Final

Buccaneers 3

(7-6, 4-4 away)

Bears 27

(10-3, 6-1 home)

Coverage: FOX

1:00 PM ET, December 16, 2001

 

1 2 3 4 T
TB 0 3 0 03
CHI 3 10 7 727

Bears' defense forces four turnovers vs. Bucs

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?

Chicago Bears fan

For the first time in seven seasons, Bears fans can talk 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.

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.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press

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Scoring Summary

SECOND QUARTERTBCHI
tbFG7:54Martin Gramatica 10 yd Field Goal
Drive info: 6 plays, 17 yds, 2:34
33
chiTD5:12Touchdown
Drive info: 6 plays, 64 yds, 2:32
39
chi4:38
Drive info: 6 plays, 64 yds, 2:32
310
chiFG0:15Paul Edinger 10 yd Field Goal
Drive info: 6 plays, 25 yds, 2:02
313
THIRD QUARTERTBCHI
chiTD8:38Touchdown
Drive info: 9 plays, 69 yds, 4:03
319
chi8:38
Drive info: 9 plays, 69 yds, 4:03
320
FOURTH QUARTERTBCHI
chiTD12:34Anthony Thomas, 5 yd run
Drive info: 7 plays, 51 yds, 12:35
326
FIRST QUARTERTBCHI
chiFG6:14Paul Edinger 10 yd Field Goal
Drive info: 10 plays, 69 yds, 2:38
03
FOURTH QUARTERTBCHI
chi12:34
Drive info: 7 plays, 51 yds, 12:35
327