, who spent the previous two seasons as an assistant wide receivers coach, was promoted to quarterbacks coach.

• After winning a Super Bowl and two division titles over the past three years, the Buccaneers saw an era come to an end when quarterback Tom Brady announced his retirement in late January. To move on at the game's most critical position, the Buccaneers brought in former number-one overall draft pick Baker Mayfield to compete with 2021 second-round selection Kyle Trask. Former Ram John Wolford was also added for experienced depth in the quarterback room. Mayfield was named the opening-day starter by Bowles between the second and third preseason games in August.

• After largely "keeping the band together" for the 2021-22 seasons after their Super Bowl LV victory, the Buccaneers parted ways with a number of prominent players in 2023. Donovan Smith, who occupied the Bucs' starting left tackle spot for eight seasons, was released in March, as were tight end Cameron Brate, running back Leonard Fournette and kicker Ryan Succop. Safety Mike Edwards, quarterback Blaine Gabbert, cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting, safety Keanu Neal, defensive lineman Rakeem Nunez-Roches, wide receiver Breshad Perriman and tackle Josh Wells all found new homes in free agency while defensive lineman Akiem Hicks, wide receiver Julio Jones, outside linebacker Carl Nassib, tight end Kyle Rudolph and safety Logan Ryan were not re-signed.


• The Bears significantly upped their draft capital for this season and the next two by not seeking change at a certain position. That is, they chose to build around third-year quarterback Justin Fields instead of using the first-overall pick in this spring's draft on Alabama's Bryce Young or another highly-regarded passing prospect. Instead, they dealt the top pick to Carolina, moving down to the ninth spot and adding wide receiver D.J. Moore, a first-round pick in 2024 and second-rounders in 2023 and 2025. Barring further trades, the Bears will pick twice in the opening round for the first time since 2003 next year.

• Chicago Head Coach Matt Eberflus made a key addition to this staff, bringing back Jon Hoke to serve as the passing game coordinator on defense and to tutor the cornerbacks. Hoke previously worked for the Bears from 2009-14 under Head Coaches Lovie Smith and Marc Trestman, a period during which Chicago's defense ranked fourth in the league in interceptions.

• The Bears continue to work toward getting a new stadium in the suburbs. They purchased a 326-acre parcel of land in Arlington Heights, about 40 minutes away from their current downtown location and are planning a massive "campus" that would include a domed stadium. Chicago currently plays in the NFL's oldest stadium, Soldier Field.

• The Bears may be rolling with a new primary backup to Fields at quarterback. The team signed former Panther P.J. Walker during the offseason, ostensibly to fill that role, but Walker was let go in the roster cutdown to 53. Veteran Nathan Peterman was also released on that day but was then re-signed two days later. However, the one reserve quarterback the Bears did not submit to the waiver wire was undrafted rookie Tyson Bagent out of Shepherd. That combination of moves would suggest Bagent will have a higher spot on the depth chart.

• The Bears also have a new hierarchy in the backfield, with former lead back David Montgomery moving north in free agency to play for the Lions. That puts third-year back Khalil Herbert into the lead role, but Chicago also brought in D'Onta Foreman, most recently of the Panthers, and used a fourth-round pick on former Longhorn Roschon Johnson. Herbert has averaged 5.0 yards per carry over his first two seasons, Foreman ran for 914 yards in Carolina last year after Christian McCaffrey was traded away, and Johnson picked up 554 yards and five touchdowns for Texas last year despite playing behind superstar back Bijan Robinson.



DNP: Did not participate in practice

LP: Limited participation in practice

FP: Full participation in practice

NL: Not listed


• LB Lavonte David (not injury related - rest) – WEDS: FP; THURS: FP; FRI: DNP. Game Status: Not listed.

• CB Carlton Davis (toe) – WEDS: DNP; THURS: DNP; FRI: DNP. Game Status: Out.

• LB SirVocea Dennis (hamstring) – WEDS: NL; THURS: LP; FRI: DNP. Game Status: Out.

• WR Mike Evans (not injury related - rest) – WEDS: FP; THURS: FP; FRI: DNP. Game Status: Not listed.

