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CHICAGO 25, TAMPA BAY 6 // JUST LIKE THE OLD DAZE

As part of the celebration and buildup surrounding the Bucs' sold-out home opener against the Bears, the team promoted the appearance of jugglers and clowns during pregame festivities at Tampa Stadium.

They just weren't supposed to be Sunday's main attraction.

A big bust in its first big game of the season, Tampa Bay served up seven turnovers and allowed a blocked punt for a touchdown, paving the way for all 16 second-half Chicago points in the Bears' 25-6 victory.

Nobody disappointed the Bucs' fifth-largest crowd in franchise history _ 71,507 _ more than quarterback Trent Dilfer, who tossed a career-high four interceptions before being pulled in favor of backup Casey Weldon with just under 10 minutes remaining in the game.

Wild high on a number of throws, Dilfer finished 11-of-27 for 149 yards, two sacks, and those four interceptions. Weldon was no improvement, completing 4 of 7 for 39 yards, but with two sacks, two lost fumbles and a couple of overthrows.

In addressing his own troubles, a demoralized Dilfer just as easily could have been summing up the thoughts of the entire team when he said: "I really thought I was at the point where this wouldn't happen to me. I didn't think something like this could happen. I think that's why I was so down. I just can't believe it. I can't believe I could play that bad. I just didn't think I could.

"There are bumps (along the road), but bumps were last week. This is destruction. I don't know how to describe this. I have no idea what this was. I felt so good before the game. Maybe there's something they're picking up. I don't know. I just don't know. I'm sorry. I wish I could tell you."

In a cruel twist as it turns out, the game, which pitted two of the four teams that held the NFC Central lead at 1-1 at the beginning of the day, sold out in time Thursday to be televised locally. It was the area's first such glimpse of the home-standing Bucs since November 1992, and the first September home game on local airwaves since 1981.

"That was the worst part," Bucs running back Errict Rhett said. "I apologize to them. It was a sellout crowd. People came from all over, and we disappointed them. I've never seen our offense play this bad."

What fans everywhere saw was a game that turned dramatically on a dreadful two-minute span by Tampa Bay (1-2) early in the third quarter. During the stretch that left a stench, the Bucs went from a 9-3 hole to a 22-3 canyon on the strength of:

An interception by Bears right cornerback Jeremy Lincoln, who returned Dilfer's pass 32 yards to the Bucs' 7.

A 7-yard touchdown run by Bears running back Robert Green on the next play.

A block of a Reggie Roby punt by Chicago safety Anthony Marshall four plays later. Marshall recovered the loose ball at the Bucs' 11 and took it in for a touchdown and a 22-3 lead.

And an interception and 15-yard return by former Bucs safety Marty Carter at the 50 on the ensuing play, again off Dilfer.

Asked if his confidence had taken an insurmountable blow against the Bears (2-1), Dilfer demurred.

"I still have a lot of confidence in myself," he said. "I don't want to sound like I think I'm an absolute bozo now. But I'm going to work harder. I'm going to try and change the way I'm doing things.

"I don't think it's a head thing. I don't think I started doubting myself or being scared of throwing the ball. I don't think it's in my head. Honestly, I have no idea. Maybe it's one of those things you've got to say, "It happens.' "

With Tampa Bay trailing by a pair of touchdowns and two two-point conversions at 22-6, Wyche yanked Dilfer and inserted Weldon with 9:58 remaining. Wyche defended the move as necessary due to Dilfer's fatigue level.

"Trent was exhausted," Wyche said. "He was barely getting back to that huddle so it was time to make a change. He was literally almost stumbling back into that huddle. We started to pull him right in the middle of the (previous) series, because he looked like he was going to start cramping up and go down."

Dilfer did not criticize his being pulled, but did not corroborate Wyche's belief that he was exhausted.

"I was ready to go back in until the three-minute mark," Dilfer said. "I wasn't sure what Sam was doing. He told me he was going to give Casey this next series. That was probably a good decision. The best have been pulled. I got yanked. I'll live with it.

Reminded this week how flat his team looked the last time it played before a sold-out Tampa Stadium crowd _ a 34-19 season-ending loss to Green Bay on Christmas Eve '94 _ Wyche said his club remembered that game and would not disappoint again.

But on Sunday, he didn't offer any apologies.

"We're disappointed in losses," he said. "We're disappointed in that things don't go right for you every time you want them to go right for you. That's why this game is so much fun. It's so unpredictable. I think we could go out there and play them again and it'd be an entirely different ballgame. Maybe a different outcome, who knows?"

Kevin Butler kicked four field goals _ frm 24, 37, 22 and 27 yards _ for the Bears.

In giving up two touchdowns in a 1:40 span of the second half, Tampa Bay ended a four-quarter string of not having given up a second-half touchdown. The Bears, however, have outscored their '95 opponents 50-6 after halftime.

But the only number that mattered to any number of Bucs was seven, Tampa Bay's turnover total.

"Seven turnovers isn't football," center Tony Mayberry said. "Seven turnovers is not giving yourself a chance to win. We had the potential of 49 points on those drives and we came up with zero. What else can you say?"

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