WHERE: Soldier Field in Chicago, Illinois
SPREAD: Bears by 3
WHERE THE BEARS STAND:: 9-3 Record. The Bears have the same record as the first place Packers, but Green Bay has won both meetings with the Bears this season, which has placed them in sole possession of first place in the NFC Central Division..
HEAD COACH: Dick Jauron (2-3 vs. Bucs head coach Tony Dungy).
OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR: John Shoop
DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Greg Blache
SPECIAL TEAMS COACH: Mike Sweatman
MATCHUP TO WATCH:. BEARS WR MARTY BOOKER vs. BUCCANEERS CB BRIAN KELLY: Booker single-handedly torched Tampa Bay's secondary in their first meeting of the season en route to the Bears' 27-24 win over the Bucs. Booker caught seven passes for 165 yards and three touchdowns. Chicago caught Tampa Bay's defense by surprise by throwing deep, but this time around, the Buccaneers should be ready for it. Bucs CB Brian Kelly is still looking for his first interception of the season, but he is due. The more Bears QB Jim Miller throws to Booker, the better Kelly's chances are of recording his first interception of the season. Tampa Bay's defense has come up with 19 interceptions this season and the secondary will ultimately be responsible for containing Booker. If Kelly and Co. can contain Booker, they will stand an excellent chance of escaping Chicago with a much-needed win.
HOW THE BUCS RANK IN THE NFL:
OFFENSE: OVERALL: 20th RUSHING: 30th PASSING: 12th
DEFENSE: OVERALL: 9th RUSHING: 13th PASSING: 4th
HOW THE BEARS RANK IN THE NFL:
OFFENSE: OVERALL: 25th RUSHING: 24th PASSING: 22nd
DEFENSE: OVERALL: 19th RUSHING: 3rd PASSING: 28th
BREAKING DOWN THE WALL: Chicago's offensive line has only allowed 12 sacks in 12 games this season, but this number may be a bit deceiving. In offensive coordinator John Shoop's scheme, Bears QB Jim Miller runs a lot of three-step drop-and-release plays. Miller has done a nice job of getting rid of the ball quickly while his offensive line has given him plenty of time to throw. Tampa Bay's defense line was able to put pressure on Miller and sacked him three times in their first meeting, and they will certainly need to sustain that type of pressure this time around.
TEMPERATURES IN CHICAGO: Forecasts in Chicago are calling for temperatures above 40 degrees at kickoff, which is good news for Tampa Bay. The Bucs are winless in games played in temperatures less than 40 degrees. The temperature at kickoff should be about 45 degrees and periods of rain with a steady winds are expected.
HALTING THE OTHER A-TRAIN: Chicago rookie RB Anthony "The A-Train" Thomas is having a sensational season. Thomas is averaging 4.2 yards per carry and has rushed for 692 yards and five touchdowns. But Chicago's A-Train has been slowed by injuries in the last couple of weeks. Tampa Bay's defense held Thomas to just 68 yards in their meeting at Ray-Jay.
BEWARE OF URLACHER: He's only in his second year as a pro, but Bears MLB Brian Urlacher is one of the best players at his position. Urlacher leads his team in tackles this season and has also recorded five sacks, forced two fumbles and intercepted three passes. Needless to say, Bucs QB Brad Johnson and Tampa Bay's offense will have to keep a close eye on Urlacher when he's on the field. Urlacher presents such a problem for opposing offenses because he has such tremendous speed and Chicago defense coordinator Greg Blache uses him well against the run and back in pass coverage.
TAMPA BAY'S OFFENSIVE LINE WOES: Tampa Bay's offensive line has allowed 44 sacks this season, and Chicago's defense line has recorded 31. This is not a good matchup for obvious reasons, but the Bucs' offensive line will have to muster up one of their best games of the year. Chicago only sacked QB Brad Johnson twice in their first meeting, and they will need to protect their quarterback again and open up some more holes in the running game this time around. Tampa Bay could only rush for 19 yards against Chicago in their 27-24 loss to the Bears on Nov. 18.
CHICAGO THRIVES OFF OF TURNOVERS Chicago's defense has created 28 turnovers this season (16 FF and 12 INTs). In the game at Raymond James Stadium, Chicago forced four Tampa Bay turnovers (2 interceptions, 2 fumbles). But if the Bucs can remain turnover-free, they will stand a good chance of winning.
BUCS SOUND OFF ON THEIR UPCOMING OPPONENT
Bucs DE Simeon Rice on returning to Illinois, where he played college football at the University of Illionois "I'm going back home," said Rice. "I'll be able to see my family and be able to play a game to the best of my ability. We need this game and we need to get to 8-5 at this point."
Bucs ROLB Derrick Brooks on Bears QB Jim Miller's derogatory comments about Tampa Bay after the Bears beat the Bucs, 27-24 in Ray-Jay.: "What he has to say really doesn't matter," said Brooks. "We're in a war out on the field. Who cares what he has to say? We've got to go out there and play the game and win. I guess the only way to win the war of words is to go out there and win."
Brooks on the importance of winning Sunday's game against Chicago.: "We got ourselves in boiling water right now," said Brooks. "This game is the most important game of the year because it's the next one. It's still a long season go to. So many things can happen. The most important thing is we've played ourselves back into a position where we control our own destiny. And if we win our games, we'll be fine."
