|Date of game: 11/23/2014
Recap: Chicago vs. Tampa Bay
Chicago, IL (SportsNetwork.com) - Lo vie Smith and Josh McCown were not greeted warmly in their return to Chicago.
The Bears scored three straight touchdowns in the third quarter to take the lead, including two by Matt Forte, who finished with 89 yards on 23 carries to lead Chicago to a 21-13 win over Smith and McCown's Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday.
McCown, who spent the past three seasons with Chicago, threw a touchdown pass to rookie Mike Evans 1:36 into the second quarter to give the Bucs a 7-0 lead, but they didn't find the end zone again.
The Bucs quarterback committed three turnovers, including two in the second half, as the Tampa Bay offense never gained footing after the break.
Jay Cutler completed 17-of-27 passes for just 130 yards for the Bears (5-6). Alshon Jeffery caught a 2-yard touchdown pass for Chicago's first touchdown in the third quarter.
Tampa Bay (2-9) never got its ground game going. Doug Martin led the team with 27 yards on 11 carries and Charles Sims added 22 yards. Vincent Jackson and Louis Murphy both had over 100 yards receiving for the Bucs.
McCown's underthrown pass was intercepted by Chris Conte in Bears territory on Tampa Bay's first possession.
On the ensuing drive, the Bucs initially forced a three-and-out but a roughing the punter call extended the drive. A few plays later, Gerald McCoy jarred the ball loose while sacking Cutler and the fumble was recovered by Tampa Bay.
The Buccaneers were able to take advantage when Evans beat Kyle Fuller down the sideline to haul in his 19-yard touchdown pass to give the Bucs a 7-0 lead.
Both defenses dug in for most of the rest of the half. Inside the two-minute warning, McCown found Louis Murphy on a short route, and Murphy spun away from defenders to turn a short catch into a career-long 54-yard gain to the Chicago 22-yard line. The Bucs settled for Patrick Murray's 32-yard field goal to take a 10-0 lead at the half.
The Bears had just 68 yards of offense in the first half and three first downs, and Forte had just 16 yards on six carries.
It took Chicago just three plays in the second half to get three more first downs on Cutler's passes to Brandon Marshall and Martellus Bennett and Forte's 13-yard run. On 3rd-and-goal, Cutler found Jeffery in the end zone to cut the Bucs' lead to 10-7.
Smith, who coached the Bears for nine seasons between 2004-12 and led them to a Super Bowl appearance, could only watch as his offense fell apart. Later in the third quarter, McCown was stripped by David Bass from behind and the Bears recovered.
On the next play, Forte ran through two Tampa Bay tackles on his way to a 13- yard score, giving the Bears their first lead of the game at 14-10.
The Bucs turned the ball over on their next play when McCown's throw to Sims out of the backfield was high and safety Ryan Mundy caught the deflection off Sims' hands. Forte punched it in the end zone for his second score of the day to give the Bears a 21-10 lead.
"This is a game about momentum," said Mundy after the game. "Every football game is about ebb and flow."
Tampa Bay appeared poised to answer with a five-play drive, but Jackson was stripped at the end of a 24-yard reception for the Bears' fourth forced turnover of the game.
With time winding down in the fourth, a pair of Bears sacks short-circuited a promising Buccaneers drive, but Murray salvaged it with a field goal to make it a one-score game at 21-13.
The Bears went 3-and-out on the subsequent drive, and the Bucs took the field again with good field position and a chance to tie the game. On 4th-and-1 in Chicago territory, the Bears defense stuffed McCown diving for the first down to get the ball back and run down most of the clock.
"We didn't get it on third-and-one and just decided to sneak it," said McCown. "I thought we pushed it across and got it, but obviously I was short. It's not good enough."
Tampa Bay's last-ditch effort to win ended with an 8-yard pass to Murphy 65 yards away from the end zone.Game Notes
Buccaneers linebacker Lavonte David (hamstring) missed a game for the first
time in his career with injury ... Bears linebacker Lance Briggs left the game
in the second quarter with a groin injury ... Forte passed Gale Sayers for
fourth place on the Bears' all-time rushing touchdowns list with 40 ...
Chicago heads to Detroit on a short week for a Thanksgiving Day game against
the Lions ...Tampa Bay will host Cincinnati next Sunday.