The Tampa Bay Buccaneers saw their three-game winning streak snapped on Thursday night when Chicago Bears kicker Cairo Santos drilled a 38-yard field goal with 1:08 left in regulation to give the home team a 20-19 victory. The Buccaneers squandered a 13-0 second quarter lead and lost despite allowing just 243 yards of total offense.
Tampa Bay dropped to 3-2 with the loss and will next face the undefeated Green Bay Packers after a long weekend.
"We need to get healthy, that's for sure," said Head Coach Bruce Arians after the game. "We'll take the break and get back to work for the next one. But I feel like we left this stadium with a fourth-quarter lead and didn't maintain it. We'll see who we are next week. This is one game that I feel like we got out-coached and out-played, so we'll find out next week."
Chicago turned the tide late in the first half with a pair of touchdowns in a 72-second span. After David Montgomery scored on a three-yard run to complete a 75-yard drive – the Bears only drive of more than 59 yards – Kyle Fuller forced a fumble by rookie running back Ke'Shawn Vaughn and Jimmy Graham followed with a one-handed touchdown catch with less than a minute in the first half. The resulting one-point lead changed hands four times in the second half with a succession of field goals.
Tampa Bay took a 19-17 lead with six minutes left on Ryan Succop's fourth field goal, a 25-yarder after a 16-yard catch by TE Rob Gronkowski came up one-yard short on third-and-17. The Buccaneers' offense came into the game with a touchdown percentage of 80% on red zone drives but only got the ball into the end zone on one of three tries Thursday. Two other drives stalled just outside the red zone.
"We just had some negative plays," said QB Tom Brady. "In the second half we had negative plays. When you get behind in down-and-distance, that's not where you want to be. We all have to do a better job."
The Buccaneers came into the game with Chris Godwin, Justin Watson and Leonard Fournette injured and Mike Evans and Scotty Miller active but possibly not at full strength. Still, the offense scored on three of its first four drives as running back Ronald Jones II rang up his second straight 100-yard rushing game and rookie wide receiver Tyler Johnson stepped up with 61 yards on four catches. The Buccaneers also got a combined 96 yards from Rob Gronkowski and fellow tight end Cameron Brate. Brady threw for 253 yards and a touchdown but his last two passes were incomplete as the Bucs tried to mount a last-minute game-winning drive.
Brady did find Evans on a two-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter, marking the sixth straight game that Evans has scored. Evans finished the game with just 41 yards, however, and Miller did not catch a pass. In addition to Johnson, WR Jaydon Mickens and TE Tanner Hudson caught passes for the first time this season.
The Buccaneers incurred several costly penalties and ended up with 11 flags for 109 yards, including a roughing-the-passer call on Shaq Barrett that kept the Bears' second-to-last drive alive for another set of downs. The Bucs still managed to force a punt after that setback but when they got the ball back with just under three minutes to play they were only able to run 21 seconds off the clock before punting back. The Bears followed with a 32-yard drive that ended in Santos's game-winning kick.
"Penalties, they stop drives," said Brady. "We had so many third-and-longs. We just could never get in any rhythm in the second half. Just poor execution. If you don't execute on first and second down you have third-and-forever, and those are tough to convert time after time after time. We've got to tighten that up and just play more consistent-type of football. We obviously have a lot of work to do."
The Buccaneers' defense held the Bears to 35 rushing yards and mostly eliminated the big plays in the passing attack. Chicago moved the ball with a series of short passes to WR Allen Robinson, who finished with 10 catches for 90 yards, and short tosses to the outside to Montgomery, Graham and WR/RB Cordarelle Patterson, who combined for 13 catches for 101 yards. The biggest of those was a 17-yard catch by Montgomery that set up the winning field goal.
Bears QB Nick Foles completed 30 of 42 passes for 243 yards. He was picked off by CB Carlton Davis in the first quarter, which led to Evans' touchdown. That was the third interception of the season for Davis, who also led the team with seven tackles. Jason Pierre-Paul, Will Gholston and Vita Vea all recorded sacks, but Vea left the game late with an apparent ankle injury.
Additional game details (scoring plays in bold):
An 11-yard catch-and-run over the middle by Jaydon Mickens converted an early third-and-six and Rob Gronkowski's 13-yard grab got the ball over midfield. The Bucs got backed up by a holding penalty but an impressive 11-yard run by Jones on a play that nearly lost three yards and Tyler Johnson's first career catch, for 17 yards, made it first down at the Bears' 25. The drive stalled there and the Buccaneers settled for Ryan Succop's 39-yard field goal to open the scoring.
