Mutual Respect

This is a game reminiscent of the old Black and Blue division of the NFC Central. Bears vs. Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium features two outstanding defenses against offenses that like to run the football to protect inexperienced quarterbacks.

The Bears have rookie Kyle Orton. The Bucs have third-year pro Chris Simms.

The Bears offense runs through running back Thomas Jones. Tampa's offense runs through Cadillac Williams.

The Bears have the NFL's No. 1 defense, a cover two scheme brought to Chicago by Lovie Smith, the former Bucs linebackers coach.

The Bucs have fallen to No. 3 overall in total defense but are the prototype of what Smith is trying to build in Chicago.

"They're great," Bucs coach Jon Gruden said of the Bears defense.

"Everybody knows about (Brian) Urlacher. Tommie Harris is a fine defensive tackle. They made a great trade to pick up a premier pass rusher (Adewale Ogunleye). Nobody talks about (Lance) Briggs. No. 55 is a great linebacker. Mike Brown was absent last year. He was hurt. He's as good a safety man as there is in the league.

"They can all tackle, they're very physical and fast, and they're really well-rounded in terms of their pressure package, how they play coverage and their disguises. They're together. They're tight on defense, and they're very good, physical players. So it will be a real challenge for us."

That challenge will rest primarily with Simms, who has engineered fourth-quarter comebacks in the last two weeks against the Redskins and Falcons.

Simms was helped last week by the re-emergence of Williams, who rushed for 116 yards and a touchdown.

"I just think he has done a great job," Smith said of Simms. "He is in a similar situation to what we have here when the starter (Rex Grossman) went down. But he has a good understanding of the game, and I have watched him since he came out of high school (and), of course, what he did at Texas. I'm one of his biggest fans."

The Bears served notice that they are a playoff contender by dominating the Carolina Panthers last Sunday, a team that blasted Tampa 34-14 in Simms' second start of the season.

But Simms has since been able to avoid the big turnover. He has thrown one interception in the last two games and has not been sacked.

What the Bears have to guard against is believing the hype. After last week's win over the Panthers, in which they sacked Jake Delhomme eight times, Smith's defense began receiving comparisons to the '85 Bears defense.

"To make comparisons during the season, I just don't know what you really get from them," Smith said. "After the season is over and you look at what we have done, and if what we've done warrants being compared then, I mean, that's great. But there are a lot of good defenses in the league. Tampa's defense is very good, so we are not really comparing ourselves to the great defenses out there. We are just trying to survive another week."

If the Bears can do just that on the road against the Buccaneers it will be their seventh straight victory.

KICKOFF: Sunday, 12:00 CT
GAMEDATE: 11/27/05
TV: FOX, Kenny Albert, Brian Baldinger, Chris Meyers

SERIES: 51st meeting. Bears lead 33-17 but Bucs have won eight of the last 11 meetings, including a 19-7 victory last season at Raymond James Stadium, when they held the Bears to 167 total yards.

2005 RANKINGS: Bears: offense 28th (5th rush, 30th pass); defense 1st (7th rush, 2nd pass). Bucs: offense 21st (17th rush, 21st pass); defense 3rd (8th rush, 7th pass)

FAST FACTS: Bears: No defensive starter has missed a game due to injury this season. ... Seek first seven-game winning streak since 1986. ... Coach Lovie Smith was Tampa Bay's linebackers coach from 1996-2000. Bucs: Have won six of the past seven meetings at home. ... WR Joey Galloway has 12 touchdowns in his past 15 games.

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