Pictures from the Buccaneers' Week 10 matchup with the Bears.
Too gracious as hosts during the first half of the 2016 season, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were downright ill-mannered on Sunday at Raymond James Stadium. Four first-half takeaways, four sacks of Jay Cutler and a safety by the Buccaneers' defense powered a runaway 36-10 win over the visiting Chicago Bears.
It was Tampa Bay's first win by 20 or more points since a 45-17 drubbing of the Eagles in Philadelphia last year, but twice as satisfying because it happened in front of the home fans. The game marked the Buccaneers' first home win in 2016 and it improved their record to 4-5 on a day that the rest of the NFC South stumbled to late-game losses. The Bucs are now tied with New Orleans for second place in the division, 1.5 games behind the Atlanta Falcons.
WATCH: BUCS VS. BEARS HIGHLIGHTS
"I'm just happy for the fans, man," said QB Jameis Winston, threw touchdown passes to Cameron Brate and Freddie Martino to give him 19 scoring tosses on the year. "They've been coming here and supporting us week-in and week-out and we finally got a victory for them. It was just an overall team win, but the defense really did hold their own today."
Tampa Bay's swarming defense allowed just 283 yards of offense, including 161 net passing yards, and only allowed the Bears into the end zone on a fluke 'Hail Mary' pass at the very end of the first half. Chris Conte started the scoring with a 20-yard interception return for a touchdown in the first quarter, just minutes after Brent Grimes had picked off Cutler on Chicago's second drive. Fumble recoveries by Kwon Alexander and Bradley McDougald followed in the second quarter, the first one denying a first-and-goal situation, and DE Robert Ayers added a third-quarter safety with a strip-sack in the end zone.
The Buccaneers got starting defensive tackle Clinton McDonald on a line that was extremely short-handed just a few weeks ago. With Ayers, McDonald and Gerald McCoy all healthy again, the Bucs got good push from their front line but also blitzed very aggressively, particularly in the first half.
"Great pressure," said McDonald. "Coach couldn't have drawn it up any better and the guys couldn't have executed it any better. That's what happens when a plan comes together.
"The game plan was to stop the run, eliminate big plays and hit Cutler. We did it together as a team effort. Everyone else on the field that played defense today, that played a snap, contributed to the win. It was a blessing to be back out there with the guys. We're going to keep it rolling. We're going to stay on our keys to victory and keep rolling. Just like Coach Koetter always says, 'It's a great team effort, a great team win.'"
Cutler ran around in the final seconds of the second quarter to buy time to get off his 50-yard Hail Mary to WR Cameron Meredith, but that wasn't even the most impressive scramble play of the day. On the opening drive of the second half, Buccaneers QB Jameis Winston ran around avoiding multiple blockers on a third-and-10, eventually finding himself 20 yards deep and in the Bucs' end zone. He managed to escape one more near sack and throw on the run to WR Mike Evans across midfield for a 39-yard gain. Winston hit Martino on a 43-yard touchdown pass one play later, giving Martino his first NFL score.
"The protection broke down, and the line, they just kept blocking," said Winston of the third-down play. "When you're scrambling and you a see a lineman that's trying to get somebody, trying to put their hands on somebody, you've got to try to make a play for them. Mike Evans was down there and he's got to get the ball somehow. They broke down and he made a great catch. As soon as I started scrambling, you've got to think, 'Where's Mike?' Any time it breaks down, you know that guy's going to find a way to get open."
Winston's scramble and heave was one of just four passes that found Evans on the day, as the NFL's leader in touchdown receptions finished with a relatively quiet 66 yards. Chicago made a particular point of directing extra coverage in Evans' direction, so Winston took advantage by throwing repeatedly to Brate and slot receiver Adam Humphries. Brate scored on a 10-yard catch in the second quarter and finished with a career high seven catches for 84 yards while Humphries snared five passes for 46 yards. Winston completed 23 of 33 passes for 312 yards, two touchdowns, one deflected-ball interception and a passer rating of 107.1.
"They were trying to lock down Mike," said Winston. "They did a good job of just trying to focus on him, but they forgot that we have [other] guys that are willing to make plays, willing to go out there and work hard."
In the postgame locker room, Head Coach Dirk Koetter described the game as a complete team win, and indeed even the special teams made a huge impact in the game. Kicker Roberto Aguayo was perfect on two field goals and four extra points, punter Bryan Anger finished with an excellent 43.4-yard net on five punts, two that were downed inside the 20. The star of that group, however, was cornerback Josh Robinson, who stopped one kickoff return at the Bears' 10-yard line and also dropped punt returner Eddie Royal at the Bears' one to set the stage for Ayers' safety.
Both teams had to run their offenses behind patched-up offensive lines. The Buccaneers came into the game without its starters at left guard (Kevin Pamphile) and center (Joe Hawley) and quickly lost replacement center Evan Smith to a knee injury. The Bears lost right guard Kyle Long and right tackle Bobbie Massey to injury during the game. In the Bucs' case, that manifested itself in a difficulty running the ball despite the return of Doug Martin after a six-game absence. Martin ran 16 times for 33 yards but did score a clinching touchdown on a third-down run in the fourth quarter. For the Bears, it meant less time to throw for Cutler, who was sacked four times and frequently flushed from the pocket.
