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Bucs, Bears Make Black-and-Blue Reunion for Fifth Straight Year

For a good portion of their first two decades in the NFL, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were like a younger, weaker brother to the Chicago Bears. Things have gotten better, however, since the Buccaneers moved out of the house.

After spending their first season in the AFC West, the Buccaneers joined Chicago, Detroit, Green Bay in the NFC Central in 1977, a group that became affectionately known as the Black-and-Blue Division. Tampa Bay actually proved it belonged with those venerable franchises pretty quickly, winning the division in 1979 and again in 1981. The Bucs even won two of their first four games against the Bears, and four of their first 10.

And that's apparently when the Bears decided that their new Central sibling was getting too much attention from Mom and Dad. Beginning in 1983, Chicago bullied Tampa Bay 12 straight times and 17 out of 19, stretching into 1992. That put a big gap in the all-time series record, as you can see below. The Buccaneers did close it a bit with a five-game winning streak at the end of the '90s, but Chicago won the last three meetings before Tampa Bay packed up its room, took its Lee Roy Selmon posters off the wall and left the Black-and-Blue homestead for good.

Since the Buccaneers relocated to the NFC South as part of the NFL's 2002 expansion-slash-geographical-realignment, the Chicago-Tampa Bay series has been a wash. The Bucs have won five times, including the first two and the most recent two, and Chicago has won five times. The two teams have never met in the postseason. In fact, the Buccaneers and Bears have only been in the playoffs in the same year three times: 1979, 2001 and 2010.

The Bucs and Bears may have moved apart years ago, but recently they've been getting together for a reunion on an annual basis. This will mark the fifth straight season that Chicago and Tampa Bay will play each other, an unusual occurrence for non-division opponents in the current era of rotating matchups.

Here's the series scoreboard (regular season only):

Tampa Bay: 20

Chicago: 38

Buccaneers' Highlights:

1. Tampa Bay 20, Chicago 6, Jan. 2, 2000

The Buccaneers' long playoff drought ended in 1997, when they earned a Wild Card berth with a 10-6 record in Tony Dungy's second year as the head coach. However, it was the 1999 season that produced their first division title in 18 years. The team came into its season finale in Chicago with a one-game lead on the 9-6 Minnesota Vikings, needing to beat the Bears in order to ensure that division crown and earn a first-round bye. Tampa Bay got that win at Soldier Field, 20-6, the same way they got most of their victories that year, with defense. Steve White and Marcus Jones had sacks, Donnie Abraham picked off Cade McNown and the Buccaneers did not allow the Bears to convert a single one of their 12 third-down tries (plus only one of four fourth-down attempts). Dave Moore and Mike Alstott scored touchdowns and Jacquez Green had 10 receptions for 113 yards. The game did end on a bit of a sour note, however, as long-time Buccaneer left tackle Paul Gruber suffered a broken leg in what would prove to be his final NFL outing. The Bucs won the NFC Central one last time and advanced all the way to a memorable NFC Championship Game in St. Louis.

2. Tampa Bay 26, Chicago 23 (OT), Jan. 2, 1983

A players' strike stripped seven games off the schedule in 1982, which is how the Buccaneers could earn their first win of the season two days before December and still make the playoffs. After an 0-3 start, the

Buccaneers won four of five to hit the season finale with a .500 record and a shot at making the eight-team NFC field in the hastily-improvised "Super Bowl Tournament." And, for the third time in four seasons, the Bucs got their playoff berth only on the season's final day with a three-point victory. In this one, the Buccaneers fell behind, 23-6, in the third quarter at Tampa Stadium. What followed was, at that time, the greatest comeback in franchise history. The Bucs erased that 17-point deficit with two Doug Williams-to-Jimmie Giles touchdown passes (35 and 31 yards) and tied the game on a 40-yard Bill Capece field goal with 26 seconds left. Chicago won the toss in overtime but the Bucs' defense forced a three-and-out and on the next play from scrimmage James Wilder took a pitch around right end and got 47 yards. Capece's 33-yarder won it two plays later.

3. Tampa Bay 41, Chicago 0, Sept. 10, 2000

The Buccaneers also clinched a first-round bye with a win in Chicago (or, to be more accurate, in Champaign, Illinois while Soldier Field was being renovated) at the end of the 2002 regular season, but as important as that game was it was a touchdown-free slog through a cold and extremely windy evening. This home opener from the 2000 season was far more entertaining, and it remains Tampa Bay's most lopsided win ever. Neither team scored for the first 14 minutes of the game, and it was just 6-0 with two minutes to play in the first half, but the Bucs finished the second quarter with a flourish. An Abraham interception set up a bootleg touchdown run by Shaun King, and three plays later Abraham forced a fumble by Dez White that was scooped up by Ronde Barber for a 24-yard touchdown return. King had touchdown passes to Green and Keyshawn Johnson in the third quarter as the Bucs pulled away, and the defense allowed just 165 yards and nine first downs on the day.

