The Bears and Bucs are two very similar teams. They both play dominating defense and are better at running the ball than throwing it.
The Bears are beginning to trust rookie QB Kyle Orton to do more than manage the game, and coaches say he played his best game of the season last week. Offensive coordinator Ron Turner admits the offense needs to play better for the Bears to have much success in the difficult stretch of the schedule they are currently in. That means throwing the ball better, but the Bears will still be a run-first team. They ran 31 times last week against the Panthers' defense, which was No. 2 in rushing yards allowed. But they also threw 26 passes.
"It's a good test for us," Orton said of Tampa's third ranked defense. "They're good at stopping the run. They're good in pass (defense). They don't really have a weakness so we've got to really go out and execute."
Defensively, the Bears have been having success generating a pass rush with just their rotating linemen, who produced all eight of last week's sacks. Expect them to give Joey Galloway a cushion for underneath stuff and punish him after the catch. As always, Chicago will focus on stopping the run first.
"You most certainly got to play this team balanced," defensive coordinator Ron Rivera. "You can't go in there saying they're going to run or they're going to pass. I've got to call the game accordingly and the players have to read their keys."
MATCHUPS TO WATCH
"To me Galloway is the same type of player Steve Smith is," said FS Chris Harris. "They're both explosive and he has a compliment on the other side with (Michael) Clayton so we're going to have our hands full this week."
"They do want to run the football because they do have a good running back," Rivera said. "Cadillac is a solid football player as is (Michael) Pittman and you have to respect both of their abilities."
BUCS GAME PLAN
It's very simple for the Bucs: Stop Thomas Jones. Tampa Bay has to make the Bears offense one-dimensional and put the burden on rookie QB Kyle Orton.
The Bucs have fallen from first in the NFL against the run to seventh and gave up a big game on the ground two weeks ago to Clinton Portis. Jones is capable of taking over the game.
"We've got to eliminate the big plays, that goes without saying, especially against a guy like Thomas Jones," said Tampa head coach Jon Gruden.
But Tampa Bay has had a history of making life rough for young QBs, as it did earlier this season for the Bills' J.P. Losman.
"He's playing smart, he's not losing the game for them," CB Brian Kelly said of Orton. "They're not asking him to do a lot, but he is effective in what they're asking him to do."
Offensively, the Bucs will struggle against the NFL's No. 1 defense. Cadillac Williams appears to be hitting his stride again, coming off a 116-yard rushing performance against the Falcons. Chicago's defense is more physical than the Bucs' offensive line, so coach Jon Gruden will use a lot of two-tight end sets and max protection for QB Chris Simms. Last week, the Bears' front four accounted for all eight sacks of Carolina QB Jake Delhomme.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH
"You always look forward to a rookie quarterback that's not doing well as opposed to one who's doing well," Rice said. "In this case he's kind of like a veteran."