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Bucs Beat

Rick Stroud, Greg Auman and Matt Baker

Even on short fields, Bucs defense needed to make stops

Matt Forte scores on a 13-yard run in the third quarter.

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Matt Forte scores on a 13-yard run in the third quarter.

CHICAGO -- The Bucs defense could point to the length of the Bears' three touchdown drives -- just 47, 13 and 15 yards -- but Sunday's 21-13 loss was a reminder that they need to respond no matter where the opposing offense gets the ball.

"Like our coach said: Those three touchdowns, if we would have made them kick field goals all three times, it's 10-9. That's something we've got to fix," cornerback Alterraun Verner said. "I think everything's showing improvement. It's not enough to get improvement. You want to get wins."

Coaches call it "sudden change" -- a defense must respond to adversity in a hurry, or else you see Matt Forte get his longest run of the game, 13 yards, for a 13-yard touchdown after Josh McCown lost a fumble Chicago recovered deep in Bucs territory.

"We can't control what happens on the other side of the ball, but we have to ball out in any situation and hold their offense," linebacker Danny Lansanah said. …

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With Evans covered, Bucs' Jackson, Murphy took over

Louis Murphy had totaled just 36 yards in the previous four games before finishing with six catches for 113 yards Sunday, his first 100-yard game with the Bucs.

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Louis Murphy had totaled just 36 yards in the previous four games before finishing with six catches for 113 yards Sunday, his first 100-yard game with the Bucs.

CHICAGO -- For weeks, rookie Mike Evans has thrived as the Bucs' go-to receiver, and as the Bears made it a priority to limit him Sunday, Vincent Jackson and Louis Murphy took advantage of the opportunity.

"All you want to do is stay ready. I can only do so much as a receiver. You just try to do your job, stay available and help your quarterback," said Jackson, who had five catches for 117 yards, his first 100-yard game in six games.

Murphy had totaled just 36 yards in the previous four games before providing a spark Sunday -- he broke through two tackles for a 54-yard gain, finishing with six catches for 113 yards, his first 100-yard game with the Bucs. Evans had a 19-yard touchdown grab early, though he was limited to three catches out of 11 balls targeted his way.

"Our receiver group, we work hard -- our motto is make plays, so when I get an opportunity, I try to make a play," Murphy said.

Jackson had a costly fumble after catching a pass and getting inside the Bears' 10-yard line -- he said he thought his elbow was down before the fumble, but said he must do a better job securing the ball so the officials can't come into play. …

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After 3 sacks early, Bucs' pass rush disappeared

Gerald McCoy sacks Bears quarterback Jay Cutler during the first half.

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Gerald McCoy sacks Bears quarterback Jay Cutler during the first half.

CHICAGO -- It looked like a promising day for the Bucs defensive line early on, with three sacks on one drive in the first quarter, the last with Gerald McCoy forcing a Jay Cutler fumble recovered in Bears territory.

Then the rest of the day: 42 more plays for the Bears, but zero sacks and only one play were the Bucs dropped anyone for a loss.

"They weren't favorable conditions," coach Lovie Smith of the dropoff in the pass rush. "I felt, for the most part, the guys kept rushing throughout most of the day. (Chicago) got in a situation where they didn't have to put themselves in a tough passing situation."

McCoy, who now has a team-best 7.5 sacks, said the defensive line needs to bring pressure on the opposing quarterback from the start to the finish.

"We have to be more consistent throughout the whole game," he said. "We were getting to the QB and forcing some bad throws, but they started changing it up on us a little bit, running the ball, getting the ball out on quick screens, trying to neutralize our rush. I think we adjusted well, but we just need to be better." …

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Despite RB depth, Bucs' run game limited to 66 yards

Bucs coach Lovie Smith said there wasn't a set rotation for the backs, even though Doug Martin, pictured, and Charles Sims alternated on the first five series of the game.

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Bucs coach Lovie Smith said there wasn't a set rotation for the backs, even though Doug Martin, pictured, and Charles Sims alternated on the first five series of the game.

CHICAGO -- Given their top three running backs together for the first time this season, the Bucs steadily rotated starter Doug Martin and rookie Charles Sims, with Bobby Rainey here and there, but the net result was only 66 rushing yards in a 21-13 loss to the Bears.