Brooks on the keys to victory on Sunday "We have to stop the run," said Brooks. "We can't give up the big play and we have to get turnovers for our offense."
Bucs DE Steve White on how tough it is to face a quarterback that doesn't hold onto the football long: "You really can't think about it (Miller getting rid of the ball quickly)," said White. "At some point, you just have to count on the coverage to make him pull it down, and when he does pull it down, we have to get him. We have to keep plugging away and our time will come. We have no control on what kind of offense they're going to run, but we do have control on what kind of defense we're going to run."
White on whether or not this is a good time for Tampa Bay to be playing Chicago "I don't really care what time we catch them," said White. "This is our time to play them and this is their time to play us. So, we're going to see who the better team is."
Bucs SS John Lynch on Chicago's offense: "Their offense has done a nice job all year of moving the chains and controlling the clock," said Lynch. "They play a style very similar to what we've tried to do here over the years on offense. They're doing it through running the ball well. They do it underneath with short crossing routes, and they do it all effectively. It's winning football games for them. This is a team we respect and we're looking forward to a great matchup this weekend."
Lynch on Tampa Bay's motivating factors this week: "There's a number of motivating factors this week," said Lynch. "First and foremost is the fact that we're still trying to secure a playoff position. The fact that this is our last game in the Central Division is another one, and it means something to a lot of these guys, especially the ones that have played in it over the years and appreciate the tradition. The fact that they came into our house and beat us motivates us. After they beat us, I remember some of their guys and their coach getting in our corner's face and Martin's (Gramatica) face. Those things certainly stick with you, and there is a ton of motivation for us this week."
Lynch on the keys to victory on Sunday: "This is going to come down to a physical and fundamental football game," said Lynch. "Whoever tackles, catches the ball and plays the best is going to come out of this game with a win."
Lynch on the importance of creating turnovers against Chicago: "We'd like to be able to do that (create turnovers)," said Lynch. "It's something we've done well throughout the year, but we didn't do as well last week."
Lynch on how the game against Chicago will be playoff-like "We're ready to play some football and this is an extremely important game," said Lynch. "Games like this take on a playoff-type atmosphere, and we're looking forward to that. We can draw nearer to where we want to be"
Bucs FB Mike Alstott on the importance of beating the Bears "It's a Conference game," said Alstott. "It's an NFC game and it's a must-win. They beat us in our house and we don't like that. But to overcome that, we have to go up there and beat them."
Bucs head coach Tony Dungy on this Sunday's game against Chicago "This is our last trip to Soldier Field for a while," said Dungy. "I think it will be fun. There's a lot riding on this game. It's a big game in December and Chicago is playing really well. They beat us down here, so we have to try to make some adjustments and beat them up there."
Dungy on Chicago's tough run defense: "They're playing good run defense," said Dungy. "They've got two big guys inside that make it tough to run inside. They've got active linebackers that can run and get to the ball and hit. They're secondary is playing well. They're giving up some yards in the passing game, but they're tough run on and score on."
Dungy on Tampa Bay's offense moving the ball on Chicago's defense: "We need to run the ball a little bit better and not have the negative runs," said Dungy. "We moved the ball against these guys in the first game, especially in the first half. We have to protect the ball and not turn it over, and take advantage of it when we do move the ball."
Dungy on whether or not Tampa Bay is concerned about weather conditions in Chicago: "We don't' want to make too much about the weather," said Dungy. "I don't think we're going there to play against the weather, we're playing the Bears. They beat us in what was supposedly our weather, so I think that shows that conditions don't win the ballgame."
Dungy on what a win over Chicago can do for Tampa Bay: "We really could tighten up the race with a win," said Dungy. "We had a chance to win down here and tighten things up and didn't do it. Now, it's the same deal. They're two ahead of us and Green Bay is three ahead of us. We need a win and can't afford to lose."
Dungy on the need to win the turnover battle at Chicago: "That's what happened in the game down here," said Dungy. "We had two interceptions and two fumbles and turned it over on a fake punt and lost by three points. It's hard to overcome that. They turn it over very much and we're going to have to be in the same mindset. I think the defense that takes the ball away more will probably win the game."
FLYNN'S FINAL: Well, Tampa Bay has a chance to make up for their loss to Chicago in Raymond James Stadium earlier this season, but the task will be a tough one.
Tampa Bay is 4-3 on the road this season, but Chicago is 5-1 at Soldier Field this season and their only loss came to the Green Bay Packers.
The Bucs were caught off guard by the Bears offense on Nov. 18. Chicago is primarily known for dinking and dunking the ball off on short routes underneath the secondary, but Bears QB Jim Miller showed them he could throw deep, too. There won't be any surprises this time around.
Expect this game to be a defensive struggle. Both teams' running games will probably struggle. Miller and Bucs QB Brad Johnson's play will likely determine the outcome of this game along with turnovers. Both teams create them and both rely on them to score points.
Temperatures will be floating around the 40 degree mark at kickoff, so the Bucs may or may not have an opportunity to break their 0-20 record losing streak in temperatures under 40 degrees. Tampa Bay should be more focused on something they can control like gaining ground on the first place Chicago Bears and less concerned on something that is out of their control like the weather.
FLYNN'S PICK: Bears 12 Bucs 9
Copyright 2001 Buccaneer Magazine/BucMag.com
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