JC's Live Game Blog: Bears vs. Buccaneers

It's another warmer-than-expected December day as Mother Nature has taken it easy on Chicago so far this year. Despite all the distractions, the Bears are still a much better football team than the Bucs. Be sure to refresh this page every 10 to 15 minutes for all the goings on from Soldier Field. From the field to the sideline to the press box, JC will make you feel like you're there.

(10:11) Greetings, Bears fans. Once again, we have another beautiful day at Soldier Field. Weather has not been a factor once this season at home. It may have been 14 degrees or so against the Vikings two weeks ago, but it was still a gorgeous day and full of sunshine. Despite the fact that we're well into December right now, it's going to be in the 50s today, although some rain is a possibility ...

(10:30) This is the last comment I want to make about the Tank Johnson situation today. According to the Chicago Tribune, it's becoming more and more apparent that Johnson did not instigate the confrontation that led to Willie Posey getting shot and killed at Ice Bar, and he is not going to be charged with anything. That being said, the fact that he decided to go out clubbing with his boy just a few hours after issuing an apology for being a distraction and being told specifically by Lovie Smith and Jerry Angelo to stay out of trouble is nothing short of stupid and reckless. If he had stayed home, Posey would still be alive and Johnson wouldn't have his career in Chicago hanging in the balance right now. That's my take, and I'm sticking to it ...

(10:58) Kyle Orton, Justin Gage, Nathan Vasher, Todd Johnson, J.D. Runnels, Leon Joe, John Tait, and, obviously, Tank Johnson are inactive today for the Bears. As for the Bucs, QB Luke McCown, CB Alan Zemaitis, S Donte Nicholson, C Nick Mihlhauser, OT Donald Penn, TE Doug Jolley, DE Charles Bennett, and DT Jon Bradley will be in street clothes. Looks like Thomas Jones's ankle is fine, although Tait's apparently isn't. John St. Clair starts for Tait, Ricky Manning Jr. for Vasher, Chris Harris for Todd Johnson, and Ian Scott for Tank Johnson. No lineup changes reported for Tampa Bay ...

(11:04) Weather conditions for today's game: 45 degrees, 53% humidity, winds out of the north at 7 mph, mostly clear ...

(11:25) Time for my weekly radio show in Milwaukee. Back in a flash ...

(11:53) There's a ridiculous cloud of smoke around the field right now after an array of fireworks were set off down on the field. The 2006 NFC North division championship flag was raised for the first time. That apparently justifies being blinded for five minutes ...

(11:56) I've never seen that before. Instead of the offense or defense getting introduced as they head out of the tunnel, the special teams actually get the honor today. Needless to say, Devin Hester comes out last to a monster ovation. That dance he did had a little 'Prime Time' in it, that's for sure. I might pass out if he returns another one today ...

(12:02) The Bears have won the toss and elected to receive ...

(12:07) Rex Grossman hits Bernard Berrian on another one of those quick slants, but he gets a bad spot and comes up a yard shy. Three-and-out for the Bears on their first possession. The Bucs take over at their own 28-yard line ...

(12:10) Michael Pittman catches a swing pass out of the backfield from Bruce Gradkowski, but he's stopped short, as well. The Bucs will give it right back to the Bears. This place is just bonkers when Hester gets his hands on the ball on a return ...

(12:17) Beautiful floating pass from Grossman to Desmond Clark for a 24-yard touchdown. Robbie Gould converts the extra point and makes the score 7-0 Bears. Grossman bought himself just one more second in the pocket and threw a gorgeous ball right over Clark's left shoulder as he beat the safety to the pylon ...

(12:23) A little no-huddle look for the Bucs on their second drive. "They're trying to get the ball in Devin Hester's hands faster," according to Phil Arvia of the Daily Southtown, who's sitting to my right. That's the press box quote of the day so far ...

(12:29) Offensive coordinator Ron Turner has suddenly fallen in love with the screen pass the last two weeks, although that one from Grossman to Jones doesn't get the job done on 3rd-and-13. Brad Maynard helps out the field position by launching an angled 56-yard punt out of bounds. Man, that guy is a surgeon sometimes ...

(12:33) Another three-and-out for the Bucs. Carnell 'Cadillac' Williams got blasted in the backfield for a 4-yard loss as Alfonso Boone blew up the play quickly. Bears take over with Cedric Benson in there for a second consecutive series ...

(12:38) Clark fumbles after a nice gain on a bootleg pass from Grossman, but it looks like the Bears will challenge this call. Lovie Smith was right. Clark's knee hit the ground first, so it's a 15-yard gain and a first down at the Chicago 44 ...