The Buccaneers took a 17-10 lead into halftime, though it was the Bears who went to the locker room with the momentum after pulling off a 50-yard 'Hail Mary' touchdown pass on the last play of the half. Prior to that, the Buccaneers had used four turnovers by the defense to overcome a slow offensive start and take a two-touchdown advantage with 30 seconds to play in the second quarter. Conte's pick-six was the game's first score, and Winston hit Brate six times for 70 yards and a touchdown to get the Bucs' offense moving. Prior to the 50-yard prayer, Cutler had been held to eight completions in 16 attempts for 74 yards and two interceptions.
The Bears crossed midfield on the game's opening possession two Jeffery catches for a total of 27 yards, but the Bucs blitzed on third-and-seven at their own 38, hurrying Cutler into a misfire. Punter Pat O'Donnell's kick landed at the five but bounced back the other direction to the 10. Tampa Bay's offense failed to gain a first down, however, and punted right back to the Chicago 40.
Howard got the Bears back into Tampa Bay territory with one play, a tackle-breaking 15-yard run up the middle. However, a Clinton McDonald sack helped force a third down and Grimes took the ball away with his second interception of the season. The Bucs didn't get anywhere with that drive, either, but still managed to score the game's first points moments later on Conte's 20-yard pick six. LB Lavonte David pressured Cutler into a blind throw on the play and Conte cut underneath TE Logan Paulsen to snare it on the run and run untouched to the end zone for his first career touchdown.
The Bears' offensive line opened up enormous holes for Howard on the first two snaps of the ensuing drive, which started with excellent field position thanks to an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the Buccaneers after Conte's touchdown. Howard ripped off consecutive 13-yard gains, but then was stopped short on his next two totes to set up third-and-eight at the Bucs' 36. Good coverage and good pressure led to another incompletion. The Bears sent out Barth to try a 54-yard field goal and he just snuck it over the crossbar to get Chicago on the board.
The Bears quickly got another scoring opportunity thanks to their first takeaway. Two penalties on the O-Line put the Bucs in a second-and-26 situation, and Winston's pass went through the hands of WR Cecil Shorts and was intercepted by S Harold Jones-Quartey. Jones-Quartey originally returned it to the Bucs' 13, but a replay review showed that he was down by contact at the 24.
Howard converted a third-and-two with a toss-sweep for nine yards to the Bucs' seven. Rookie CB Vernon Hargreaves nearly picked off a pass in the end zone after it bounced off the back of S Keith Tandy, but Jeffery alertly swatted it loose. However, the Bucs did manage to take it away two plays later when Spence caught a scrambling Cutler from behind, forcing a fumble that was recovered by Kwon Alexander.
The Bucs took the ensuing possession across midfield but the drive faded thanks to a holding penalty and a third-down sack of Winston by rookie LB Leonard Floyd. Bryan Anger did manage to drop his punt down at the Chicago five-yard line. The Bucs' defense then did its part with its fourth takeaway of the first half, as Gholston popped the ball out of Howard's hands on a run up the middle. Bradley McDougald recovered and returned it to the Bears' 30.
Winston looked to Brate to get it in the end zone from there. The tight end's leaping catch over the middle picked up 16 yards to the 13, and two plays later Brate ran a seam route into the middle of the end zone and was wide open for a 10-yard touchdown.
Tampa Bay's defense forced a quick punt after CB Josh Robinson dropped return man Deonte Thompson at the Chicago 10. Winston fired three successive completions, two to Brate and one to Shorts, to get the ball to the 17. The drive stalled there, however, and the Bucs had to settle for Aguayo's 30-yard field goal and a 14-point lead with 31 seconds left in the half.
Unfortunately, that was enough time for the Bears to pull off an improbable touchdown drive. Cutler got the team to midfield with five seconds left, then threw a 'Hail Mary' pass into a crowd in the end zone. The ball was deflected by Conte but then caught just in-bounds by the Bears' Cameron Meredith.
The Bucs did manage to take advantage of the opening possession of the second half, though it took some improvisational heroics on the part of Winston to keep a 77-yard scoring drive alive. Dropping back from the Bucs' 23 on third-and-10, Winston scrambled around avoiding defenders until he was all the way back in his own end zone. He escaped, however, stepped up to the five-yard line and heaved a pass downfield that Evans caught over a leaping Tracy Porter across midfield. On the next play, Winston found Martino behind the Bears' defense for a 43-yard touchdown on just the second reception of Martino's NFL career.
A sack split by Ayers and McCoy killed the Bears' next drive quickly and the Bucs took over at their own 39. A leaping catch by Brate converted on third down and Humphries gave the team a first down with a 14-yard catch at the 11. A roughing-the-passer call made it first-and-goal, but Winston took a sack back at the Bears' 21 and the Bucs had to settle for Aguayo's 27-yard field goal. That marked the first time all season that Tampa Bay's offense failed to score a touchdown after achieving a first-and-goal.
An exchange of punts worked in the Bucs' favor, as Josh Robinson dropped return man Eddie Royal at the Bears' one-yard line. Robinson's great work at the end of a 54-yard Anger punt indirectly led to points, as Ayers sacked Cutler and forced a fumble that rolled out of the back of the end zone for a safety.
The Buccaneers' offense ate up two-thirds of the final quarter on a 17-play touchdown drive, making sure Chicago had no time to mount a comeback. Tampa Bay benefited from two third-down penalties on Chicago to keep the drive moving, but Winston also converted two other third downs with sharp throws to Humphries and Evans, and Martin finished it off by plunging over left guard to score on third-and-one.