• S Christian Izien (concussion) – WEDS: DNP; THURS: LP; FRI: FP. Game Status: Questionable.

• DL Calijah Kancey (calf) – WEDS: DNP; THURS: DNP; FRI: DNP. Game Status: Out.

• QB Baker Mayfield (right shoulder) – WEDS: FP; THURS: FP; FRI: FP. Game Status: Not listed.


• DB Josh Blackwell (hamstring) – WEDS: LP; THURS: DNP; FRI: DNP. Game Status: Doubtful.

• LB Dylan Cole (hamstring) – WEDS: LP; THURS: FP; FRI: FP. Game Status: Not listed.

• CB Kyler Gordon (hand) – WEDS: DNP; THURS: Placed on injured reserve.

• TE Marcedes Lewis (not injury related - rest) – WEDS: NL; THURS: DNP; FRI: FP. Game Status: Not listed.


Scattered showers, high of 88, low of 75, 54% chance of rain, 74% humidity, winds out of the S at 6 mph.


Head referee: Bill Vinovich (23rd season, 20th as referee)


• Favorite: Buccaneers (-3.0)

• Over/Under: 41.5

INDIVIDUAL STAT LEADERS (2022 final totals)


Points Scored: K Ryan Succop, 117

Touchdowns: WR Mike Evans/RB Leonard Fournette, 6

Passing Yards: QB Tom Brady, 4,694

Passer Rating: QB Tom Brady, 90.7

Rushing Yards: RB Leonard Fournette, 668

Receptions: WR Chris Godwin, 104

Receiving Yards: WR Mike Evans, 1,124

Interceptions: CB Jamel Dean/S Mike Edwards/CB Sean Murphy-Bunting, 2

Sacks: DL Vita Vea, 6.5

Tackles: LB Lavonte David/LB Devin White, 124


Points Scored: K Cairo Santos, 90

Touchdowns: QB Justin Fields, 8

Passing Yards: QB Justin Fields, 2,242

Passer Rating: QB Justin Fields, 85.2

Rushing Yards: QB Justin Fields, 1,143

Receptions: TE Cole Kmet, 50

Receiving Yards: TE Cole Kmet, 544

Interceptions: S Eddie Jackson, 4

Sacks: S Jaquan Brisker, 4.0

Tackles: LB Nicholas Morrow, 116

TEAM STAT RANKINGS (2022 end of season)


Scoring Offense: 25th (18.4 ppg)

Total Offense: 15th (346.7 ypg)

Rushing Offense: 32nd (76.9 ypg)

Passing Offense: 2nd (269.8 ypg)

First Downs Per Game: t-13th (20.4)

Third-Down Pct.: 21st (37.4%)

Sacks Per Pass Attempt Allowed: 1st (2.93%)

Red Zone TD Pct.: 22nd (52.0%)

Scoring Defense: 14th (21.1 ppg)

Total Defense: t-9th (324.3 ypg)

Rushing Defense: 15th (120.7 ypg)

Passing Defense: 9th (203.6 ypg)

First Downs Allowed Per Game: t-5th (18.5)

Third-Down Pct. Allowed: 6th (36.9%)

Sacks Per Pass Attempt: 12th (7.89%)

Red Zone TD Pct. Allowed: 26th (62.5%)

Turnover Margin: t-20th (-2)


Scoring Offense: 23rd (19.2 ppg)

Total Offense: 28th (307.8 ypg)

Rushing Offense: 1st (177.3 ypg)

Passing Offense: 32nd (130.5 ypg)

First Downs Per Game: 30th (16.4)

Third-Down Pct.: 13th (40.9%)

Sacks Per Pass Attempt Allowed: 32nd (15.38%)

Red Zone TD Pct.: 13th (56.0%)

Scoring Defense: 32nd (27.2 ppg)

Total Defense: 29th (375.9 ypg)

Rushing Defense: 31st (157.3 ypg)

Passing Defense: 17th (218.6 ypg)

First Downs Allowed Per Game: 28th (21.2)

Third-Down Pct. Allowed: 32nd (49.0%)

Sacks Per Pass Attempt: 31st (4.16%)

Red Zone TD Pct. Allowed: 28th (64.5%)

Turnover Margin: t-20th (-2)


• Wide receiver Mike Evans caught the 82nd touchdown reception of his career in the Buccaneers' season-opening win at Minnesota. With one more, he will move into a tie with Antonio Brown, Calvin Johnson and Brandon Marshall for the 25th most in NFL history. Two touchdown grabs would propel him into the group tied for 21st, which consists of Mark Clayton, Tommy McDonald, Irving Fryar and Andre Rison.