(12:43) Hester alert, Hester alert, Hester alert. Hester was split wide on offense for the very first time this season, and Grossman actually throws it to him on one of those quick slants. The pass falls incomplete and proves to be nothing more than a buzzkill ...

(12:45) That's the end of a fairly uninspired first quarter. 7-0 Bears. The Bucs have 15 yards of offense and zero first downs so far ...

(12:53) Ricky Manning Jr. strips Gradkowski on third down and actually gets credit for a sack, as well. Punter Josh Bidwell comes up with a nice angle punt of his own, 52 yards and out of bounds at the Chicago 5 ...

(12:59) Jones appeared to pick up a crucial first down with a draw on 3rd-and-7, but a holding penalty on Roberto Garza negates the play. Maynard punts again, and the Bucs take over at the Chicago 26 after an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Dante Wesley was tacked on to the return ...

(1:03) Gradkowski can't get anything generated again, but Matt Bryant manages a 45-yard field goal to get the Bucs on the board. That was a scoring drive of -1 yards, by the way. 7-3 Bears with 8:19 left in the second quarter ...

(1:06) Bryant wants nothing to do with Hester on the kickoff and pooches one to Darrell McClover. Hester didn't even touch the ball, but the Bears get great field position at their own 44. What a weapon, even when he doesn't do anything ...

(1:15) Jones scampers into the end zone around right end from 5 yards for the Bears touchdown. Good field position led to a very efficient scoring drive. 14-3 Bears as Gould comes through on the extra point. Grossman is now 10-of-15 for 114 yards, and Clark has 70 yards on four catches already. When the tight end is involved, Grossman usually plays well ...

(1:18) Tim Rattay has taken over for Gradkowski at quarterback for Tampa Bay, which head coach Jon Gruden hinted he might do on his conference call on Wednesday ...

(1:22) Alex Brown actually lined up at defensive tackle on that last play with Mark Anderson at end to Brown's right ...

(1:25) Grossman delivered a strike to backup tight end John Gilmore for 18 yards on the first play of the drive, but nothing more after that. Maynard will punt it away after the two-minute warning. And after what we saw in the last drive, Bears fans shouldn't be too worried about Rattay directing a comeback ...

(1:31) And from the Repitition Department, the Bucs go three-and-out. The Bears will get the ball back at their own 35 with one timeout left and 1:28 to play in the half. No chance for Hester on the return after an ugly but effective line-drive punt ...

(1:34) That sure didn' take long. Grossman leads the Bears right down the field and finds Clark in the end zone again, this time from 12 yards out. 21-3 Bears with just 23 seconds left before intermission. That was a 65-yard drive in six plays, and it took only 1:05 off the clock. Very Tom Brady-like, I must say ...

(1:38) And that's the end of the first half, sports fans. The Bears will take a commanding 21-3 lead into the locker room. Grossman has looked very good so far, completing 15 of 24 passes for 197 yards and two touchdowns. Clark has six receptions for 107 yards and both scores. For all you history buffs, he's the first Bears tight end since Emery Moorehead to go over the century mark in receiving yards in 1985 ...

(1:54) The Bucs now have 75 yards of total offense after yet another three-and-out. Pretty pathetic. Hester gets loose and returns the Bidwell punt 32 yards to the Tampa Bay 42 ...

(2:07) Can you tell there's not much happening right now? I'm tired of writing about three-and-outs. The Bucs are a joke on offense ...

(2:14) Back-to-back plays, back-to-back dead-ball personal fouls. One on Olin Kreutz of the Bears and one on Dewayne White of the Buccaneers. It's getting chippy down there ...

(2:19) The Bears add a field goal as Gould splits the uprights from 38 yards out. It looks like he's gotten himself straightened out after last week's curious 0-for-2 in St. Louis. 24-3 Bears with 5:22 left in the third quarter ...

(2:31) Tampa Bay finally finds the end zone as Joliet-native Mike Alstott scores from 14 yards out. He had all kinds of room on the right side running the counter on 3rd-and-1. That was the first TD for the Bucs in 14 quarters ...

(2:34) It just got interesting all of a sudden. Hester fumbles the ensuing kickoff and gives the ball right back to the Bucs. They'll take over at the Chicago 16-yard line with a chance to get right back in this game. That's the end of the third quarter. It should be over by now, but there's still some work to be done ...

