Bears hold on for victory against Bucs in jolly ol’ England
BY SEAN JENSEN firstname.lastname@example.org October 23, 2011 11:40AM
Matt Forte celebrates after his 32-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. | David J. Phillip~AP
Updated: October 24, 2011 10:02AM
LONDON — Facing a must-win game heading into their bye, the Bears squandered most of a 16-point lead but survived a fourth-quarter rally by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Bears nickel cornerback D.J. Moore’s interception preserved the 24-18 victory and positioned the team one game behind the Detroit Lions (5-2), 23-16 losers to the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday.
The Green Bay Packers are the league’s only undefeated team, coming from behind to beat the Minnesota Vikings 33-27.
“It was a big win,” defensive end Julius Peppers said. “That’s what we came over here to do, to get to 4-3, and we accomplished that.”
Except the NFL players at Wembley Stadium didn’t exactly showcase their beautiful game.
Much was made about the Buccaneers changing course, landing here on Monday after arriving later in the week in 2009, when they were trounced 35-7 by the New England Patriots. But the Bucs played — to borrow a British phrase — like rubbish in the first three quarters, and the Bears jumped out to a 21-5 lead.
The Bears, though, will have plenty of film to scrutinize.
There were more dropped passes and interceptions, missed blocks and errant throws.
Those mistakes enabled the Bucs to stick around. After trailing 21-5, they trimmed the deficit to 21-18.
After a short field goal by Robbie Gould, who had missed a 41-yarder wide right, the Bucs had a chance to score a game-winning touchdown with 1:50 left.
But quarterback Josh Freeman, who was 29-for-51 for 264 yards, tossed his fourth interception to Moore at the Bears’ 35-yard line.
“I’m an aggressive quarterback,” Freeman said. “I’m going to go for it. At the end, yes, hindsight, forced it.”
Added Moore, “Just being where I’m supposed to be.”
Early on, the Bears dictated the tempo against the Bucs, who were coming off a victory over the New Orleans Saints. Running back Matt Forte gained 58 yards on only three carries on the offense’s second drive, and he scored a 32-yard touchdown.
Forte reached 1,000 combined yards. He’s the first player to reach that figure in seven games since 2004. He finished with 25 carries for 145 yards and two catches for 38 yards.
Early in the second quarter, the Bears jumped out to a 14-2 lead when Jay Cutler lofted a pass to receiver Roy Williams, who avoided a jam near the line of scrimmage by cornerback E.J. Biggers. Williams caught the ball and scored from 25 yards out.
“Obviously, not the results you want, but you get what you deserve,” Bucs coach Raheem Morris said. “We played un-smart.”
A week to remember for the Glazer family, which owns the Buccaneers, turned into one it would just as soon forget.
Owners of famed soccer club Manchester United, at least one of the Glazers headed to Old Trafford — about 160 miles away — then traveled by helicopter back to London for the Bucs game.
Manchester City embarrassed the home club 6-1, handing Manchester United its worst home loss since 1955.
The Bears avoided an epic collapse, and they head into the bye on a two-game winning streak. After the bye, they go to Philadelphia to play the 2-4 Eagles on ‘‘Monday Night Football.’’
“It’s good. We’re in the same position we were in last year entering the bye,” cornerback Charles Tillman said. “We just need to stay consistent. Two wins start a streak.”