Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Series History: Bucs-Bears

Chicago has a healthy lead in the all-time series thanks to their dominance in the '80s, but the Bears have also been around for some of the milestone wins in Tampa Bay's franchise history

STORY HIGHLIGHTS

  • Chicago has won two-thirds of the team's 54 meetings, creating that big lead with a streak of dominance in the '80s
  • The Bucs have beaten the Bears in their season finales in four playoff seasons: 1982, 1997, 1999 and 2002
  • Tampa Bay's last two trips to Chicago have resulted in thrilling overtime outcomes, with one win for each team

    The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have played the Chicago Bears, their old NFC Central foes, 54 times and won exactly one-third of those contests. The series would look a lot less lopsided if one could simply excise a period of time from, say, 1983 to 1992, from the list of all-time head-to-head matchups.

That decade was a bad match for the Buccaneers, who finished below .500 in each of those 10 campaigns. Meanwhile, Chicago was .500 or better in eight of those 10 campaigns and a double-digit-winning playoff-qualifying squad seven times. Not much more needs to be said about the Super Bowl Shuffling 1985 Bears, in particular; that squad sent almost everybody to ignominious defeat. Chicago won 12 straight in the series from '83 through '88, encountered a short blip in 1989 and then won five more from 1990-92. The Bucs will be digging out of that hole in the all-time series for a long time.

Of course, we can no more ignore that decade than we can snip 1997-2000 out of the Bucs-Bears space-time continuum, as it were. The Bucs turned their fortunes around in 1997 and eventually won their own Super Bowl in 2002, and for one very enjoyable stretch they took out their Bear-generated frustration six straight times, culminating in a cathartic 41-0 beat-down at Raymond James Stadium in 2000.

Since divorcing divisionally during the 2002 NFL realignment, the Buccaneers and Bears have been a much more even match. Each team has won three times since then, and the last four meetings have all been decided by six points or less. The Bucs went to the Windy City in both 2006 and 2008, and the those two games were very similar, each marked by a wild fourth-quarter Buccaneer rally (more on that later). In keeping with the new theme of parity, each team won once in overtime, with the first rally leading to a disappointing loss for the visitors but the second ending in a three-point win.

Before the wild Bear attacks of the 1980s, the series started out innocently enough. The Bucs first caught wind of the Bears in 1977, when the second-year expansion team was still looking for its first regular-season victory. Chicago didn't oblige, although both teams left it in doubt until the fourth quarter. Tampa Bay had 135 yards on the day, including 21 through the air with Randy Hedberg at the helm, and was perhaps hoping to wait the Bears out and win on a safety. There would be no such sweetness for the Buccaneers because Walter Payton capped his 101-yard day with a three-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter and the Bears won, 10-0. That would prove to be the end of the losing streak for the Buccaneers, however; the next week they would win in New Orleans, 33-14.

The Bucs would also score 33 points and win the next time they encountered the Bears. That was the very next season, again in Tampa. The home team was actually losing in the third quarter, 16-13, but then went on a barrage that included a Doug Williams touchdown run, a Doug Williams 40-yard touchdown pass to Morris Owens and a three-yard Johnny Davis TD plunge. This marked the first five-touchdown game in franchise history.

By this point, of course, the Bucs and Bears were playing twice a season in the NFC Central, and not all of those games were instant classics. In other words, we can skip ahead a bit from time to time. The Buccaneers' next victory in the series came during their 1979 breakout campaign, and it was noteworthy because it was the last game in the team's stunning five-game winning streak to start the season. It was also Tampa Bay's first win in Chicago, though it failed to start a trend in that regard. Tampa Bay's league-best defense eventually proved to be the difference in a 17-10 decision when Jeris White and Cedric Brown intercepted Vince Evans on the Bears' last two drives.

That win proved to be critical in the tiebreaking scenarios when both teams finished 10-6 but the Bucs got the division title and the Bears got a Wild Card ticket to Philly, where their postseason quickly ended. Chicago punished the Buccaneers for that game by holding them scoreless for the next eight quarters, winning 14-0 in Tampa later in 1979 and 23-0 in Chicago the next year. That latter defeat was a little more disappointing than the first one because it came on the Buccaneers' Monday Night Football debut. Payton ran for 134 yards, the Bears' defense punished Williams with four sacks and a penalty wiped out a late Jimmie Giles touchdown to keep the shutout intact.

Virtually everyone was in contention in 1982, when a players' strike shortened the season to nine games each and the playoffs were expanded and repackaged as a 16-team "Super Bowl Tournament." And thus it was that the Buccaneers were 4-4 heading into a January 2 season finale against Chicago, and every much alive in the playoff race. The Bucs knew they couldn't catch the 5-2-1 Packers, but the divisions were all lumped together into one set of standings in each conference, and there were a whole mess of teams right around .500. The Buccaneers drew the 3-5 Bears for the last game and that didn't prove to be much of an advantage when they fell behind, 26-3 in the third quarter. Williams and Giles then hooked up for TD passes of 35 and 31 yards and K Bill Capece had the best game of his up-and-down Buc career with four field goals, including the 33-yarder in overtime to win it.

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After taking it on the chin for much of the 1980s, the Buccaneers captured some big wins in their long series with the Bears, including the one in 2002 that clinched a first-round playoff bye

And then came the misery. The onslaught wasn't obvious right away, as the next game, in the second week of the next season, was a nail-biter. Williams had exited the building and the Bucs were trying out Jerry Golsteyn under center before handing it over to trade acquisition Jack Thompson. Golsteyn actually had a pretty big day, with 277 yards on 42 passes, but Payton took a short pass and ran 73 yards for a touchdown and the Bears broke a 10-10 tie in the fourth quarter on a pick-six by Terry Schmidt.

But then the Bears started to build their juggernaut and they posted lopsided wins of 27-0, 34-14 and 44-9 over the next season-and-a-half. On opening day of 1985, the Bears beat the Bucs by a 38-28 score after Tampa Bay forged a 28-17 lead at halftime at Soldier Field. Two plays into the third quarter, however, Richard Dent deflected a Steve DeBerg pass and current Buccaneers Defensive Coordinator Leslie Frazier caught it and returned it 29 yards for a touchdown. The second half was all Chicago but as it turned out the Bucs' 28 points were the most Chicago would give up in any of its 18 wins that year (Miami hung 38 on them in the Bears' only loss).

If that was a moral victory for the Buccaneers, it was the only kind they got against the Bears during the mid-80s. So let's do that aforementioned skipping ahead, with the 1989 aberration as our target. We'll just drop in briefly on an October meeting in 1987, which happened to be the first game back for the regular players after replacements were used for three weeks during a strike. DeBerg came back with a hot hand and had the Bucs up by 12 points heading into the fourth quarter. Unfortunately, Jim McMahon led two long scoring drives in the final period, leaping in for the score on the first one and throwing a six-yard TD pass to RB Neal Anderson for the game-winner in a 27-26 final.

In 1989, Ray Perkins' third year at the helm, the Buccaneers broke their losing streak against the Bears and in fact got their only two-game season sweep in the series. The games were wild, with the two teams combining for 140 total points. In Tampa in October, each team scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter and the Bucs came out on top, 42-35. RB Lars Tate had his best day as a Buccaneer, rushing for 112 yards and two touchdowns on just 18 carries to outdo Anderson (86 yards, three TDs). WR's Mark Carrier and Bruce Hill finished with nearly identical lines, each catching six passes and scoring once with Hill getting 107 yards to Carrier's 105. The two teams met again in Chicago in November and this time it was even crazier in the fourth quarter and even closer at the end. In fact, the two teams combined for 40 points in the final period, and while 21 of those 40 went to Chicago, the Bucs still escaped with a 32-31 win on Donald Igwebuike's 28-yard field goal as time expired.

Chicago won the next five, including a 27-0 shutout at Soldier Field in 1991 in which they held Tampa Bay's offense to 106 total yards, the seventh-lowest mark in team history. The Bucs' next win came in the second meeting of 1992, in Tampa. RB Reggie Cobb ran for 114 yards and a score and helped the Bucs jump out to a 20-0 halftime lead. That proved to be just enough, as the Bears stormed back but missed a chance to tie it when K Kevin Butler misfired on a 44-yard field goal try at the end of regulation.

