The Tampa Bay Buccaneers stopped the tracks of their tears with a rhythmic thumping of the previously unbeaten Bears Sunday at soldout Tampa Stadium.
After rolling to early leads of 21-0 and 28-7, Tampa Bay (3-2) survived a furious, but belated, comeback attempt to prevail 42-35 and end a 12-game losing streak against the Bears.
The 42 points represent the most points ever scored against a Mike Ditka- coached Bears team and the most scored against any Bears team since Oct. 19, 1981, when the Detroit Lions routed them 48-17 at the Pontiac Silverdome.
"We beat a really fine Chicago Bears team, one of the best two or three teams in the league. It could very well be the best," said Tampa Bay coach Ray Perkins. The Bucs last beat the Bears on Jan. 2, 1983.
The Bears made no excuses. No one blamed the tough Monday night game against Philadelphia. No one blamed the 88-degree heat and 65 percent humidity.
"I think you've got to give them credit, they did a good job. We didn't play very well," said Ditka, whose Bears (4-1) maintain a one-game lead in the National Football Conference Central Division over Tampa Bay, Green Bay and Minnesota.
"We probably were outcoached. I don't think we handled the situations we had very well with our defense or our offense. But I give (Tampa Bay) all the credit. I don't take anything away from them.
"Evidently we're very stereotyped about a lot of the things we're doing because they seemed to know what we were doing. The only thing I can say about our guys is they hung in there and they tried. We were outplayed and outcoached."
The largest paid crowd to witness a Buccaneers contest at Tampa Stadium72,077watched oft-maligned quarterback Vinnie Testaverde enjoy one of his most brilliant afternoons as a pro. He completed 22 of 36 passes for 269 yards and three touchdowns before being forced from the game with a bruised knee in the fourth quarter.
"They had no running game early but they didn't need a running game," said Ditka. "All they had to do was throw it in the pack and we couldn't cover anybody."
Already without the services of injured All-Pro defensive tackle Dan Hampton, the Bears also saw starting left end Trace Armstrong limp off the field with a severely sprained left ankle that could land the first-round draft pick on the six-week injured reserve list.
Bears quarterback Mike Tomczak completed 16 of 29 passes for 162 yards and one touchdown. He had one interception and was sacked once.
Running back Neal Anderson rushed for 86 yards on 17 carries, led Bears receivers with six catches and scored three touchdowns. Linebacker Jim Morrissey had two interceptions.
After trailing 28-14 at the half, the Bears pulled to within 28-21 at the end of three periods.
With the ball at the Bears' 28-yard line to start the fourth quarter, Tomczak passed six yards to Matt Suhey to the 35. On second down, Tomczak called an audible at the line of scrimmage. The pass play intended for Dennis McKinnon fell incomplete because McKinnon was blocking on the play. He was unable to hear the audible. A third-down pass to Anderson resulted in a loss of three yards before the Bears were forced to punt.
Ditka was riled.
"We didn't take some of the things that were given to us," he said. "We audibled a play I thought was a key play and we had no business audibling it. Anytime we get too smart for our own selves, then that's what happens. When you give people too much rope, they get too much rope and they hang themselves.
"If we just do what we're told to do and stick with the game plan we still probably would have got beat today, but I don't think it would have been by the score that we did."
Ditka inserted Jim Harbaugh with 6:34 left in the game, but he would not say it was because of Tomczak's decision to audible.
"Harbaugh was in there because Harbaugh is as good as anybody else we have," said Ditka.
Harbaugh scrambled for a 26-yard TD run to pull the Bears to within 42-28 with 3:56 left in the game. And he guided the Bears to the Bucs' 1, where Anderson darted in the end zone for his third TD with :49 left. But an onside kick was recovered by the Bucs and the Bears had to swallow hard with their first loss of the year.
The Bears consistently were plagued by poor field position. Punter Maury Buford averaged 40.2 yards on six kicks, but shanked boots of 29, 33 and 12 yards that set the Bucs up for scores.
The Bucs took advantage of excellent field position as the result of his 29-yard punt in the early minutes of the game. Completing 5 of 5 passes for 49 yards, Testaverde guided Tampa Bay on a 6-play, 53-yard scoring drive. His 11- yard toss intended for Lars Tate deflected off his hands and into the waiting arms of Mark Carrier (6 catches for 105 yards) for a touchdown. Donald Igwebuike's conversion put Tampa Bay on top 7-0.
Buford's 33-yard punt set the Bucs up at their own 31. From there, Testaverde took his team 69 yards in seven plays. William Howard crashed into the end zone from 1 yard out for a 14-0 Bucs lead.
The Bears turned the ball over to the Bucs on their next possession when Tomczak passed 16 yards to McKinnon, who had the ball stripped by Ricky Reynolds. The fumble was recovered by Harry Hamilton at the Bears' 36.
Testaverde passed 30 yards to Carrier to the 6. A pass interference call on Morrissey, trying to cover Tate, put the ball on the 1. But the Bears' defense dug in and stopped the Bucs on four plays from the 1.
However, a third-down pass attempt by a scrambling Tomczak wound up in the arms of the Bucs' Mark Robinson at the Bears' 14. Four plays later, Testaverde passed 3 yards to tight end William Harris for a 21-0 lead two plays into the second quarter.
"I think they threw the ball a little bit more than we anticipated," said Bears linebacker Ron Rivera. "They have a great running game and we expected them to try to run the ball against us, especially since a lot of other teams have had success. They came out and threw the ball extremely well."Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times