WHERE: Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida
SPREAD: Bucs by 5.0
WHERE THE BEARS STAND:: 6-2 Record. The Bears are tied with the Green Bay Packers for first place in the NFC Central Division.
HEAD COACH: Dick Jauron (1-3 vs. Bucs head coach Tony Dungy).
OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR: John Shoop
DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Greg Blache
SPECIAL TEAMS COACH: Mike Sweatman
MATCHUP TO WATCH: Buccaneers' defensive line vs. Bears' offensive line . There's no question this will be where this game is won. Chicago's offensive line has only allowed six quarterback sacks in eight games this season. Meanwhile, Tampa Bay's defensive has sacked opposing quarterbacks 18 times in eight games this season. The Bucs' front four will have to put pressure on Bears QB Jim Miller because allowing him too much time to throw will prove costly. But this will be difficult. Chicago's offense has Miller run three-step drops and they dink and dunk teams underneath to death. Chicago's offensive line is also doing a great job in the running game. Rookie RB Anthony Thomas is averaging 4.6 yards per carry and a lot of his success is because of Chicago's offensive line. Tampa Bay's defensive line has been inconsistent in both pressuring the quarterback and defending the run this season. But make no mistake about it, the Bucs will have to stop Chicago's running game and get to Miller early and often. This will definitely be a matchup won in the trenches.
HOW THE BUCS RANK IN THE NFL:
OFFENSE: OVERALL: 26th RUSHING: 27th PASSING: 16th
DEFENSE: OVERALL: 8th RUSHING: 17th PASSING: 4th
HOW THE BEARS RANK IN THE NFL:
OFFENSE: OVERALL: 15th RUSHING: 24th PASSING: 13th
DEFENSE: OVERALL: 13th RUSHING: 3rd PASSING: 28th
Bucs D Must Contain Booker: Chicago WR Marty Booker is leading their offense in receptions with 54 this season. He has 564 yards receiving and four touchdowns. But the other Bears receivers are second-year WR Dez White and rookie WR David Terrell, and Tampa Bay would love nothing more than making Chicago depend on inexperienced youth. If Tampa Bay's secondary can contain Booker, they will stand an excellent chance of stopping Chicago's offense.
HOME SWEET HOME: Tampa Bay has won their last five home games against Chicago, including the last three in Raymond James Stadium. The Bucs are 12-2 at Raymond James Stadium against NFC Central Divisional opponents and the Detroit Lions have the only two wins.
TOUCHDOWNLESS AGAINST TAMPA: The Chicago Bears have not scored an offensive touchdown against the Buccaneers in two seasons (four games). Chicago's last two visits to Raymond James Stadium in Tampa have produced point totals of 3 in 1999 and 0 in 2000.
TURNOVER MANIA: The Bucs and Bears are very similar in terms of how they win games. Chicago has forced 12 fumbles and intercepted eight passes this season. Four of those turnovers have been returned for touchdowns. Tampa Bay has intercepted 15 passes and forced four fumbles this season.
BUCS MUST KNOCK CHICAGO'S A-TRAIN OFF TRACK: Bears rookie RB Anthony "A-Train" Thomas has been a pleasant surprise this season. Thomas is averaging 4.4.6 yards and he has rushed for 339 yards and four touchdowns. Thomas has also hauled in 14 passes for 133 yards. Tampa Bay must stop Thomas and the Bears' rushing attack in order to halt Chicago's offense. Defending the run is something Tampa Bay has had trouble doing this season.
BUCS SOUND OFF ON THEIR UPCOMING OPPONENT
QB Brad Johnson on what Chicago is doing well: "They get a lot of safety support with the run," said Bucs QB Brad Johnson. "Their corners make a lot of tackles. When their guys get there, they're making tackles."
FS Dexter Jackson on the Chicago Bears: "Every once in a while, they'll take a deep shot," said Jackson. "But everything else is done to not lose the game. They play great defense and capitalize off of turnovers. That's how they've won. Their defense is playing great."
Jackson on Chicago rookie Anthony Thomas taking Bucs FB Mike Alstott's nickname: "Come Sunday, we'll see who has the real A-Train," said Jackson. "We'll help Mike (Alstott) retain his title. But we also want to shut down the new A-Train."
CB Ronde Barber on what he likes about the Bears: "They're finding ways to win ballgames," said Barber. "And that's what good teams do, they find ways to win."
Barber on the Bucs knowing the Bears well: "We just know these guys, especially with the offense they put in a few years ago," said Barber. "They have a lot of the screen game and a lot of stuff that guys probably haven't seen since college. But with our team speed, we end up playing them pretty well. We're real aggressive and it's really just our effort, and that usually shines through."
Barber on Chicago being a "Cinderella team": "Everyone wants to call them a Cinderella team, but you're not going to get me to say that," said Barber. But then again, I just did."
