No rust: Buccaneers overpower visiting Bears to win season-opener
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — So much for the notion that a Hurricane Irma-imposed layoff might hinder the Tampa Bay Buccaneers against the Chicago Bears.
Jameis Winston and Co. played like a team with heightened expectations in winning their season opener 29-7 on Sunday. They also looked confident, fully capable of ending a long playoff drought.
“Complementary football at its finest,” the third-year quarterback said. “Defense played phenomenal. Offense had great drives, eliminated the three-and-outs, and eliminated turnovers.”
Winston threw for 204 yards and one touchdown, the Bucs’ defense stymied former teammate Mike Glennon with four turnovers, and the sloppy Bears (0-2) didn’t get into the zone until Deonte Thompson scored on a 14-yard reception with 1:43 remaining.
“Basically, not a good day at the office,” Bears coach John Fox said. “I think any time you go out and have four giveaways in the first half, it’s not good news.”
The Bucs (1-0) dominated despite having a short week of practice following the massive storm that forced postponement of the team’s scheduled season opener at Miami.
The team joined the Dolphins and Jacksonville Jaguars in wearing “ONE FLORIDA” decals on their helmets Sunday. First responders who’ve worked tirelessly in the aftermath of Irma were among special guests in the announced crowd of 56,640 at Raymond James Stadium.
“We had a chip on our shoulder. … We wanted to be a pick-me-up for our fans, definitely the cities around the Tampa Bay area,” Winston said. “It was fun out there. The crowd was electric, and we tried our best.”
Winston completed 18 of 30 passes without an interception. He threw a 13-yard TD pass to Mike Evans, who had seven catches for 93 yards.
Glennon, who signed with Chicago as a free agent last winter, was 31 of 45 for 301 yards and two interceptions in his return to the city where he played for the first four years of his career . The Bears finished with 310 yards total offense, 1 yard less than a Bucs offense that hasn’t had much work in the past month.
By the time he lined up to face the Bears, Winston hadn’t taken a snap in a game in three weeks. Eight regulars, including Evans, receiver DeSean Jackson, linebacker Kwon Alexander and defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, hadn’t seen game action in a month.
The Bucs insisted, though, that they would not use rustiness as an excuse if they had a less-than-sharp debut. The way the Bears played, the layoff never had a chance to become an issue.
After opening the season with a solid performance in a 23-17 loss to defending NFC champion Atlanta , the Bears turned over the ball four times in the opening half, helping Winston build a 26-0 halftime lead.
If Chicago had an advantage entering the game, it figured to be Glennon’s knowledge of the Tampa Bay defense. The fifth-year pro faced it in practice every day the past four seasons, the last two as Winston’s backup.
And while the Bears did have some success moving the ball, the barrage of turnovers was too much to overcome.
Glennon’s first-half miscues led to two touchdowns. Rookie Tarik Cohen’s ill-advised decision to scoop a punt off the ground and run with it deep in Bears territory set up Tampa Bay’s first TD, Winston’s 13-yard pass to Evans.
Noah Spence sacked Glennon, forcing a second-quarter fumble that led to Jacquizz Rodgers’ 1-yard TD run. Robert McClain’s interception and 46-yard return up the sideline on Chicago’s next possession hiked the lead to 23-0.
“Obviously not what I had envisioned or hoped. Ultimately it shows how precious taking care of the football is,” Glennon said.
“Four turnovers in the first half, you’re not going to win many football games,” the Bears quarterback added. “Three of those fall on me, and ultimately I have to do a better job taking care of the football and giving us a chance to win.”
NOWHERE TO RUN
The Bucs limited the Bears to 20 yards rushing. While part of that could be attributed to Chicago falling behind early, it’s fair to note that Cohen and Jordan Howard didn’t have much room to run when they did get the ball. Cohen gained 13 yards on seven attempts, with 9 coming on one carry. Howard, who topped 100 yards during a lopsided loss to Tampa Bay last season, finished with 7 yards on nine attempts. As a tandem, Cohen and Howard averaged 1.3 yards per carry.
EFFECTIVE, THOUGH NOT FLASHY
Jackson was Tampa Bay’s big offseason acquisition. The speedy receiver, who had a 21-yard reception and finished with three catches for 39 yards, was signed in free agency in hopes of making the offense more explosive.
Bears: OL Tom Compton (hip) and LB Nick Kwiatkoski (pectoral) did not play in the second half.
Buccaneers: Alexander, who had Tampa Bay’s first interception, left the game in the second quarter with a hamstring injury and did not return.
Bears: Return home to face Pittsburgh.
Buccaneers: Play road opener at Minnesota, which played Sunday without QB Sam Bradford
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