AVOID TURNOVERS: The Chicago Bears 13th ranked defense thrives off of turnovers. They have created 20 this season, including 12 forced fumbles. Four of their turnovers have been returned for touchdowns.
"Those guys have gotten a couple of fumbles off of quarterbacks trying to scramble," said CB RondeBarber. "They're just playing hard. There's no substitute for your intensity and what you bring to the field. Their character is showing up on film and if you play hard, plays usually come your way."
"They play not lose the game," said FS Dexter Jackson. "They play great defense and capitalize off of turnovers. That's how they've won. Their defense is playing great."
The Buccaneers have done a good job of securing the football on offense and creating their own turnovers on defense this season. Tampa Bay is ranked first in the NFC in take-away, give-away ration with a +11. The Bucs have created 19 turnovers while only giving the ball away eight times.
"They're (the Bears) playing hard and knocking balls loose," said head coach Tony Dungy. "That's the kind of football I like to see. So, we've got to be aware of that and know that's how they play. We've done a good job of protecting the ball this year, and that's got to continue."
STOP THE RUN Tampa Bay has been inconsistent in stopping the run this season. The Bucs defense is ranked 17th against the run this season. Bears rookie RB Anthony Thomas has rushed for 580 yards and is averaging 4.6 yards per carry this season.
"It's going to be a challenge," said Barber. "Our goal each and every week is to stop the run. He's a rookie, but he's running with serious conviction. We're going to have to put our foot forward and put a stop to him."
"We've got to tackle well," said Dungy. You've got to be prepared to hit these big backs and knock them backwards. He's (Thomas) is running hard for them and he has given them a lift since entering the lineup."
GET PRESSURE ON THE QUARTERBACK: Chicago's offensive line has only allowed seven sacks in eight games this season. But the Bears' offensive line doesn't allow teams much time to get to QB Jim Miller. They have him do a lot of three-step drops and drop the ball off short. They refuse to take sacks. Tampa Bay will have to get penetration at the point of attack early and often against Chicago's solid offensive line.
"It's very important," said Jackson. "Especially at the beginning of the game. We've got to get to Miller early and let him know we're going to be around all day. Quarterbacks tend to get rid of the ball faster if you get to them early."
"It's about as important as it is every week," said Barber. "These guys play very well as a unit. They play about as well together as any offensive line we've seen on film. That's what's making them successful right now."
"They rely a lot on the quick release to Booker over the middle," said Barber. "They have some trickery here and there. That's what they're successful doing, and we just have to be able to prepare ourselves for it and play a different type of game than you normally have to play."
"The front four is the foundation of our defense," said CB Brian Kelly. "Everything starts up there with them stopping the run. Whatever we get done on defense starts with that front four. Chicago is doing a really good of not allowing their quarterback to get pressured, but we want to put pressure on these guys."
"They do what they do well," said DT Anthony "Booger" McFarland. "They're a running team and there's no doubt about that. They want to run the football and play-action pass it. If you allow them to run the football, then it's tough to get to the quarterback because they're going to play-action it. If we take the run away and get them in second and third-and-longs, we'll have our opportunities to rush."
"The way they play, you've got to get pressure on him, but you're not going to get many sacks," said Dungy. "They throw the ball fast and run a lot of outs with their receivers with their short passing game. They're committed to not taking sacks, so you won't measure the pressure by the sacks. But it will be important to make him throw faster than he wants to."
PUT THE BEARS AWAY WHILE YOU CAN: The Chicago Bears had two miracle comebacks against Cleveland and San Franscisco earlier this season. The Bears trailed both opponents late in the fourth quarter, but rallied to win in overtime. Chicago has outscored their opponents in the fourth quarter by a score of 71-20 this season. Tampa Bay will have to get up on Chicago early and continue to attack because the Bears are a relentless team that make teams pay for letting them hang around. The Bucs have had trouble putting their opponents away this season. But as much as Tampa Bay has struggled to put teams away in the fourth quarter, the Pewter Pirates have surprisingly outscored their opponents 48-41 in it this season.
"You've got to have some luck and fortune to win football games in the NFL," said Bucs DE Steve White. "You can say they're lucky or what have you, but luck has to do a lot of times with guys going hard and giving great effort. And then, you're creating your own luck. You don't want to just say they're lucky, because they're going up there and winning the ballgames."
"These guys won't give up," said Dungy. "Whether they're up or behind, Chicago plays very hard and you seen that energy on tape. So, we're going to have to match that energy in the first quarter and the fourth quarter."
PLAY THE BEARS AT HOME: The Chicago Bears have not scored an offensive touchdown in four straight games against Tampa Bay. This includes Chicago's last two visits to Raymond James Stadium, where they have managed to score just six points. Tampa Bay is undefeated in Raymond James Stadium against Chicago with a 3-0 record.
The Buccaneers have a whopping 20-3 record under head coach Tony Dungy in home games played in November and December.
"Like the Minnesota game, it's going to be important for us to get off to a good start," said Dungy. "We need to get our fans involved. We haven't been at home that much this year. Hopefully, we have people anxious to watch us play and we've got to get off to a good start in order to keep that energy in our stadium."
"Well, we feel like we have to win our division games," said Bucs QB Brad Johnson. "Last week, we were one of the first division teams to win a division game on the road and we've won our division games at home. So, here's another chance for us to win a division game and pull ourselves within a half game of Chicago with a win. It's a huge game for us."
Copyright 2001 Buccaneer Magazine/BucMag.com
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