• Evans is also currently in a tie with six-time Pro Bowl fullback Mike Alstott for the sixth most starts in team annals. One more gives him sole possession of the sixth spot.

• Wide receiver Chris Godwin could take over sole possession of 10th place on the Bucs' all-time scoring list with a score of any kind. He is currently tied for 10th with Ring of Honor member Jimmie Giles with 204 points.

• If Godwin were to score via a touchdown – admittedly the most likely scenario by a long shot – he will also catch Giles in terms of total TDs scored and tie Cameron Brate for touchdown receptions. Godwin currently has 33 touchdowns on his resume (32 receiving and one rushing), while Giles has 34, all receiving, and Brate has 33, all receiving.

• Godwin has an active streak of 15 consecutive games with at least five receptions, which is the longest current one in the NFL. It's also tied for the longest in Bucs history with a streak Keyshawn Johnson put together in 2000-01.

• Rookie safety Christian Izien snared an interception in his regular-season debut in Minnesota. If he were to duplicate that feat against the Bears, he would become just the fourth undrafted player in league history to get a pick in each of his first two games.


• Head Coach Todd Bowles on Baker Mayfield's good performance after a slow start for the offense in the season-opening win at Minnesota: "Baker is tough. We knew it was going to be a tough game, going in – that wasn't the problem. [Brian] Flores is a good [defensive coordinator]. They had some wrinkles for us in the first half that were pretty good for us. We got off to a shaky start, but we settled in. Nobody flinched. Baker's toughness – obviously, by the way he played – the throws that he threw away and didn't turn over were just as impressive as the one's he completed."

• Quarterback Baker Mayfield on what it means for the Bucs to start the season with a road win: "The confidence just only builds. You always have a 1-0 mentality. The next game is the most important one. We're focused on that. But your confidence – your self confidence and for the group as a whole – continues to grow. When you come home after a road win like that, we should have a lot of 'Krewe' love with the fans right there. It will be fun. Just continue to do the little things right. Like I said, we had a lot of meat left on the bone, so we need to improve. We can't be satisfied with what we did. We'll always take wins, but we need to improve if we want to be potentially where we can imagine."

• Wide receiver Chris Godwin on if the heat on Sunday could be a factor in the Bucs-Bears game: "I think it could be a factor, but at the same time if we don't come out [and] we don't execute, it would be for nothing. They have a lot of good players on that team, they work hard at training camp, and they do conditioning and all that stuff. You have talented guys on their team like Justin Fields [and] he is out there running around. He's out there free styling and making bad plays into good plays, and that makes it really tough on defenses. DJ Moore is a good player, [so] they have some really good players on defense, too. The heat is going to be a factor, but we can't just rely on that to win a game, we have to really put the work on."

• Tristan Wirfs on the biggest challenge of facing the Bears defense: "I think probably their linebackers. [Tremaine] Edmunds, he flies sideline to sideline. So, making sure us on the O-Line are good when we're getting up to the second level. They pirate their ends quite a bit, too, so being good and being able to pass off double teams and convert those when we need to. I think us on the O-Line being able to be good at the second level is going to be big."

• Bowles on Chicago's three-headed rushing attack of Khalil Herbert, D'Onta Foreman and Roschon Johnson: "The biggest thing is all three of them can break tackles. They're not just bruiser runners, they have great agility. They all can block on third down and pass block, they can catch the ball out of the backfield and they're very stout in protection. Depending on which one is in there, it isn't going to make much of a difference – they keep all of them fresh. We've got to make sure we rally to the ball."

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