"We have a crowded backfield and every guy brings something to the table," Martin said after rushing for 27 yards on 11 carries in his first game after missing three with an ankle injury. "That's how we're going to do it."

The Bucs rushed for more than 100 yards in their first two games this season, but have done so just once in the last nine games. After falling behind 21-10 late in the third quarter, the Bucs threw the ball on 19 of the next 20 plays, getting only a field goal to cut the Chicago lead to 21-13.

Sims, the team's leading rusher last week, had just one second-half touch until there was 3:04 left in the game, when he caught a 9-yard pass from Josh McCown. Given the ball on third-and-1, he was stopped for no gain, and the Bucs were stopped again on fourth down on a McCown keeper. …

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Next man up: Bucs LBs stepped in with David out

Much of the burden of replacing Lavonte David fell to Danny Lansanah, left (with Mason Foster), who had been coming off the field in the nickel defense but stayed on the field Sunday, playing David's weakside position.

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Much of the burden of replacing Lavonte David fell to Danny Lansanah, left (with Mason Foster), who had been coming off the field in the nickel defense but stayed on the field Sunday, playing David's weakside position.

CHICAGO -- Playing winning defense without a linebacker like Lavonte David isn't easy, but the Bucs held their own Sunday, holding the Bears to 204 yards of total offense despite playing without their All-Pro and leading tackler.

"He's a great player. I don't think anybody would be able to go in and replace him, but it's next man up," said Orie Lemon, a special-teams player who stepped in as the strongside linebacker in the Bucs' defense, getting a tackle for loss on the Bears' second drive.

Much of the burden of replacing David fell to Danny Lansanah, who had been coming off the field in the nickel defense but stayed on the field Sunday, playing David's weakside position and finishing with seven tackles, the second-best total of his career.

"I think we did a solid job. Missing a guy like Lavonte, it's a big deal for our defense," Lansanah said. "We did what we were coached to do all week."

Middle linebacker Mason Foster had a team-high eight tackles, and even had to leave the game briefly with a hand/wrist injury, which brought another special-teams player, Dane Fletcher, onto the field with Lansanah.  …

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Bucs linebackers held up despite David's absence

CHICAGO -- Playing winning defense without a linebacker like Lavonte David isn't easy, but the Bucs held their own Sunday, holding the Bears to 204 yards of total offense despite playing without their All-Pro and leading tackler.

"He's a great player. I don't think anybody would be able to go in and replace him, but it's next man up," said Orie Lemon, a special-teams player who stepped in as the strongside linebacker in the Bucs' defense, getting a tackle for loss on the Bears' second drive.

Much of the burden of replacing David fell to Danny Lansanah, who had been coming off the field in the nickel defense but stayed on the field Sunday, playing David's weakside position and finishing with seven tackles, the second-best total of his career.

"I think we did a solid job. Missing a guy like Lavonte, it's a big deal for our defense," Lansanah said. "We did what we were coached to do all week."

Middle linebacker Mason Foster had a team-high eight tackles, and even had to leave the game briefly with a hand/wrist injury, which brought another special-teams player, Dane Fletcher, onto the field with Lansanah.  …

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Turnovers doom Bucs in 21-13 loss at Bears

CHICAGO -- The Bucs dominated the first half, but saw a 10-0 lead disappear in the third quarter, with three turnovers by quarterback Josh McCown playing a major role in a 21-13 loss to the Bears at Soldier Field.

The Bucs (2-9) held Chicago (5-6) to just 68 yards of total offense, but self-destructed in the third quarter. McCown lost a fumble to set up a 13-yard touchdown drive, then had a high pass intercepted to set up a 15-yard touchdown drive, with not enough offense to make up the deficit.

The Bucs got the ball back at the Bears' 45 with 3:04 to play, but couldn't even get a first down -- after throwing on second-and-1 and missing, they ran twice and couldn't get a yard, with McCown's keeper inches short on fourth down. Lovie Smith was trying to become just the second former Bears head coach to return to Chicago and win as an opposing head coach.