The pair of games in '93 was unusual in that Chicago pounded the Bucs, 47-17, in Chicago in September but Tampa Bay came back to get a 13-10 win in the December rematch. Jim Harbaugh was ruthlessly efficient in the first game, completing 17 of 22 passes for 192 yards, two touchdowns and no picks, but in the second game he was knocked out with a hand injury and replaced by Peter Tom Willis. Butler, perhaps still stinging from his big miss the year before (and the "gutless" and "mentally weak" barbs he took from Mike Ditka), Butler riled up the Bucs by taunting their bench after making a 55-yard field goal to make it 10-3, Tampa Bay, at halftime. The Bucs got the last laugh, however, when they stopped two fourth-down conversion attempts by Willis and the Bears' offense in Buccaneer territory in the fourth quarter.

Then came another five-game Chicago wining skein, in which Tampa Bay's offense failed to score more than 10 points, that stretch into 1996. The Bucs got a win in the latter half of '96 – an 88-yard punt return for a touchdown by Karl Williams was key because the Tampa Bay offense was out-gained, 339-181 – but the two teams split in 1997, Tampa Bay's breakout campaign. The Bucs were already 8-3 when they faced the Bears the first time that season but they got surprised in Chicago, 13-7, by a 1-10 Bears team. That helped put the Bucs into something of a must-win situation when they welcomed the Bears to Houlihan's Stadium in the season finale. Tampa Bay responded with an easy 31-15, as Williams once again scored on a punt return (and on a reception, too, for good measure).

That game was the last regular-season contest played in what was known as Tampa Stadium for most of its existence. The Bucs moved into Raymond James Stadium in 1998 and the first team to visit was, of course, the Chicago Bears. The Bucs came home after playing five road preseason games and two more away from home to start the regular season, and all that traveling might have worn on them as they let the Bears get up 15-0 at halftime. Fortunately, the Bucs dominated in the second half with 27 unanswered points, the most entertaining of which came on a one-handed catch by TE Dave Moore on a deep ball down the sideline.

At this point, the Bucs were firmly within their six-game winning streak against Chicago, and to be fair we won't belabor every outcome. Included in that run, though was a 6-3 decision in 1999 that is still one of only three games in Tampa Bay's four decades of play in which the two teams combined for fewer than 10 points. Derrick Brooks had 10 tackles, two interceptions and four passes defensed to lead a swarming Bucs' defense. The last game in that run was the Bucs' most lopsided victory in the series, a 41-0 blanking in Tampa in 2000 in which the home team scored in a wide variety of manners, from a Ronde Barber fumble return to a 20-yard Mike Alstott run to a Shaun King bootleg. Chicago gained just 165 yards, most of it in the fourth quarter with the outcome well decided. In a reverse of the 1993 season, Chicago somehow managed to rebound from that massacre to win the other game in the season, 13-10, in Chicago

The Bears swept the Bucs in the last season of the NFC Central's existence, 2001. In 2002, history repeated itself again as a trip to Chicago was the season finale, with some important playoff possibilities on the line for Tampa. The contest was played in Champaign, Illinois due to construction at Soldier Field and it was a night contest, which gave the Bucs a chance to see how the rest of the day unfolded. A Green Bay loss in the afternoon set it up so that a Buccaneer win in the evening would give them a first-round bye…and that's exactly what happened. On an extremely cold and windy night, the Bucs won, 15-0, on five Martin Gramatica field goals, all in the same direction to take advantage of the wind.

That 2002 Bucs team dominated many an opponent en route to raising the Lombardi Trophy, but the 2004 crew had it much rougher, going 5-11. That team still beat the Bears handily, though, handing them a 19-7 defeat in Tampa in which the visitors were held to 167 yards of offense. Conversely, the Bucs were good again in 2005 but not good enough to avoid a 13-10 loss at the hands of the Bears. That game started out badly, with QB Chris Simms fumbling at the Bucs one-yard line on the third play to set up Chicago's only touchdown. K Matt Bryant, dealing with a hamstring he tweaked on the opening kickoff, also missed a 29-yard field goal that would have tied the game late in the fourth quarter.

