Josh Freeman led an impressive two-minute drill, one of his specialties to end the half on Sunday at Wembley Stadium, but the Chicago Bears controlled much of the other 28 minutes and took a 14-5 lead into halftime.
S Tanard Jackson's second interception of the season indirectly set up CB Ronde Barber's first career safety, and Connor Barth's 33-yard field goal capped that two-minute drive. However, Bears QB Jay Cutler threw a touchdown pass to WR Roy Williams and RB Matt Forte ran for 108 yards and a touchdown to give the "visiting" team in London an early advantage.
The Bucs' offense struggled to mount any sustained drives until the end of the half, and Freeman was intercepted on a bobbled ball immediately after Jackson returned his pick into the Bears' red zone. Barber's safety, on which he tackled Forte in the end zone, followed on the very next play.
The Bucs were hit by a rash of injuries in the first half, including an ankle sprain that took running back Earnest Graham out of the game on the first possession. Graham in turn was starting for the injured LeGarrette Blount, and Graham's departure left the Buccaneers with only one healthy tailback, Kregg Lumpkin. Lumpkin ran five times for 20 yard and caught three passes for 18 yards in Graham's place but the Bucs managed just five first downs and 137 yards in the first two quarters.
Jackson (hamstring) and linebacker Mason Foster (ankle) were also forced to the sideline by injuries.
The Bears won the toss and elected to receive. P Michael Koenen uncharacteristically shanked the opening kickoff, sending it out of bounds and letting the Bears start at their own 20 due to the penalty. Forte tried the middle on first down but was stopped for a gain of just one by DE Adrian Clayborn. The Bucs were ready for a screen right to Forte on second down and were able to stop it after just two yards, making it third-and-seven. Cutler was able to avoid two potential Buc sackers on third down but eventually threw incomplete and the Bears had to punt. Preston Parker broke a couple tackles on his return and got the ball back to the Bucs' 15.
Graham found a big hole over left guard on the Bucs' first play and bashed through it for a gain of nine. LB Brian Urlacher leaped to break up a promising pass intended for WR Arrelious Benn on second down, but a nifty fake-belly-play and pitch to Lumpkin worked to the tune of five yards and a first down at the 29. WR Dezmon Briscoe dropped a pass on a short first-down pass but Graham got four yards on a second-down run up the middle. On third-and-six, Winslow ran a deep out and was open but Freeman's pass led him just a bit too much and the Bucs had to punt. Koenen did much better on his first punt, blasting it 52 yards; S Corey Lynch stopped dangerous return man Devin Hester before he could get going, holding him to four yards back to the Bears' 19.
Two plays later, however, Forte slipped past several Buc tacklers and was able to break free for 22 yards to Chicago's 45. Barber was flagged for pass interference on the next snap, moving the ball across midfield to the Bucs' 41. Two plays later, Forte got it again, worked his way around right end and made several impressive cuts to take it all the way in for a 32-yard touchdown.
The Bucs started again from their own 20 and lost two yards on a swing pass left to Graham. They also lost Graham on the play, as he was helped off the field with an apparent injury to his right leg. Lumpkin got nothing on a second-down run, and a third-and-12 underneath pass to Parker came up a yard short. The Bucs had to punt again and another fine effort by Koenen kept Hester from getting farther than the Bears' 31.
Forte picked his way down the left side of the line on first down and eventually shot forward for six yards, and a well-blocked pitch got him 15 more to the Bucs' 48. WR Roy Williams dropped what could have been a big gain over the middle on first down, and the next play resulted in the game's first turnover. Cutler tried to hit RB Marion Barber on a short pass but Barber could only get one hand on it and Jackson alertly picked off the deflection in the crook of one arm. Jackson hit the sideline on a dead run and was able to get the ball all the way down to the Chicago 12. However, on the very next play, Freeman hit Williams at the one-yard line and the ball bounced out of Freeman's hands and into those of Bears safety Chris Conte.