(2:39) And just like that Rattay finds tight end Alex Smith in the left corner of the end zone for the Tampa Bay touchdown. Bryant's extra point cuts the Bears' lead to 24-17. The Soldier Field faithful are suddenly a little bit nervous ...

(2:47) That was exactly what Bears fans needed to see right there. Grossman took no prisoners and marched right down the field for another touchdown. Benson finishes off the drive with a 4-yard run to paydirt. 77 yards on eight plays in 4:50. They've run Grossman out of the bootleg at least four or five times today, and it's worked very well ...

(2:53) The Bears keep their takeaway streak alive as Chris Harris intercepts Rattay on the first play of the Bucs' ensuing series. Grossman & Company take over with a 31-17 lead. Time to pound this baby home ...

(3:01) Looks like the Redskins pulled off the upset and beat the Saints down in the Big Easy. As long as the Bears hold on here, they'll wrap up home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs with two games to go. Could be a big day ...

(3:02) Wow, Joey Galloway just scorched the Chicago secondary for a 64-yard touchdown. He's been around forever, but he can still run with the best of them. Bryant's point after makes it a one-possession game once again, 31-14 ...

(3:05) We're all too busy watching a fight in the stands right in front of the press box to watch the game. Are the Bears still winning? What just happened? ...

(3:07) Here's what happened. Three-and-out for the Bears on offense. The Bucs are going to get it back with plenty of time to tie this thing. Rattay is heating up, too. Time for a sturdy defensive stop ...

(3:09) I hope no Bears fans left early. Rattay fires a quick slant to Ike Hilliard, who splits the secondary and scores from 44 yards out. Soldier Field is stunned right now with this game tied up 31-31. The Bucs have gone 145 yards on only seven plays to score their last two TDs ...

(3:13) After a short slant to Berrian and a shorter dump-off to Jones, Grossman is sacked for a 9-yard loss on third down. The Bears will have to punt it away as we reach the two-minute warning. Very uneasy Bears fans right now ...

(3:21) The Bears get the ball back with all three of their timeouts, but they'll have to start at their own 10-yard line with only 1:17 left ...

(3:22) Boos come cascading down from the stands as Lovie Smith elects to run the ball with Benson twice and play for overtime. They did have three timeouts left, just in case you were wondering. Not exactly a boost of confidence for your QB right there ...

(3:24) The Buccaneers have won the toss and will get the ball first in overtime ...

(3:27) After a booming kickoff from Gould that forced a touchback, Alex Smith fumbles on the second play from scrimmage trying to pick up some extra yardage. Briggs forced it and Ian Scott recovered it. On top of that, the Bucs' Jeremy Trueblood gets flagged for unsportsmanlike contact and gives the Bears an extra 15 yards on the play. They'll take over at the Tampa Bay 22-yard line. Not a bad time for Gould to kick his first career game-winner ...

(3:35) I don't believe it. Gould hooked a 37-yarder that would have won the game and given them home-field advantage in the playoffs. After being automatic for better than half the season, suddenly, the Bears have a question mark at kicker ...

(3:37) The defense comes back strong and forces a quick three-and-out on the Bucs' first possession. Another chance for Hester. After pausing for a second, he takes off down the left side and fumbles out of bounds. What a mess. Remember when this guy was the best in the business not too long ago? Like, last week? ...

(3:41) After one big reception to Muhsin Muhammad, the Bears stall and are forced to punt again. Maynard comes up with a 47-yard beauty that is downed by Wesley at the 2-yard line. Safety, anyone? ...

(3:47) Thanks in large part to a pair of false starts, the Bears force the 11th Tampa Bay punt of the day. Bidwell will receive this one seven yards deep in his own end zone. Hester makes it exciting but only manages 4 yards on the return ...

(3:50) Good gracious. Rashied Davis makes his first catch of the ballgame, and it had to have been the greatest catch of his life. It's good for 28 yards and a first down at the Tampa Bay 20 ...

(3:52) After a bruising 11-yard run from Adrian Peterson to get the ball down to the 7, Gould trots back on the field for a second chance to win this game. The Bucs again call timeout to try and ice him. It worked the first time, but not this time. Gould is good from 25 yards out and gives the Bears a 34-31 victory. It never should have come down to all this, but any way you slice it, the Monsters of the Midway will be the top seed in the NFC playoffs come January.

That's all she wrote from Soldier Field, sports fans. Be sure to come back to BearReport.com for all the analysis, all the postgame quotes, and your Stud and Dud of the Week. I'm going to go ice my hands now because I'm developing carpal tunnel syndrome after all this overtime typing.

JC

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