As mentioned above, the Bucs' trips to Chicago in 2006 and 2008 had some similarities. In the first one, a 3-10 Bucs team rallied for 21 points in the fourth quarter to force overtime. QB Tim Rattay, a 2005 trade-deadline acquisition, relieved starter Bruce Gradkowski and threw for 268 yards and three touchdowns. In overtime, however, neither team got much going until the Bears finally kicked a game-winning field goal for a 34-31 decision with less than four minutes to play.

Tampa Bay's rally in Chicago two years later was led by Brian Griese, who threw a team-record 67 passes, completing 38 of them for 407 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions. Griese tied the game with seven seconds left on a one-yard TD pass to TE Jerramy Stevens, then set up the game-winning Matt Bryant field goal 10 minutes into overtime with a 38-yard completion to WR Antonio Bryant.

Both teams had a lengthy trip to convene for their most recent meeting, a 2011 contest in London that was technically considered a Buccaneers home game. The Bears enjoyed the trip more, taking home a 24-18 win powered by Matt Forte's 183 combined yards and one touchdown.

Bucs-Bears Game-by-Game Record:

1977

L, 10-0

Tampa

1978

W, 33-19

Tampa

1978

L, 14-3

Chicago

1979

W, 17-13

Chicago

1979

L, 14-0

Tampa

1980

L, 23-0

Chicago

1980

L, 14-13

Tampa

1981

L, 28-17

Chicago

1981

W, 20-10

Tampa

1982

W, 26-23 (OT)

Tampa

1983

L, 17-10

Chicago

1983

L, 27-0

Tampa

1984

L, 34-14

Chicago

1984

L, 44-9

Tampa

1985

L, 38-28

Chicago

1985

L, 27-19

Tampa

1986

L, 23-3

Tampa

1986

L, 48-14

Chicago

1987

L, 20-3

Chicago

1987

L, 27-26

Tampa

1988

L, 28-10

Chicago

1988

L, 27-15

Tampa

1989

W, 42-35

Tampa

1989

W, 32-31

Chicago

1990

L, 26-6

Tampa

1990

L, 27-14

Chicago

1991

L, 21-20

Tampa

1991

L, 27-0

Chicago

1992

L, 31-14

Chicago

1992

W, 20-17

Tampa

1993

L, 47-17

Chicago

1993

W, 13-10

Tampa

1994

L, 21-9

Chicago

1994

L, 20-6

Tampa

1995

L, 25-6

Tampa

1995

L, 31-10

Chicago

1996

L, 13-10

Chicago

1996

W, 34-19

Tampa

1997

L, 13-7

Chicago

1997

W, 31-15

Tampa

1998

W, 27-15

Tampa

1998

W, 31-17

Chicago

1999

W, 6-3

Tampa

1999

W, 20-6

Chicago

2000

W, 41-0

Tampa

2000

L, 13-10

Chicago

2001

L, 27-24

Tampa

2001

L, 27-3

Chicago

2002

W, 15-0

Champaign, IL

2004

W, 19-7

Tampa

2005

L, 13-10

Tampa

2006

L, 34-31 (OT)

Chicago

2008

W, 27-24 (OT)

Chicago

2011

L, 24-18

London
Series Notes:

  • Overall Season Series: Chicago leads, 36-18
  • Bucs' Home Record: 12-16
  • Bucs' Road Record: 6-20
  • Current Streak: Lose 1 (2011)
  • Buccaneers' Longest Winning Streak: 6 (1997-2000)
  • Bears' Longest Winning Streak: 12 (1983-88)
  • Regular Season Point Total: Buccaneers 853, Bears 1,167
  • Most Points in a Game for Tampa Bay: 42…Buccaneers 42, Bears 35 (1989)
  • Most Points in a Game for Minnesota: 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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