First quarter – Bears 7, Buccaneers 2
Key play: Matt Forte showcased his open-field elusiveness during a terrific 32-yard touchdown run with 8:42 to go in the first quarter. Forte sprinted up the right side of the field and cut back against a Buccanneers defense that looked hapless on the play.
Key drive: Forte’s touchdown capped a four-play, 81-yard drive that gave the Bears an important early lead. Both teams had punted on their first series, and Forte’s score on the Bears’ second possession set the tone for the game.
Key stat: Chris Conte had his first NFL interception when he picked off a pass that was intended for Bucs wide receiver Mike Williams at the goal line.
Summary: The Bears survived a wild, three-play roller coaster that included a) an interception by Buccaneers safety Tanard Jackson, b) the interception by Conte and c) a Buccaneers safety when Ronde Barber stuffed Forte in the end zone. An ankle injury to Earnest Graham left the Bucs without their top two running backs.
Second quarter – Bears 14, Buccaneers 5
Key play: Roy Williams scored his first touchdown with the Bears on an impressive catch-and-run into the end zone with 7:49 to go in the second quarter. Williams’ 25-yard touchdown gave the Bears a comfortable 14-2 lead against the reeling Bucs.
Key drive: The Bears’ defense held firm by forcing a three-and-out after Williams’ touchdown. The Bucs’ frustration mounted as quarterback Josh Freeman threw three consecutive incomplete passes before heading to the sidelines to watch a punt.
Key stat: In seven series, the Bears’ defense stymied the Bucs’ offense to force five punts, and interception and a field goal.
Summary: The Bears established a comfortable lead at halftime by effectively running the ball on offense and stopping the run on defense. The two-score lead prevented Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz from getting too pass-happy with his play calling, which kept Jay Cutler on his feet and the offense on the move.
Third quarter – Bears 21, Buccaneers 5
Key play: Bears linebacker Lance Briggs intercepted Freeman and returned the ball to the Bucs’ 1-yard line, but a penalty by teammate Tim Jennings during the return brought the ball back to the Bucs’ 46-yard line. The Bears’ offense failed to capitalize on the turnover.
Key drive: The Bears extended their lead to 16 points with a seven-play, 55-yard drive that ended with a 12-yard touchdown run by Marion Barber. The drive began with an impressive 23-yard completion from Cutler to Johnny Knox.
Key stat: Barber’s rushing touchdown was the 50th of his seven-year NFL career and his third in four games with the Bears.
Summary: Once again, the Bears’ defense offered no daylight to the Bucs’ offense, which had abandoned the running game and gone entirely into a passing mode. However, the Bears’ offense also hit the brakes after Barber’s touchdown, which gave the Bucs a chance to climb back into the game with a solid fourth quarter.
Fourth quarter – Bears 24, Buccaneers 18
Key play: The Bears were reeling in the fourth quarter, but nickelback D.J. Moore stepped up when his team needed it most. The Bucs trailed by six points and had marched into Bears’ territory when Moore picked off Freeman in the final minute. Cutler then took a knee to preserve the win.
Key drive: The Bucs narrowed the Bears’ lead to 21-18 on a six-play, 48-yard drive that ended with a 24-yard touchdown pass from Freeman to Dezmon Briscoe. That marked the second consecutive touchdown drive for Freeman, who connected with Kellen Winslow for a 2-yard touchdown pass on the previous possession.
Key stat: Forte finished the game with 183 yards from scrimmage (145 rushing yards, 38 receiving yards), which gave him 1,091 yards from scrimmage in seven games this season.
Summary: Phew. The Bears nearly blew a 16-point lead in the second half, but they kept their focus and came up big with Moore’s last-minute interception. They improved to 4-3 heading into the bye week, which is exactly where they stood heading into Week 8 one year ago. Can they repeat last season’s second-half surge?