The Bears' first drive gained one first down but ended before reaching midfield when Foles overthrew Robinson on third-and-two. Mickens fair-caught the resulting punt at the Bucs' 15. Tampa Bay's second drive went nowhere and Bradley Pinion's 56-yard punt rolled to a stop at the Bears' 25.
Foles got the Bears into Buccaneers territory on the next drive with a 24-yard sideline pass to Robinson and Jimmy Graham's toe-tapper for 13 yards. However, when Foles tried to go deep down the right sideline to Robinson, Davis managed to get a hand on the pass and then caught the deflection and returned it 34 yards to the midfield stripe. Two plays later, Brady hit Johnson over the middle and the rookie broke several tackles to get 35 yards down to Chicago's nine. Two plays later, Jones made a remarkable catch on a ball near the turf and then rolled into the end zone for an apparent score. The play was originally ruled an incompletion but the Buccaneers challenged, resulting in a catch but not a touchdown. Brady zipped a quick two-yard pass to Evans on third-and-goal to put the Bucs up by 10.
A well-timed pass defensed by rookie S Antoine Winfield Jr. forced Chicago to punt on the next drive and Mickens hauled it in at the Bucs' 10. Johnson's sideline catch on third-and-10 left the Bucs a few inches short of a first down at their own 19 and Arians got aggressive, going for it deep in his end zone. Brady kept it on the sneak and just powered the ball over the line to keep the drive alive. Three plays later, on third-and-three, Hudson snared a quick slant and got nine yards, with a facemask penalty tacking on 15 more to the Chicago 49. A pass-interference call by Cyril Grayson got it down to the 20, leading to a 35-yard field goal by Succop.
The Bears fired back with a methodical 10-play, 75-yard touchdown drive. Foles converted a third-and-seven with a 12-yard swing pass to Montgomery then got 25 more on a wheel route down to the Bucs three to Cordarelle Patterson. Two plays later, Montgomery twisted and powered his way into the end zone to make it a six-point game with 1:52 left in the half.
The Bucs had time to mount a two-minute drive but ended up giving the ball back to the Bears in less than 30 seconds. Vaughn caught a short pass over the middle on third-and-10 but was hit hard by Kyle Fuller, with the ball coming loose. There was originally a flag thrown on the play but it was picked up and a booth review ruled that the play was a fumble and Chicago took over at the Bucs' 27. The Bears turned that into a halftime lead when Graham made a remarkable one-handed grab for a 12-yard score.
The Bears got the ball first to start the second half and got good field position on a return by Patterson out to the 31-yard line. Tampa Bay's defense started the half with a three-and-out, getting the ball back at their own 32 after a 12-yard punt return by Mickens. The ensuing drive started with a 37-yard run by Jones but then moved back on a sack by Khalil Mack and a block-in-the-back call on Gronkowski. Two catches by Evans failed to get the Bucs out of a second-and-27 hole but Succop came on to nail a 46-yard field goal to put Tampa Bay in the lead.
Vita Vea's sack short-circuited the Bears' next drive, and a penalty on the Bears on the ensuing punt allowed Tampa Bay to start its next drive at midfield. A scrambling 20-yard lob to Brate converted a third-and-15, but two successuive penalties pushed the ball all the way back to Tampa Bay's 45. A personal-foul call on C Ryan Jensen compounded the problem and the Bucs had to punt from their 48.
A pass-interference call on Davis gave Chicago a first down at the Bucs' 30 on the next drive and another catch by Robinson led to a first down at the 15. A sack and forced fumble by Jason Pierre-Paul kept the Bears from getting any closer but Cairo Santos put Chicago back on top with a 47-yard field goal with 10:34 to play.
The Bucs got a first down on the ensuing drive on a 10-yard run by Jones than got the ball over midfield on a pass-interference call drawn by Gronkowski. Two plays later, a well-executed screen to Gronkowski picked up 23 yards to the Chicago 27. A sack by Khalil Mack put the Bucs into a third-and-17 hole and Brady's strike over the middle to Gronkowski came up two yards short. Succop came on to tap a 25-yard field goal through the sticks for a 19-17 lead with 4:49 left.
The Bucs' defense appeared to get a quick stop on the next possession thanks to a Will Gholston sack but a roughing-the-passer call on Shaq Barrett kept the drive alive. The Bucs' defense kept the pressure on, with Jamel Dean nearly intercepting a pass and Ndamukong Suh hitting Foles on third down to force an errant pass and a punt.
The Bucs got the ball back at their own 16 with 2:43 left but only ran off 11 seconds before punting it back. Chicago started the next drive at its own 48. A 17-yard catch on a wheel route by Montgomery got the ball down to the Bucs' 25. Tampa Bay's defense held there but Santos banged home a 38-yard field goal with 1:15 left in the game.