Yardbarker Horiz

Monday, October 24, 2011

Buccaneers Enter Bye Week at 4-3

I bet it was a long plane ride back from London.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers return to Florida at 4-3 for a well earned weekend off.  The team has shown it's youth this season with wildly inconsistent results, the latest being 24-18 loss to the Chicago Bears at Wembly Stadium in London, after beating the New Orleans Saints, and two weeks since the San Francisco game.

They did all they could to prevent a repeat of the 35-7 loss to New England in London just two years ago.  The team went to London early, they acclimated and adjusted.  At times, they played well.  But it just did not go well enough.

It didn't help when Micheal Koenen, a stalwart performer this season, sent the opening kickoff out-of-bounds.

The inactive list for the game was much last last weekend with lots of talent on the sidelines: DT Gerald McCoy, RB LeGarrette Blount, WR Sammie Stroughter, C Jeff Faine, T James Lee, and TE Zack Pianalto.  Unfortunately, those players had company quickly.

The Buccaneers three-and-outed the Bears after the Koenen miscue, but were unable to to make much progress themselves.  The Bears got the ball back, then drove the field and scored first to take the early lead 7-0, then three-and-outed the Buccaneers to get the ball back again.  Bears QB Jay Cutler was victimized by Tanard Jackson, who made his second interception in as many weeks, who returned the pick to the Chicago 12 yard line.

Unfortunately, Tampa Bay QB Josh Freeman was then intercepted on the next play at the two yard line.

The defense rose to the occasion on the next play when DT Brian Price stopping the initial surge by Chicago, forcing Bears RB Matt Forte to veer left into the waiting tackle of CB Ronde Barber for a safety, bringing the score to a strange 7-2 mark.

Tampa Bay took over after the safety kick at their own 40 yard line.  However, after an initial first down, the offense imploded with three penalties on the next five plays.  The drive included such unmanageable situations as 2nd and 21, 2nd and 26, and 3rd and 21, before the Buccaneers were forced to punt on 4th and 12.  The Bears got one play in the books before the first quarter ended.

Although behind on the scoreboard by only five points, Tampa Bay lost the services of both RB Earnest Graham and FB Erik Lorig in the first quarter, leaving RB Kregg Lumpkin as the lone healthy running back for the Buccaneers.

Chicago opened the second quarter with the ball, but was forced to punt.  After one carry by Kregg Lumpkin, who lost a yard, Tampa Bay passed twice then punted for a three-and-out by the Bears.  Chicago then went on a 7 play, 79 yard touchdown drive to push their lead to 14-2.

Tampa Bay got the ball back on their own 20, threw three times, then punted the ball away.

The Bears then drove to the Tampa Bay 36 yard line before they stalled and punted.

Starting from their own 7 yard line, Tampa Bay ran once and threw eight times before the clock caught up with them, resulting in a 33-yard field goal by Connor Barth, resulting in a 14-5 halftime score.

The Bears opened the second half by three-and-outing the Buccaneers, then putting together another seven play scoring drive, this time covering 55 yards and a lead of 21-5.  It would be the only points scored in the third quarter.

Tampa Bay finally broke through after S Corey Lynch intercepted a pass at the Chicago 35-yard line, returning it to the 21.  Four plays later, the Buccaneers scored on a Freeman to TE Kellen Winslow pass of two yards.  The 2-point conversion failed, but Tampa Bay had closed the gap to 21-11.

After a Chicago three-and-out, the Buccaneers then called six straight pass plays, the final one being a 24-yard touchdown to WR Dezmon Briscoe, tightening the score to 21-18 with 7 minutes, 25 seconds left in the game.

The Bears took the resulting kick and drove to the Buccaneer 4-yard line.  The defense held steady for two plays, then Ronde Barber broke through and sacked Jay Culter for a six yard loss with 3:44 to go in the game.  The Bears would have been forced to attempt a field goal and give the Buccaneers the ball back, but CB Aqib Talib got into a tussle with Bears WR Roy Williams, resulting in a personal foul penalty on Talib and new life for Chicago.  Although the Buccaneer defense then rose to the occasion a second time, forcing the Bears to settle for a field goal, the Bears had run 12 plays and drained the game clock to the two minute warning with the score at 24-18.

The Buccaneers took the resulting kickoff and, from their own 28-yard line, marched quickly to the Bears 39 yard line before Josh Freeman was intercepted for a fourth time, ending the game at 24-18.

During the game, Tampa Bay also saw LB Mason Foster and DE Da'Quan Bowers leave the game with injuries.

The bye week could not have come at a better time.

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