The Bucs did get some points out of it, however, as Forte's first run from the two-yard line never got out of the end zone. Barber trapped the Bears back in the painted grass and that gave the Bucs a safety and two points. That also required the Bears to give the ball back on a free punt from the 20.
Tampa Bay's next possession started at its own 40 and got a first down on a catch by rookie TE Luke Stocker, but two penalties on the offense pushed the Bucs all the way back to their own 42. Before the second-and-21 snap, the Bears committed a neutral-zone infraction, but that was followed quickly by another penalty on Tampa Bay's line, this one an illegal use of the hands by T Jeremy Trueblood. The Bears then jumped offside, taking it all the way back to that original second-and-21. The ball slipped out of Freeman's hands on second down and the Bucs were fortunate that a wobbler was not intercepted by a diving Chris Harris. A short pass over the middle to Lumpkin didn't come close to getting the necessary yardage and the Bucs had to punt from midfield. Koenen's bouncing punt angled out of bounds at the four.
Cutler threw a little outlet pass to FB Tyler Clutts on first down to get nine yards, and the quarter ended before the Bears could run their second-and-inches play. After the team's switched sides, Forte got a yard up the middle to move the chains, then ran twice more for six yards to make it third-and-four at the Bears' 20. Barber jumped a slant intended for Hester on the next play and nearly had an interception and a clear lane to the end zone, but the ball went through his hands. Adam Podlesh's short punt bounced out of bounds at the Bucs' 35.
Lumpkin lost a yard on first down and Freeman was pressured into an incompletion on second down. A short pass up the left numbers was complete to Briscoe but three yards short. The Bears got the ball back at their own 21 and Forte broke off another multi-cut run to get 13 yards on first down. Clayborn got him for no gain on the next play but a quick out to WR Dane Sanzenbacher made it third-and-one. Barber cut past quick penetration by the Bucs' defense on the next play and ran 29 yards to the Bucs' 28. A deep pass to Hester was broken up by Barber and the Bucs strung out Forte's second-down sweep for just three yards. However, on third-and-seven Cutler lobbed a pass over a Buc blitz to Williams and he easily took it in for a 25-yard score.
A play-action rollout by Freeman was easily sniffed out by LB Nick Roach, who nearly sacked Freeman and pressured him into a desperation throwaway. Freeman then tried to hit Stocker over the middle but the two couldn't hook up, making it third-and-10. There was no one open for Freeman on third down, either and the Bucs had to punt. Koenen managed to strike a very helpful punt that landed near the sideline and then stayed inbounds and rolled all the way down to the 15.
Barber got nothing on first down thanks to Price's leg tackle but Cutler zipped strikes to Hester and Johnny Knox for 11 and 15 yards to get the Bears moving again. LB Adam Hayward, playing the middle for the injured Mason Foster, made a good play to stop a Forte sweep, but Cutler threw a dart on a rollout to Knox for another 15 yards to the Bucs' 43. Three plays later, on third-and-three, LB Dekoda Watson's well-time blitz forced Cutler into an incompletion and Parker fair caught the ensuing punt at the Bucs' seven.
A quick out to Briscoe picked up four and stopped the clock when he got out of bounds. A handoff to Lumpkin then worked well, with the back finding a seam up the middle for 13 yards, bringing on the two-minute warning. After the break, a short pass to Williams got six yards and Freeman found him again on the next snap for 18 more. The Bucs used their first timeout with 1:26 left in the half and the ball near midfield. Two plays later, Freeman stood in against a blitz and found Briscoe in the deep middle for 20 yards to the Bears' 25. The second timeout was called with 56 seconds left, and an out to Parker got seven more. A crack to Briscoe in the end zone failed but stopped the clock with 27 seconds left in the half. A pass to Lumpkin came up inches short of a first down and the Bucs let the clock run down to four seconds before sending out the field goal unit. Connor Barth booted a 33-yard field goal to cut the Bears' lead to 14-5 as halftime arrived.