Bears/Buccaneers Game Snapshot

The Bears and Bucs square off Sunday at Wembley Stadium in London. Chicago looks to bring their record to 4-3 before heading into the Week 8 bye. Let's analyze this weekend's NFC matchup.

KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
GAMEDATE: 10/23/11
SURFACE: Desso GrassMaster

TV: FOX, Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnston, Tony Siragusa

KEYS TO THE GAME

The Buccaneers have used more press coverage outside than the traditional two-deep zone, but against the Bears' average receiving corps, they might use the Cover Two to minimize RB Matt Forte's damage. Forte leads the NFL in yards from scrimmage and Chicago continues to find ways to get him the ball in the open field.

Last week, the Bears used mostly max protection with great success, but two-man routes are scrambled by disciplined zone coverage. With RB LeGarrette Blount (knee) likely out, RB Earnest Graham plays the Forte roll as a crutch for QB Josh Freeman. Freeman doesn't often force the ball into tight spots, opting for short checks to Graham and TE Kellen Winslow.

The range of the Bears' LB corps and their challenged safeties might invite deep throws and the re-emergence of WR Mike Williams.

FAST FACTS

Cutler's teams are 24-0 when he has a 100-plus passer rating. ... Freeman made his NFL debut in London in 2009.

INSIDE THE CAMPS

Bears

Despite the several times that Jay Cutler has been caught on camera looking salty and sounding peevish about play-calling or getting the play relayed to him on time, offensive coordinator Mike Martz says the two are on the same page.


QB Jay Cutler
Jamie Squire/Getty

"That's really not an issue," Martz said. "We spend a great deal of time together in one-on-one meetings, and we go over the game plan. If there's something he's not comfortable in, we change it. I look forward to our meeting time. This has been a lot of fun this year with him."

Martz scoffed when asked if he and Cutler have to be best friends for the offense to run smoothly.

"No, for crying out loud," he said. "No, no, no. I don't know where we're going with this, other than to say that we work through all that stuff. He has to have the same vision of things when we put the passing game together. If there's anything that he's not sure of, we have to either do a better job of teaching it or eliminate it.

"But he's been terrific. I've got no complaints about him at all. He's a brilliant guy. The only downside to that is I have a tendency to want to do too much because he is so smart."

Martz has said almost from Day One that he's been impressed with how quickly Cutler picks up concepts and nuances when it comes to the scheme and individual plays.

"He understands concepts immediately," Martz said. "I get halfway through and he's, 'I've got it.' He knows what you're talking about, and that's a lot of fun for me.

"But you can go too fast with somebody like that, too. I think that was the case earlier with Jay with me. I love working with him. We have a great time. I think he likes what we do, and we work through things."

Buccaneers

The Bucs will have to rely on dependable running back Earnest Graham for at least another game.

Graham, who rushed for 109 yards on 19 carries against the Saints last week, will get the bulk of the carries against the Chicago Bears Sunday. Starting tailback LeGarrette Blount has not practiced and expected to miss another week with a knee sprain.

"People think of guys like Chris Johnson and Adrian Peterson when they think of running backs and I don't fit that mode," Graham said. "But I've never had a problem running the football or making explosive plays."


RB Earnest Graham
Al Messerschmidt/Getty

With Allen Bradford claimed off waivers by the Seattle Seahawks, the Bucs are down to just two healthy tailbacks on the active roster - Graham and second-year pro Kregg Lumpkin.

Former Oklahoma running back Mosis Madu remains on the practice squad, but his status might improve soon. Tampa Bay also signed Northern Illinois running back Chad Span to the practice squad. Did the Bucs gamble by putting Bradford on waivers?

"No, I'm not concerned, number one," general manager Mark Dominik said of the shortage of backs. "I don't feel I took a gamble. The trick for us, there's a lot of different moving parts on a 46-man roster, how they can contribute and what they can do. So I had to choose a player I had to let go of. But honestly, especially because of how we operate, I've got to assume when I expose a player that he's gone. Regardless of whether I drafted him, or he's a veteran on waivers, I've got to assume someone is going to sign him.

"We signed Chad Span just to get a little depth there. But I think Earnest Graham proved why he's been a popular player for this organization for a long time and Lumpkin stepped up. I felt good about what we did with (Erik) Lorig. There's been other teams that have gone with two running backs before. It's not like we're the first."

PERSONNEL NEWS

Bears

--WR/RS Devin Hester (chest) had a full practice Thursday and is expected to play Sunday in London.

--TE Kellen Davis (elbow) was a full participant in Thursday's practice and should play on Sunday.

--OT Gabe Carimi (knee) is expected back on the practice field before the Eagles game on Nov. 7, following the Bears' off week.

--WR Earl Bennett (chest) had back-to-back full practices Wednesday and Thursday for the first time since he was hurt in Week 2. Coach Lovie Smith did not clear him for Sunday's game, but he has not been ruled out either.

--S Major Wright (hip) was limited Thursday but is expected to play Sunday.

Buccaneers

--DE Michael Bennett (groin) returned to practice Thursday and will start against the Bears.

--DT Gerald McCoy did some individual drills in pads Thursday morning despite a sprained ankle that kept him out of the game last week against the Saints. He could play Sunday against the Bears.

--RB LeGarrette Blount (knee) did not practice again Thursday and is not expected to play Sunday against the Bears.

--RB Earnest Graham took the first-team reps at tailback and is expected to start against the Bears.

--TE Luke Stocker, who did not play last week against the Saints because of a knee sprain, practiced again Thursday and should play against the Bears Sunday.


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