CHICAGO — Tom Brady certainly won’t be sending gift baskets to his offensive line after a disastrous drive late in the third quarter — and he won’t be too happy with himself after appearing to lose track of downs at the end of a 20-19 loss to the Bears on Thursday night.
Ryan Succop went 4-for-4 on field goals, helping Tampa Bay regain the lead twice in the second half against the Bears — midway through the third quarter thanks to a 46-yarder and again in the fourth on a 25-yarder.
The Bucs led 19-17 with 4:49 to play, before Chicago countered with its own kicker. Cairo Santos made a 38-yard field goal with 1:13 remaining. It was the fifth lead change of the game and accounted for the final margin.
The Bucs had a prime scoring opportunity in the third quarter on a drive that eventually was marred by poor decisions.
At one point the Bucs had first and 10 at the Chicago 35. Four straight flags — offensive holding on Tristan Wirfs, offensive pass interference on Mike Evans, offensive holding on Donovan Smith (offset by unnecessary roughness on the Bears) and unnecessary roughness on Ryan Jensen — backed them up to first and 30 at their own 45,and Tampa Bay eventually punted.
The Bucs, somehow, still led going into the fourth quarter, though it was short-lived.
Santos made a 47-yard field goal to push the Bears back ahead — until Succop came through again — by one point with 10:34 left in the game.
The Bucs also lost defensive lineman Vita Vea to an apparent ankle injury late in the fourth quarter.
The Bears ended the first half scoring 14 straight points to take a 14-13 halftime lead, and Bucs fans will remember a missed call that fueled Chicago’s comeback.
Chicago had a third and 12 at its own 39, when Bucs outside linebacker Shaquil Barrett was called for a neutral zone infraction. But on that play, replays show that Bears right guard Germain Ifedi jumped before Barrett went offsides. That gave the Bears a third and 7, and they converted on a 12-yard pass to David Montgomery.
Bears quarterback Nick Foles started getting into a groove from there. Five plays later, the Bears scored on Montgomery’s 3-yard touchdown run. Chicago then got a call reversed for a turnover as a Ke’Shawn Vaughn catch and fumble was initially ruled an incomplete pass.
Foles needed just four plays to tie the score on a 12-yard touchdown pass to Jimmy Graham.
Promising start fizzles
Tom Brady doesn’t have his complete arsenal of weapons tonight, and a national television audience was introduced to some unfamiliar names on the Bucs' first offensive drive.
Brady drove the Bucs 54 yards on an 11-play drive that ended with a 39-yard field goal by Ryan Succop.
The drive included rookie fifth-round pick Tyler Johnson’s first NFL catch, a 17-yard gain for a first down. Jaydon Mickens also made a big catch for a third-down conversion to extend the drive with an 11-yard gain.
Brady went deep to Mike Evans along the right sideline on the second play of the drive but the ball fell incomplete. Evans went to the Bucs bench briefly but returned later in the drive.
Brady was 3-for-6 for 41 yards on the drive, and running back Ronald Jones ran for 23 yards on four carries.
Important to note: Rookie running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn came in on third down and made a key blitz pickup on Bears linebacker Roquon Smith that allowed Brady to connect with Mickens for the first down.
Just when the Bears appeared to have some momentum going on offense, Carlton Davis picked off Nick Foles at the Tampa Bay 16-yard line, returning the ball to the 50 with 3:27 left in the first quarter. That’s three interceptions for Davis this season.
After a 6-yard gain by Ronald Jones, Johnson made his presence felt again with a 35-yard catch from Brady to put the Bucs in the red zone.
Even with a bad ankle, Evans proves he is a game changer.
With third and goal at the 2-yard line, the Bucs set up with three receivers to the right and Evans alone on the left side lined up against Bears cornerback Jaylon Johnson.
Evans took two steps toward the goal line, then cut inside, and Brady found him over the middle for a touchdown. Evans, who leads the NFL with six touchdown catches, is known as a deep-ball threat, but he has caught two touchdowns from 1 yard out, two from 2 yards out and one from 6 yards out.
The Bucs struck first in the second quarter, with Succop connecting on his second field goal of the night, this one from 35 yards to give Tampa Bay a 13-0 lead.
The Bears went on a clock-chewing drive, with Foles completing seven straight passes to give Chicago first and goal at the 3 with two minutes to play in the half.
David Montgomery scored the Bears' first rushing touchdown of the season a play later, and Chicago moved to within 13-7.
The Bears got a gift before the half, with Bucs rookie Ke’Shawn Vaughn coughing up the ball after a hard hit to set up Chicago on the Tampa Bay 27 with a little over a minute remaining.
Tight end Jimmy Graham made the one-handed grab over Jamel Dean to haul in the 12-yard touchdown completion from Foles. The Bears took their first lead of the game, 14-13 with 36 seconds remaining.
The Bucs enter the national primetime spotlight tonight as they face the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field.
This begins a string of four primetime games over the next five weeks for the Bucs. They’re the only game tonight.
And Tom Brady could have his work cut out for him. He is already without receivers Chris Godwin and Justin Watson and running back LeSean McCoy due to injuries. Tight end O.J. Howard is out for the season with a ruptured Achilles.
Brady will have Mike Evans, who tested his ailing right ankle before the game.
Running back Leonard Fournette (ankle) also will be active, as will receiver Scotty Miller (hip/groin)
Rookie fifth-round pick Tyler Johnson is active for his third NFL game, and is still seeking his first catch. Receiver Cyril Grayson was signed to the active roster from the practice squad earlier this week. Receiver Josh Pearson was promoted from the practice squad but won’t be active.
Brady against the Bears
Tom Brady has never lost against the Bears. He is 5-0 against Chicago in his career, averaging 319 passing yards a game, his second-highest output against any NFL team (Washington, 319.8 yards a game).
Brady has completed 70.4 percent of his passes against the Bears, has 14 touchdown passes and four interceptions and owns a 109.2 passer rating.
In other words, he’s been good.
Brady also is 12-2 on Thursday Night Football, and he’s thrown 28 touchdowns to six interceptions on Thursday nights. He has a 50-21 record in night games.
Can’t touch this
The NFL enacted new stricter COVID-19 protocols this week following the Tennessee Titans' outbreak and the postponement of two games last week.
We’ve seen many signs reminding us to wear face coverings everywhere, but this one at the entrance for the Soldier Field press box is a new one.
The sign says Soldier Field is a “touchless” facility, which means no handshakes, fistbumps, hugs, high-fives.
It is important to note that the Bucs will go back to playing in front of no fans tonight, after playing in front of fans the past two weeks in Denver and at Raymond James Stadium.
COVID-19 is very much affecting Chicago. Many downtown restaurants are still closed to indoor dining. Some are completely shuttered with delivery options posted on the windows. And Illinois recorded its highest single-day total of new positives in five months on Thursday.
Bucs vs. Nick Foles
There’s been a lot of talk about Nick Foles meeting Tom Brady for the first time since Foles' Eagles beat Brady’s Patriots in Super Bowl 52 in 2018.
But these Bucs have had success against Foles since then, knocking him out of the game in a Week 13 win last year in Jacksonville.
Foles was benched in that game after committing three turnovers — two lost fumbles and an interception — and replaced by Gardner Minshew. The Bucs defense held the Jaguars to just 242 yards of total offense in a lopsided 28-11 win, one of the highlights of the defense’s second-half growth in 2019.
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A little light reading
Here’s some of our content leading up to tonight’s game: