The shoestring interception
Credit Bucs linebacker Barrett Ruud with one of the best catches of the game Sunday — by either team.
Early in the second quarter, the Bears were in business, having just recovered a fumble by receiver Maurice Stovall at the Bucs 38. One play later, the Bears' Kyle Orton threw a pass deep down the right sideline to tailback Matt Forte.
It looked as if Forte would make the catch in the end zone, but Ruud managed to get a piece of the ball — then make a shoestring pick just before it fell incomplete, preserving Tampa Bay's 7-6 lead.
"It was one of those things. When he went up, I just tried to put my hands right between his hands and tried to get as much of the ball as I could," Ruud said. "On the way down, I felt it kind of rolling down my body. And luckily, I got my hands under it just before it hit the ground. He had a hop-step on me, but I knew from his eyes that the ball was coming that way.
"So I just tried to put my hand up and get a piece of the ball."
The trick play
The Bears used some trickery near the end of the first half.
Facing fourth and 1 from its 44 and trailing 14-6, Chicago lined up for a punt. But the ball was snapped to reserve running back Garrett Wolfe, who dashed 38 yards to the Bucs 18 before rookie return man Dexter Jackson made a touchdown-saving tackle. The fake set up Robbie Gould's third field goal of the half, which came as time expired and cut the deficit to 14-9.
Bucs special teams captain Will Allen gave the Bears credit.
"It was just a great play in the middle of the field," he said. "Normally, we stack the line, but we didn't this time. They never showed it on tape. And they just caught us off guard. Great play, great call at the perfect moment."
Jackson didn't fare well returning punts with three for 1 yard but was pleased to lend a helping hand.
"I knew I had to make the tackle because it was just me back there," he said. "I knew I was going to take him down — or else I was going to get clowned in the meeting room."
The makeup catch
Michael Clayton has been waiting to make a contribution. And though he didn't get the start he hoped for, he did make a mark with five catches for 54 yards.
The most important catch came in overtime, but only after what could have been a costly error. With 6:43 left, the Bucs faced third and 5 from their 30 when Brian Griese connected with Antonio Bryant for an apparent first down. But the play was whistled dead by a false start on Clayton.
One play later, however, Clayton broke open in the middle, and Griese hit him for a 17-yard gain. It was a key play in the winning drive, which culminated six plays later with Matt Bryant's 21-yard field goal.
"You just have to regroup," Clayton said. "It was a no-huddle situation, and people were tired. The snap count was a little delayed, and I got a little out of whack and started a little early. But we're all professionals. You've got to put your mistakes behind you and go on to the next play.
"We got the next call, and it was a perfect look (from the defense). And Brian just delivered a perfect ball. I was able to catch it and get up the field and make some yards. Brian did a great job reading the defense and put it in there, and we made a big play."
For Clayton, it couldn't have felt better.
"I've been waiting for it for a long time," he said. "Patiently waiting and working hard, waiting for my opportunity. And I've been telling the guys that when opportunity comes, I'll show up."