Barber on winning the NFC Defensive Player of the Week Award last week: "It's just part of being prepared," said Barber. I think I've been prepared as well as I have been in any of the years in the past this year. And, it's translating into some big plays."
Barber on Tampa Bay's first half of the season: "People talk about what type of defense we were in 1999 and you look at the first seven or eight games and we didn't think we were a very good football team then," said Barber. "But statistically at the end of the year, we were right at the top of the league. I think it's too early to tell, but as soon as we start doing the detailed stuff right and everybody starts doing their assignments, we'll be there. But right now, we're just kind of where we are-in the middle of the pact."
Barber on the importance of winning two games in a row: "We've got to prove to ourselves that we can win two games in a row," said Barber. "Up to this point in the season, it's been a roller coaster ride. We play good one week and bad the next week. Even when we win, we haven't played good. So, it will be important for us to go out and prove we can win two in a row."
Barber on whether he thinks the Bears are as good as their 6-2 record:"You're always as good as your record," said Barber. "That's about all you got. It's a team that plays hard and they fight scratch for everything they get, and more times than not, if you play that way, you're going to win."
Barber on Chicago's offensive line, which has only yielded seven sacks: "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."
DE Steve White on the Bucs focusing on themselves: "We're trying to focus on ourselves," said White. "We really don't care about what kind of stuff they have. We feel like if we play better and play at our best, then the winning will take care of itself."
White on the Bucs having held the Bears to three points in Chicago's last to trips to Ray-Jay: "Your past never determines your future," said White. "What we've done in the past really won't matter on Sunday. We have to go out there and prepare as if this is the first time we've ever played them."
FS Dexter Jackson on whether he would like to stick to what's working or go into a prevent defense in the Bucs-Bears game goes down to the wire and Chicago's offense has the ball "I'd rather stick to the same defense," said Kelly. "That way you're predicting everything that's going on instead of waiting on everything. We like to keep getting our pressure in and keep playing our style of football."
SS John Lynch on Chicago's two miracle comebacks this season "This is a team that has shown they can comeback," said Lynch. "They never feel like they're out of a football game and that's what they have going for them. If we're fortunate to get up, then we're going to keep playing."
RB Warrick Dunn on his nagging foot injury "For my foot to heel, I would have to stop playing for about a month or two months," said Dunn. "But I have the offseason for that. I'm getting better, but I'm just going to have to play through the pain."
Head coach Tony Dungy on Tampa Bay's need to be physical against Chicago's running game "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."
Dungy on whether or not the Bears are for real "You can look at it any way you want, but if you win six games in a row in the NFL, you're a pretty good team," said Dungy. "They play hard and they're fun to watch because they're playing with a lot of emotion and enthusiasm, and they're making things happen the right way."
Dungy on what he likes about Chicago's knack for creating turnovers "They're playing hard and knocking balls loose," said 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."
Dungy on why Chicago's pass defense is ranked 28th in the NFL"They're tough to run against," said Dungy. "People are going in an throwing the ball. You're going to give up some yards when people abandon their running game."
FLYNN'S FINAL: Once again, the Buccaneers are in a must-win situation. The first place Chicago Bears are coming into Raymond James Stadium and Tampa Bay has an opportunity to gain ground in their NFC Central Division by beating them.
Chicago has not scored an offensive touchdown in Ray-Jay in two seasons and they have not beaten Tampa Bay on the road in five tries. But this is not the same Chicago Bears team. This team is playing with confidence and they would love nothing more than setting the Pewter Pirates another game back in the division.
The fact that this game is a home game for the Buccaneers is huge. Tampa Bay just had a two-game road trip against Green Bay and Detroit and returned home 1-1. This will be the first of two meeting between the Bucs and Bears and Tampa Bay will certainly need to win both of them.
Chicago has a dominant defense, which thrives off of turnovers. The team that creates the most turnovers should win this game. Tampa Bay has done a good job of taking care of the football this season, but they will have to be especially careful against the Bears.
The Bears' offensive line has been a brick wall this season. They have only allowed seven sacks this season. Bears QB Jim Miller will eat the Bucs secondary alive if Tampa Bay cannot get to him early and often. Tampa Bay's front four will have their work cut out for them, but will have to penetrate Chicago's offensive line in order to have a chance of winning. Miller likes to release the ball quickly off of three-step drops, which is another reason why Chicago is not giving up sacks. It will be important for Tampa Bay to stop Chicago's underneath pass attempts and tackle.
Chicago might not be the most talented team in the league, but one could certainly make an argument that they are playing with the most heart. Playing with heart is not something Tampa Bay seems like they have done this season. With a trip to St. Louis to play the Rams next Monday night, the Buccaneers must win this game. But they'll have to create some turnovers and the offense will have to capitalize off of them in order to do it.
FLYNN'S PICK: Bucs 20 Bears 19
Copyright 2001 Buccaneer Magazine/BucMag.com
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