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Bears' defense forces four turnovers vs. Bucs

12/16/2001

CHICAGO (AP) -- The Chicago Bears have a question for all those
people -- and there were plenty -- who wrote them off as losers
before the season even began.

What are you doing for the playoffs?

The Bears clinched their first playoff berth since 1994 with a
27-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday. Chicago
forced four turnovers and made Brad Johnson's life miserable, and
Anthony Thomas ran for 173 yards and a score as the Bears' offense
finally broke loose.

"The best thing about this is that nobody gave us a chance
outside this locker room but us," linebacker Brian Urlacher said.
"The best thing about it is proving everyone wrong -- especially
after last week everyone said we probably wouldn't win another
game."

The crowd at Soldier Field was on its feet for most of the
fourth quarter, and when "Da Bears are playoff bound" flashed
across the scoreboard with about a minute left, the cheers were
deafening. Cars passing the stadium on Lake Shore Drive after the
game tooted their horns.

The victory also gave Chicago (10-3) double-digit victories for
the first time since 1991.

"It's a great feeling," said safety Tony Parrish, who had a
fumble recovery. "It's been hard, not being used to losing. It's
frustrating when you're not winning."

How much damage do you think the Bears can do in the playoffs?
The Bears' best chance for a long playoff run is to be at home and to have a
productive offense.

The Bears need to throw the ball down the field, like they did Sunday early
in the game -- which opened up the running game and enabled them to play
more aggressively.

If the Bears want to go anywhere in the playoffs, they need to be aggressive
on offense. If they're not aggressive, they could be one and done.

ESPN.com's Vinny Cerrato was director of player personnel for the
Redskins and 49ers.


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But the Bears are winning -- and their defense can take most of
the credit for that. Johnson was harassed all afternoon, with most
of his passes falling short or getting tipped. He finished the day
just 18-of-40 for 191 yards. Warrick Dunn and Mike Alstott couldn't
go anywhere, either, as Tampa Bay managed just 61 yards rushing.

And whenever the Buccaneers got into Chicago territory, the
Bears somehow came up with a big play. The biggest came with 3{
minutes left in the first half and the Bears clinging to a 10-3
lead.

Keyshawn Johnson caught Brad Johnson's pass and beat Parrish and
Mike Brown as he sprinted 47 yards to the Bears 9. But R.W.
McQuarters tripped him up, and Walt Harris poked the ball free.
Parrish recovered the ball at the 1.

"I was just trying to make something happen and Walt came
behind and made a great play," Keyshawn Johnson said. "And that's
why they won the game."

Parrish agreed.

"That was a big play," he said. "It makes it a different
game."

The Bears' offense couldn't do anything with the gift, going
three-and-out. But the defense gave them another chance, as Warrick
Holdman sacked Brad Johnson and forced a fumble with 58 seconds
left.

Alfonso Boone recovered the ball at the Bears 47, and Paul
Edinger kicked a 46-yard field goal as time expired to give Chicago
a 13-3 lead at the half.

The loss snapped a three-game winning streak for the Buccaneers
(7-6) and further damaged their playoff hopes.

"This is a tough situation," said Keyshawn Johnson, who
finished with seven catches and 119 yards. "We haven't been able
to put up a whole lot of points all year long. Obviously this
happens when you play the way we did today. They deserved to win."

Chicago's offense has struggled lately, managing just three
touchdowns in the last three games. But it got some momentum midway
through the second quarter, when Jim Miller went deep and found
David Terrell for a 62-yard gain.

Terrell beat Dexter Jackson and appeared to have a clear path to
the end zone. But back judge Tony Steratore slipped in Terrell's
path, forcing him to change his angle, and Jackson tripped him up
at the 2.

"I'm going to find out who he is and I'm going to fine him,"
Terrell said, laughing. "He cost me a touchdown."

But the Bears got it anyway as Miller found Marty Booker in the
corner of the end zone three plays later. Officials initially ruled
it an incomplete and Edinger was lining up for a 20-yard field goal
attempt when a replay showed Booker clearly had both feet inbounds.

Fans and the Bears bench erupted, and coach Dick Jauron quickly
challenged the play.

The second half was all Thomas, as he rushed for 146 yards and a
score. He set up the Bears other score -- Miller's 18-yard TD pass
to Fred Baxter -- with a 21-yard run.

"Chicago should be excited," Miller said. "The guys on the
team are excited and the organization feels pretty good about where
we are at."

Game notes
Bucs DT Warren Sapp left the game in the fourth quarter
with a sprained left shoulder. ... Bucs CB Donnie Abraham had his
30th interception, a team record. ... Terrell's 62-yard catch was
his longest of the season. ... There were 4,588 no-shows.