McCown, who played for the Bears last season, throwing for 13 touchdowns, had another score Sunday when he hit rookie receiver Mike Evans for a 19-yard score and 7-0 lead. It was the rookie's sixth touchdown in four games.  …

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Live blog: Bucs lose lead, trail Bears 21-13 in fourth

Greetings from Chicago, where the Bucs are going for their third win -- and their third road win -- at Soldier Field. They'll do so without linebacker Lavonte David who's out with a hamstring injury.

4 p.m.: Bucs get a 40-yard pass to Vincent Jackson but can't get in the end zone -- Patrick Murray's 39-yard field goal makes it a one-score game, cutting the lead to 21-13 with 4:56 left in Chicago. Both Jackson (117) and Louis Murphy (105) are over 100 yards.

3:25 p.m.: Another Josh McCown turnover -- his high throw to Charles Sims was tipped and intercepted by Ryan Mundy, setting the Bears up at the 15-yard line. On third and goal, Matt Forte gets a 1-yard run, and it's suddenly 21-10 Bears here in Chicago.

3:15 p.m.: Once up 10-0 in the third quarter, the Bucs now trail the Bears 14-10 after a 13-yard Matt Forte run. The one-play scoring drive was set up by a fumble by Josh McCown, who didn't see David Bass coming and fumbled, with Chicago recovering the ball at the 13-yard line. …

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Martin, Sims both active at RB for Bucs vs. Bears

The Bucs will have Doug Martin and rookie Charles Sims both healthy and active for the first time today as they face the Bears, joining Bobby Rainey in a crowded backfield as they seek their third win of the season.

Linebacker Lavonte David is the most notable of the team's seven inactives -- cornerback Crezdon Butler, who started the last two games, is inactive as Alterraun Verner returns healthy. Rookie Brandon Dixon will be the team's third cornerback.

With Martin and Sims active, backup Mike James is inactive, as is rookie receiver Robert Herron, who has played only five offensive snaps in the previous four games. Defensive lineman Da'Quan Bowers is inactive for the second week in a row, as is backup corner C.J. Wilson and rookie tackle Kevin Pamphile.

With David out, the Bucs will shift starting strongside linebacker Danny Lansanah to start on the weakside, and he'll also stay on the field in the nickel defense. In the base defense, Orie Lemon, who has played almost exclusively on special teams, will start as the strongside linebacker. …

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Bucs LB Lavonte David will miss Bears game with hamstring

Lavonte David injured his hamstring in last week's win at Washington and missed the team's final two practices this week.

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Lavonte David injured his hamstring in last week's win at Washington and missed the team's final two practices this week.

If the Bucs are to win against the Bears today in Chicago, they'll have to do it without starting linebacker Lavonte David, who will miss the game with a hamstring injury, the first game he's missed in his three-year NFL career, the Times' Rick Stroud reports.

David, who injured his hamstring in last week's win at Washington and missed the team's final two practices this week, had been listed as "questionable" but the team will have him inactive today. Danny Lansanah is likely to step in for David in the Bucs' nickel defense, and the team will have to turn to a backup in the base defense, likely Dane Fletcher or Brandon Magee.

David is tied for the NFL lead in combined tackles and tackles for loss, potentially headed to the Pro Bowl after earning All-Pro honors last year. The Bucs have been careful about hamstring injuries this season -- starting cornerback Alterraun Verner has missed the last two games with a hamstring, but is expected to return to the starting lineup today. With David's absence today, the Bucs will have only one defensive starter -- DT Clinton McDonald -- who will have started in all of the team's 11 games this season. …

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Injury puts career streak on the line for Bucs' Lavonte David

Still nearly four hours until the Bucs and Bears kick off at Soldier Field, and the lingering unanswered question is whether Tampa Bay linebacker Lavonte David -- tied for the NFL lead in combined tackles and tackles for loss -- can play despite a hamstring injury that sidelined him from the final two days of practice this week.

David's presence as a leader on defense is crucial to the Bucs' success in Chicago, but it also has some history going as well -- the third-year linebacker from Nebraska has yet to miss a game in his three-year NFL career. And while that's not exactly a Cal Ripken streak, given the Bucs' high turnover in the past year, it matches the third-longest string of consecutive games played for the Bucs on their current 53-man roster.