Bears' Highlights:

1. Chicago 27, Tampa Bay 24, Nov. 18, 2001

As alluded to above, the Bears sent the Buccaneers off from the NFC Central with a sweep in 2001. As also noted above, this was one of the rare seasons in which both teams made the playoffs, which made this sweep much more impressive than the ones in the 1980s. Bears wide receiver Marty Booker had a career day, with seven catches for 165 yards, including touchdowns of 28, 44 and 66 yards. That helped Chicago pull out to a 24-9 lead but the Bucs rallied with touchdown runs by Alstott and Brad Johnson. Johnson and Alstott also hooked up on a two-point conversion to pull the Bucs within three with 2:29 back. Using two timeouts, Tampa Bay's defense got the ball back with just 17 seconds elapsed off the clock, but Tony Parrish killed the Bucs hopes with an interception on the next play. The Bears fumbled but recovered on the next play, then Jim Miller kneeled twice to run the clock down to 20 seconds. Rather than attempting a long field goal or a short punt, the Bears chose to kneel again on fourth down. The change of possession stopped the clock and gave Johnson 18 seconds to work with. Two completions to Warrick Dunn and a critical unnecessary roughness call on R.W. McQuarters actually gave the Bucs a shot at a 48-yard game-tying field goal but Martin Gramatica banged it off the right upright. Chicago ended up winning the division; the Bucs got a Wild Card spot.

2. Chicago 27, Tampa Bay 26, Oct. 25, 1987

In a series that, frankly, has seen a lot of blowouts, this one was the uncommon thriller. There was a players' strike in 1987, too, although this time the league brought in replacement players for a three-week stretch. The first game after the original players came back to work pitted the Bucs and Bears, which may have accounted for some of the day's sloppiness (21 penalties, eight fumbles, two missed field goals, very few third-down conversions). Chicago never led in the game until their final score, a six-yard touchdown pass from Jim McMahon to Neal Anderson with less than two minutes to play. Richard Dent sealed the win with a sack of Steve DeBerg and a forced fumble on the ensuing drive. Steve DeBerg had two touchdown passes in the first quarter and Winston Moss recovered a fumble in the end zone caused by a Ron Holmes sack as Tampa Bay rushed out to a quick 20-0 lead. After a John Cannon sack knocked Mike Tomczak out of the game, McMahon came on in relief and ran for a touchdown in the fourth quarter before his final scoring pass to Anderson.

3. Chicago 48, Tampa Bay 14, Dec. 7, 1986

To balance out the Buc blowout described above, here's the most points the Bears have ever dropped on the Buccaneers. This one wasn't even as close as the score suggests, as the Bears rolled out to a 42-0 lead by midway through the third quarter, at one point scoring five touchdowns in the span of six drives. The Bears did all of that while only competing nine passes, with eight different players combining to run 46 times for 245 yards and four touchdowns. Walter Payton, Thomas Sanders and both Chicago quarterbacks, Mike Tomczak and Doug Flutie, all ran one in for a score and Payton also had 98 yards and a touchdown on three catches.

Bucs' Top Performers Against Bears:

Among players currently on the roster, here are a few Buccaneers who have fared well against the Steelers.

· DT Gerald McCoy…4 games, 13 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 7 quarterback hits, 1 forced fumble

· WR Mike Evans..4 games, 18 receptions for 267 yards and 2 touchdowns, 14.8 yards per catch, 17 first downs

Bears' Top Performers Against Bucs:

· WR Taylor Gabriel…4 games, 15 receptions for 171 yards and 1 touchdown, 3 carries for 27 yards and 1 touchdown, 8 receiving first downs

· LB Leonard Floyd…2 games, 7 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 4 quarterback hits, 1 pass defensed, 1 fumble recovery

Bucs-Bears Game-by-Game Record:

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Series Notes:

·    Overall Season Series: Chicago leads, 38-20

·    Bucs' Home Record: 14-17

·    Bucs' Road Record: 6-21

·    Current Streak: Win 2 (2016-17)

·    Buccaneers' Longest Winning Streak: 6 (1997-2000)

·    Bears' Longest Winning Streak: 12 (1983-88)

·    Regular Season Point Total: Buccaneers 952, Bears 1,231

·    Most Points in a Game for Tampa Bay: 42…Buccaneers 42, Bears 35 (1989)

·    Most Points in a Game for Chicago: 48…Bears 48, Buccaneers 14 (1988)

·    Most Points, combined: 77…Buccaneers 42, Bears 35 (1989)

·    Fewest Points in a Game for Tampa Bay: 0…five times

·    Fewest Points in a Game for Chicago: 0…two times

·    Fewest Points in a Game, combined: 9…Buccaneers 6, Bears 3 (1999)

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