The Bucs begin reviewing film of the Bears in earnest today, but the coaching staff already has a good idea what to expect.
Bucs coach Tony Dungy said while many might be surprised by the Bears' 6-2 start, there was evidence toward the end of last season Chicago would improve.
The Bucs hammered the Bears 41-0 early last season, then dropped a 13-10 decision in Chicago later.
"They drafted some young players that we really liked and stuck with them through some tough times," Dungy said. "You saw them playing tough. Going into Detroit, the last game of the year and winning a game that really didn't mean a lot to them, but they went in and beat a team that was trying to make the playoffs. That said something to me."
"They were a team that you felt was on the rise."
Sunday's game not only carries significance in the NFC Central race but also marks the first meeting since the Bears hired general manager Jerry Angelo in the offseason. Angelo was the Bucs director of player personnel.
"You want (Jerry) to do well, but it's definitely the type of thing where you've got to win," Dungy said. "Jerry's done a great job there, but we need to win. We need to beat him."
PRESEASON 2002: The Bucs will host the Dolphins in the 2002 preseason opener. Tampa Bay will then travel to Jacksonville, return home against the Redskins and finish against the expansion Houston Texans. Dates and times will be announced later.
ROSTER MOVE: The Bucs signed guard Shane Grice to the practice squad and released cornerback Anthony Midget from the practice squad.
Grice played at Mississippi and was released after signing as an undrafted free agent April 23. Midget was signed to the practice squad Nov. 6.
SO THAT'S THE SECRET: He has preached the importance of running the ball and stopping the run. Sunday's outstanding efforts throughout the league enhanced Dungy's point.
In Week 9, 12 backs rushed for more than 100 yards. The Rams, known for their pass-happy offense, had 328 yards rushing between two running backs. Eight of the other 10 teams with 100-yard rushers won.
"It's never been any different," Dungy said. "If you can run the ball well and defend the run well, you're going to be halfway home to winning it. We've got to run the ball much better in the second half and we've got defend the run much better in the second half."
_ ROGER MILLS