Like David, defensive back Leonard Johnson and receiver Vincent Jackson have played every game since arriving to the Bucs with the start of 2012, and only two players can boast even a year longer -- tackle Demar Dotson has played in 48 straight games, having missed one during the 2011 season, and punter Michael Koenen has played in 58 straight since his arrival at the start of 2011. …

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Oddly, no place like road for Bucs of 2014

To say the Bucs are a better team on the road is a polite way of saying they've been a bad team at home this season, but with both of their 2014 wins coming away from Raymond James Stadium, it's an odd source of optimism as they face the Bears at Soldier Field.

"Normally, you're supposed to play a lot better at home, and we haven't got that part figured out yet," said coach Lovie Smith, whose team is 0-5 at home for the first time since 1983. "I know we've gone into some hostile environments and we're going into another one with Soldier Field this week. You just have to really concentrate and be focused, which we've been. For whatever reason, we have played well on the road, and we expect it to continue."

What works out well for the Bucs is the Bears are another NFL team that plays better on the road, or more importantly, plays worse at home. The Bucs and Bears are two of just three NFL teams that boast two more road wins than home wins -- the 49ers are the other. So an unlikely point of strength for the Bucs matches up with a unusual weakness for the Bears. …

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Fantasy football: Big day for Bucs tight ends vs. Bears?

If recent history is any indication, Sunday could be a good day for the Bucs' tight ends.

Chicago's defense has given up 50-plus points in two of their last three games, so there's reason for optimism for any opposing offensive player, but the Bears have had specific struggles against tight ends, who have scored touchdowns in four straight games and found the end zone nine times in the last six games.

The last two games have featured lesser-known tight ends scoring against Chicago -- Minnesota's Rhett Ellison had his only touchdown of the season in a 21-13 loss to the Bears, and Green Bay's Andrew Quarless got his only score in the last four games in a rout of Chicago.

For real potential, consider the Patriots' 51-23 drubbing of Chicago, which saw star Rob Gronkowski score three touchdowns and former Bucs star Tim Wright add one of his own. Gronkowski had nine catches for 149 yards and Wright seven for 61, with Patriots quarterbacks going an impressive 16-for-16 on passes targeted to his two tight ends. …

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Bucs corner Verner optimistic about playing vs. Bears

Bucs cornerback Alterraun Verner, sidelined the past two games by a hamstring injury, is optimistic he can return Sunday and help his defense try to contain the Bears' passing attack at Soldier Field.

"I had a good week, was able to do a lot of things, and hopefully they give me the green light to go this week," Verner said after Friday's practice. "I was able to open up a lot more this week, and I'm looking forward to hopefully being out there."

Verner's presence can help the Bucs line up against Chicago's two elite receivers in Brandon Marshall (586 yards, 8 TDs) and Alshon Jeffery (761 yards, 4 TDs), in addition to tight end Marcellus Bennett (591 yards, 5 TDs). Verner has faced the Bears before -- while with the Titans, against a Lovie Smith-coached Chicago team, he saw Marshall go off for three touchdowns from Jay Cutler in a 51-20 win in 2012.

"They killed us," Verner said. "That was the game that (Charles) Tillman had four forced fumbles. They whupped us. (Brian) Urlacher had a pick-six, somebody else had a pick-six. It wasn't pretty." …

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Bucs LB David sidelined for 2nd day by hamstring

Bucs linebacker Lavonte David missed a second straight day of practice with a hamstring injury Friday, raising concerns that the team's leading tackler could miss Sunday's game at Chicago. Coach Lovie Smith said David would be a game-time decision Sunday.

"A lot better, but we held him out today," Smith said.

David, who has not missed a game in his three-year NFL career, was initially listed as "limited" during Wednesday's practice and has missed two days since. The Bucs have been careful with hamstring injuries -- starting cornerback Alterraun Verner has been held out of the last two games with one of his own, though he seems ready to return against the Bears.

The Bucs have not utilized their linebacker depth on defense at all lately, with only three linebackers getting defensive snaps in the last two games. If David can't go, the Bucs could turn to Dane Fletcher, who filled in for Mason Foster earlier this season, and could also keep strongside linebacker Danny Lansanah on the field with Foster in their nickel defense. …

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