Wednesday, December 13, 2017
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Sloppiness abounds as Bears get pummeled by Buccaneers

TAMPA — Forget the talk of the Bears' close-knit locker room and the togetherness with which they promised to attack the stretch run. Pay no mind to the confidence the team believed it gathered in a 20-10 upset of the Vikings on Halloween night. In the grand analysis, that all means so little.

And any suggestion that John Fox's team could suddenly become a competitor in the mediocre NFC North? Well, Sunday's performance at Raymond James Stadium should put that fantasy to rest for good.

Coming out of a week off and facing a shaky Buccaneers team that had been winless at home, the Bears imploded for a 36-10 loss. For those brave enough to watch the whole ugly, dizzying disaster, this was evidence of a bad team offering its most miserable performance all season.

Bad news: During Sunday's postgame news conference, quarterback Jay Cutler seemed to grow tired of detailing his turnovers. There was a lot to get at, obviously, after Cutler threw two interceptions and lost two fumbles. Cutler's second interception was returned 20 yards for a touchdown by former Bear Chris Conte. That was a game-changer, offering the Buccaneers momentum after their own offense had sputtered through the first two possessions.

Just as deflating, though, was Cutler's first lost fumble, one that came with the Bears inside the Buccaneers 5 and threatening to take a 10-7 lead after an interception by Harold Jones-Quartey.

Instead, as Cutler was flushed left on third and goal from the 4, he failed to feel the pressure or secure the football with both hands and ultimately had the ball swatted from his grip by rookie Noah Spence.

"Didn't see him," Cutler explained. "So he stripped it."

Keep in mind, the Buccaneers entered the weekend ranked 28th in total defense and had only 11 takeaways in eight games. On Sunday, though, Cutler and Co. made them look like the '85 Bears. After allowing 1,087 total yards in losses to the Raiders and Falcons, the Bucs held the Bears to 283 yards and had four takeaways plus a safety on Cutler's second fumble.

The Bears reached the end zone just once on 13 possessions, and that required a 50-yard Hail Mary to Cameron Meredith on the final play of the first half.

Why all the sloppiness? What was missing?

"I don't know," Cutler said. "If we had that answer, a lot of teams would want to buy it."

GOOD NEWS: To be clear, finding good news from a game like Sunday's is like sifting through tornado wreckage for an intact piggy bank. So keep any praise within the proper context.

Still, the defense had its flashes. Rookie Leonard Floyd recorded 11/2 sacks, upping his season total to five. Credit Tracy Porter for limiting Bucs big-play receiver Mike Evans (four catches, 66 yards). Linebackers Jerrell Freeman and Danny Trevathan combined for 22 tackles.

Still, even with encouraging moments, the defense isn't yet equipped to carry the team.

EXTRA POINT: A year ago, the Bears followed what seemed to be a signature Thanksgiving night win in Green Bay by losing four of their final five games. So maybe it shouldn't be a total shock that whatever momentum the team gained by thrashing the Vikings two weeks ago was nowhere to be found Sunday.

Sloppiness ruled the day as evidenced by the five turnovers and nine penalties, four of which were focus- or discipline-related.

"I didn't see it coming," Fox said. "I think we had a great week of preparation. I think we had good plans really in all three phases."

For a team that has lost a lot on Fox's watch — it's 8-17 overall — the Bears also haven't shown they're equipped to build on their occasional successes. They haven't had a three-game winning streak since 2013, and their seven losses this season have come by an average of 12 points.

The Bears will be on the road again in Week 11, traveling to face the Giants at MetLife Stadium. The Giants are 5-3 and riding a three-game winning streak into their Monday night game against the Bengals.

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