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Countdown to Kickoff: Buccaneers-Bears, Week 2 2023 

The Buccaneers and Bears will face off in Week Two … Key stats, lineup notes and more

C2k Week 2

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will open their 2023 home itinerary on Sunday, September 17 with a matchup against their former NFC Central rival, the Chicago Bears. Kickoff will begin at 1:00 p.m. ET at Raymond James Stadium, and the contest will be broadcasted locally by FOX.

Both teams are currently headed in different directions after Week One. The Bucs boast a 1-0 record while the visiting Bears are 0-1, following a 38-20 loss to the Packers. Tampa Bay outlasted Minnesota with a 20-17 upset over the Vikings on the road. The Bucs will look to start their season 2-0 for the third-consecutive season. After a week of preparation, here is what the Week Two clash comes down to: 

4 Stats That Matter 

  • The Bears have allowed 27.8 points per game since 2022 (most in the NFL). Chicago allowed the Packers' offense to score 31 points in Week One. 
  • Justin Fields averaged 76.2 rushing yards per game in 2022 (most among quarterbacks, sixth-most in NFL). In Week One, Fields led the team with 59 rushing yards. 
  • The Bears finished 31st in the league in run defense in 2022 (157.3 yards-per-game). In the season opener, Chicago allowed the Packers to convert on 56.3% of their third-down attempts. 
  • The Bucs' defense had three takeaways in Week One against the Vikings (one interception, two fumbles). Overall, Tampa Bay has accumulated 10 takeaways over its last four games (including 2022). 

3 Lineup Notes

  • Starting cornerback Carlton Davis III was held out of a third-straight practice on Friday and was ruled out for Sunday's game against the Bears due to a toe injury. Davis made a pivotal diving pass breakup in Week One that stalled Minnesota's final offensive possession in a rousing victory and the lockdown corner will be difficult to replace. Second-year corner Zyon McCollum will likely replace Davis in the lineup. McCollum, a fifth-round pick in the 2022 draft, started three of 13 games played in 2022, earning snaps on defense in eight. Overall, he posted 17 tackles and one pass defensed.
  • In addition to Davis, both Bucs' rookies Calijah Kancey and SirVocea Dennis were ruled out. Kancey, who made an impact during the 11 snaps he played in his NFL debut against the Vikings, has been battling a lingering calf injury sustained during early training camp on a non-contact drill. Kancey was out for six weeks and made his highly-anticipated return against Minnesota but aggravated the calf injury and did not return following the half. Kancey did not practice on Wednesday-Friday and will not suit up against the Bears. His former Pitt teammate, SirVocea Dennis, was added to the report on Thursday with a hamstring injury and will be sidelined. 
  • For the Bears, Josh Blackwell was listed as doubtful ahead of Sunday's matchup. The second-year cornerback out of Duke did not participate in practice on Thursday and Friday after participating in a limited fashion on Wednesday with a hamstring injury. If Blackwell does not suit up against the Buccaneers, Greg Stroman and Jaylon Jones will likely see more reps in Chicago's secondary. 

2 Challenges Presented by the Bears 

On Sunday, the Bucs' defense will face one of the most dynamic rushing quarterbacks in the NFL – Justin Fields. Fields is slippery in the open field and adept at forcing missed tackles. In 2022, Fields rushed for 1,143 yards in 15 games, averaging 7.1 yards per carry and he found the end zone eight times. That was the second-highest rushing total by a quarterback in NFL history, surpassing Michael Vick's best season and the stat line falls just behind the 1,206 that Lamar Jackson accumulated in his MVP season. Fields' numbers are more impressive considering Chicago's offense is not shaped around his mobility, like the Eagles' system is tailored for Jalen Hurts or the Ravens' is for Jackson with the RPOs. The majority of Fields' runs come off scrambles, and last season, Fields scored three times from 50-plus yards on the ground – a mark no other quarterback has reached in their total career. Because of the threat of Fields' rushing prowess, defensive coordinators have begun to use contain rushes, keeping him in the pocket. If a defensive end beats an offensive tackle and bursts downhill toward Fields, that leaves a lane open for Fields to exploit. 

 "It is very scary," said Bucs' Run Game Coordinator and Defensive Line Coach Kacy Rodgers. "We were just looking at the scrambles today and just trying to make it an emphasis. It's hard because you've got to rush him, but then you rush him, and you get out of your lane and now he is taking off. Then if you don't rush him, you can't give the receivers that kind of time. It poses so many problems and now you're playing a chess match – when you rush, when you don't. It creates a lot of problems for you."

For the Buccaneers, staying disciplined in run fits and effectively setting the edge will be crucial in trying to limit escape artist, Justin Fields. 

 On the defensive side of the ball, Tampa Bay's offense will face one of the league's most prominent off-ball linebackers in former Bills' standout Tremaine Edmunds. Edmunds allowed just 4.4 yards per target as the nearest defender in 2022, the lowest mark among all NFL off-ball linebackers. He made his Chicago debut in Week One with eight stops and two tackles for loss. The Bills' first-round (No. 16 overall) pick from the 2018 NFL Draft has accumulated 565 tackles in 74 career games with Buffalo. The rangy linebacker can win from unorthodox angles and has the burst downhill to disrupt the pocket. Edmunds is known for his coverage against running backs and tight ends, with mirror-and-match capability, but he also has the lateral agility to stay with bouncing rushers. The Bears fielded one of the worst rushing defenses in the NFL in 2022 and an overhaul in the offseason, including the addition of Edmunds, has sparked optimism for the Bears' faithful. Chicago's' defense will look to put the clamps on Dave Canales' revitalized rushing attack on Sunday. 

"You have to be conscious of the ball playing against Coach [Matt] Eberflus and his team," said Offensive Coordinator Dave Canales. "It jumps out on film how hard they chase everything down. As the running backs are making decisions on runs, they've got to secure the ball. Receivers down the field, they've got to secure the ball coming out because these guys are all converging. Then, they play so much visual zone – a lot of those compression tackles happen so you usually have two guys in the zone, and you catch it in between, then the sandwich tackle happens. We drill it a ton, but our guys just taking it to the game and securing it is going to be important."

1 Key Thought from Run Game Coordinator/Defensive Line Coach Kacy Rodgers

On Todd Bowles' Defense

"Well, that's what makes us unique. We like to think by the time you get to game four, that O-line coach should see four different packages. He should see people everywhere. I like to tell people, 'When you prepare against us, that card you showed those guys in there, you probably aren't going to see that.' So, the people [that] play against us, you've really got to lean on your rules and everything. Kind of what you think you're going to get; you're probably not getting it. That helps these guys play faster."

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