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
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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