Bucs Look Confused in Loss

Bucs offense fails to get untracked in loss

By Jeff Berlinicke

The entire debacle that passed for Sunday's loss to the Chicago Bears can be summed up in a three play sequence when the Bucs took control early in the third quarter in their own territory.

First down: Chris Simms, facing no pressure, fires a lame duck pass that was nowhere near any Buccaneer in sight. Three Bears looked hungrily as it dropped to the ground.

Second down: Simms, with no time and being chased by the Bears, fires a ball into the Raymond James Stadium turf. Intentional grounding was the call.

Third down: Nothing but a futile run into the middle of the Bears defense. A punt followed.

On the next drive, the Bucs started with strong field position, but Simms was sacked on a third-and-long. The offensive line hadn't allowed a sack in more than nine quarters.

It wasn't all Simms' fault. The offense produced nothing and wasn't able to make the changes at halftime that might have pulled them out of the morass.

In the Bucs' biggest game since winning the 2003 Super Bowl, they came up flatter than week-old Diet Coke in a 13-10 loss to the Bears in a game with homefield playoff implications. The Bears came in with no offense, but a ferocious defense, and swallowed the Bucs whole. Bears quarterback Kyle Orton was given one task: Don't make mistakes. He did a good job of that, lowering his quarterback rating, but leading the Bears to their seventh straight win and a lead over the Bucs in the race for homefield.

The Bucs fell to 7-4, and that's still enough to put them on the inside track to the playoffs in the woeful NFC, but this was a major opportunity wasted.

After a first quarter field goal from Matt Bryant, the Bucs were stalled the rest of the way as the Bears played ball control offense and dominating defense. Quarterback Chris Simms engineered two late drives that had the Bucs within striking range and a Mike Alstott 2-yard touchdown made the score close, but there weren't a lot of positive notes.

One positive: Wideout Joey Galloway was finally back into the offensive flow, but Michael Clayton was non-existent once again. Alex Smith was solid as a second receiver, but the Bucs struggled with field position all day and didn't even make it into Bears territory until the second half.

Coach Jon Gruden said he was as frustrated as he's been all season, and the Bucs, who could have remained tied for the top-seed in the NFC fell behind Carolina, Chicago, and Dallas in the NCF pecking order.

The Bucs travel to Baton Rouge, La. to play the Saints next week.

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