“We came in at halftime and all said we’d just played the worst first half of football in a long time. It was a very bad experience,” Forte said after the game. “The only bright side to the situation was that we were only down 10-0 and our defense had kept us in the game. We knew that we still had a chance.”
Turnovers by the Bucs in the second half gave Forte and Alshon Jeffery, who combined for three scores, the opportunity to finish off a rally that resulted in a 21-13 victory. The win sends the Bears to Detroit later this week with momentum from a two-game winning streak.
Forte’s first score came on a 13-yard run after Josh McCown was strip-sacked by defensive end David Bass and Christian Jones came away with the ball. Forte’s second score came less than two minutes later after Ryan Mundy intercepted a McCown pass.
“We owe so much to our defense,” Forte said. “In the second half they kept bringing us turnovers and we were able to convert those into scores. Then they held Tampa’s offense to keep the game out of their reach. I can’t say enough about our guys’ efforts out there today.”
Forte finished with 89 yards rushing and 5 receptions for 23 yards.
“It wasn’t my best performance but I was able to keep us in things,” he said.
Forte said that although he was familiar with former coach Lovie Smith’s defensive strategy, the knowledge didn’t help the Bears’ offense to any degree in the first half.
“We knew his tendencies but what was happening on the field seemed different somehow. We just weren’t able to get things done early on. It was frustrating as we kind of knew what to expect but we weren’t countering effectively. You can know what’s going to happen sometimes but what you do against that just doesn’t work well. I’m not sure what but that does happen from time to time.”
According to Forte, the conversation at halftime was all about execution.
“We sat down and discussed what we had to do to get back in the game. And once our defense put us there, we were able to take things the rest of the way with their help. It was a matter of building on the situation when the defense got the ball for us. We scored fast two of the times there were turnovers. That is the kind of thing you like to see out there.”
Smith, who coached Forte for nine seasons, was warmly received by his former players after the game.
“Hey, I still love Lovie,” Forte said. “It was really weird seeing him over there on the opposing sideline. He was a good coach for us. I didn’t approach him before the game as we both were pretty busy then, but we did have a short conversation afterwards. I wished him well and he did the same for me. I saw some of our former players and my old running backs coach as well. It was good to run into them.”
Chicago’s next game comes against the Lions on Thursday. If the Bears win that contest, they’ll raise their record to .500 and put themselves in position to challenge for an NFC Wildcard spot.
“There is no choice at this point,” said Forte. “We [need to] win out. Every game is important and we understand the job in front of us. We’ll rest once the season is over.”
Beth Gorr has been covering the Bears for the last 14 years and is the author of Bear Memories: The Chicago-Green Bay Rivalry. She is currently working on a second book about early Bears history.