Defense Stuck in a Rut Against the Run

TAMPA, Fla. _ The Bears' defensive woes against the run continued even against the league's 30th-ranked rushing team.

Tampa Bay came into the 19-7 win over the Bears averaging 76 yards a game on the ground and Bears defenders were left wondering what they had to do to improve against their rush defense following another disaster.

"Their run game is very balanced," Bears defensive end Michael Haynes said. "In other words, they can run everything out of a lot of formations. That's always something that's difficult.

"But you know what? It's nothing we haven't seen before."

The Bucs almost doubled their rushing average per game with 138 yards on 37 attempts. Michael Pittman became the third straight back to go over 100 yards against the Bears' defense and the fourth in six games when he had 109 yards on 23 carries. Mike Alstott had 29 more yards on seven carries.

Both backs did this despite suffering injuries in the game. Alstott's was an MCL sprain and Pittman an ankle sprain.

It wasn't as much the total yardage the two had as when the got they got the yardage that hurt the Bears.

The most blatant example came in the second quarter with the Bucs up 3-0. They faced third-and-15 at the Bears' 25 and seemed headed for another Martin Gramatica field goal.

Instead, they ran Pittman up the middle on a delay-counter and he gained 19 yards to the 6, setting up a Brian Griese touchdown pass to Michael Clayton on the next play.

"On a couple third-and-longs they ran the ball on us," Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher said. "That's frustrating as a defense -- third-and-15 and they run it 1(9) yards.

"You've got to find out what they're doing and get off the field."

Bears safety Todd Johnson had the first fumble recovery of his career when he fell on the fumble forced by Brian Urlacher in the third quarter that led to the Bears' only touchdown.

"Somebody just made a great play getting their hand on the ball," Johnson said. "I was just in the right place at the right time and the ball just bounced to me."

Johnson, who had a homecoming as a former Florida University player, had a bit of an awkward situation at Sunday's game.

His girl friend, Shannon Hulslander was at the game, but he said he doesn't know how fully committed she was to a Bears win -- Hulslander is the luxury suites coordinator for the Bucs.

Running back Jason McKie suffered a right knee sprain and left the game after fumbling the opening kickoff of the second half to set up a 22-yard Martin Gramatica field goal. . . . Running back Thomas Jones suffered a quad strain but the injury wasn't serious and he played with it.

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