Pictures from the Buccaneers' Week 10 matchup with the Bears.
Game Ball:** DE Robert Ayers returned from a lengthy injury absence two weeks ago against Oakland, but Head Coach Dirk Koetter said that Ayers is still rounding back into top form. Just as he was in his Buccaneer debut in Week One before his ankle injury the next week, Ayers was a 60-minute impact player for the Buccaneers' suddenly-swarming defense. Ayers tied a 2016 season high by Buccaneer players with 1.5 sacks and forced a fumble that resulted in a safety late in the third quarter. Ayers' first sack, which he split with Gerald McCoy came on third down and killed a drive, leading to a punt and a Buccaneer field goal. His second sack, on which he chased Jay Cutler down from behind in the end zone, led to a fumble that ricocheted wildly before going out of the back of the end zone. Ayers' high-energy play paced a defense that sacked Cutler four times and created four turnovers.
Play of the Game:** With apologies to Ayers' safety and Chris Conte's first-quarter pick-six, which opened the game's scoring, the most eye-popping sequence of the game came on offense. The Buccaneers had a 17-10 halftime lead and the first possession of the second half, but it looked as if they would squander that initial advantage. Facing a third-and-10 at the Bucs' 23, Winston took a shotgun snap and quickly found himself scrambling to avoid multiple would-be sackers. His circuitous route actually took him all the way into the end zone, where two Bears defenders were in position for a possible safety. Winston avoided those two, ran back across the goal line and suddenly eyed WR Mike Evans deep down the middle of the field, covered by CB Tracy Porter. Barely breaking stride, Winston heaved a deep pass to his favorite target and Evans did the rest, leaping higher than Porter to snag the pass and holding on for a 39-yard gain as he landed on his back. One snap later, Winston hit WR Freddie Martino with a 43-yard touchdown pass and the Bucs never looked back.
Turning Point:** One could easily double up and call Winston's improvisational bomb the game's turning point, too. However, Conte's touchdown was the first strike in a game in which neither team had much early success on offense. LB Lavonte David, blitzing off the right edge, wasn't fooled by a play-action fake and was thus in Cutler's field of vision when the quarterback spun back to his right. Cutler tried to hit TE Logan Paulsen anyway but Conte reacted quickly to the throw, but just under Paulsen's route and picked it off on the fly. His 20-yard, unobstructed, high-stepping jaunt to the end zone gave the Bucs a lead they would never relinquish.
It Was Over When: Ayers swatted the ball from Cutler's grasp as he was running to his right through the middle of the end zone in the final minute of the third quarter. The Bucs had rebounded from a demoralizing 'Hail Mary' touchdown pass by Cutler at the end of the first half by scoring 10 points on their first two possessions of the third quarter. Now up 27-10, the Tampa Bay defense was looking for a play that would put it away and Ayers obliged. Cutler couldn't quite hold on to the ball long enough to get off a desperation throw, instead losing it on a fumble while his throwing hand was empty as it came forward. The ball flew to the goal line but then deflected off a bunch of players on both teams and shot out the back of the end zone. The officials conferred and ruled it a fumble and a safety, which not only made it a 19-point game but also forced the Bears to kick off to the Bucs' A 10-minute touchdown drive followed to fully salt the game away.