After the Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat the Miami Dolphins in Week Five, Head Coach Bruce Arians told his players to hold off celebrating the win until the following so they could focus on a trip to Philadelphia on a very short week. Now the Buccaneers are returning from Tampa with two victories to savor over a long weekend that will provide very valuable time to rest, recover and recharge.
Tampa Bay's 28-22 downing of the Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field was actually their third straight win, all in the span of 12 days…or, to be more exact, days and nights. The Bucs started the run with an emotional Sunday night win in New England by a tight 19-17 score, went home to bury the Dolphins, 45-17, then won their third prime-time in as many tries this season in Philly.
Arians will give the players four straight days off before they have to get back to work next Tuesday and begin preparing for the Chicago Bears in Week Seven. Chicago heads into the weekend with a 3-2 record and a home game against the Green Bay Packers, who are one up on them in the NFC North standings. After that game, the Bears will bring either a 4-2 or 3-3 mark with them to Raymond James Stadium for the seventh meeting between these two teams in the last eight seasons.
The Buccaneers still have a bitter taste in their mouths from last year's game against the Bears, which was another prime-time road affair on a Thursday night, but not one that ended as well as this year's trip to Philadelphia. Tampa Bay lost that game, 20-19, at Soldier Field in a game riddled with penalties, turnovers and mental miscues. It proved to be a turning point for the Super Bowl-bound Buccaneers, who played much cleaner football the rest of the way in 2020.
The 2020 Bears team still features the Khalil Mack-led ferocious defense that gave Tom Brady and company fits last year, a unit that heads into Week Six eighth in yards allowed and first in sacks per pass play. Mack already has five sacks through five games, and Robert Quinn has added 4.5. However, the 2021 Bears differ greatly on the other side of the ball because they have begun the transition to the player they hope will be their long-term quarterback of the future.
In April, the Bears gave up their first-round pick in 2022 to move up nine spots in the first round and draft Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields with the 11th overall pick. The Bears had already signed veteran quarterback Andy Dalton to a one-year deal in free agency, and they prepared for the season with the intention of bring Fields along slowly while Dalton took the reins on offense. As so often happens in these situations, those plans were quickly scuttled by an injury Dalton, and now Fields has been named the starter going forward.
Not surprisingly for a rookie quarterback suddenly thrust into the driver's seat, Fields has struggled in his first three starts, with a 51.4% completion rate, one touchdown, two interceptions and a passer rating of 64.5. However, after a truly disastrous first start for the Bears' offense as a whole in a Week Three loss to Cleveland, Fields had more encouraging outings in his next two games, including a Week Five win over Las Vegas in which he had one touchdown, no picks and a 91.9 passer rating. Fields also has very good rushing talent that so far the Bears haven't tapped into too much, as he has carried 20 times for 59 yards and a score.
When the Bears visit Raymond James Stadium on October 24, they will be trying to stand in the way of history for the Buccaneers franchise. Tampa Bay is 5-1 after six games, marking the fifth time they've opened a season with five wins in their first six games. However, the Buccaneers have never started a season 6-1. After a relaxing weekend, the Buccaneers will get back to work early next week and focus on avenging last year's loss to Chicago and creating the best season start in team history.