TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -- Michael Pittman remained face down on the
turf with just under two minutes to go and Tampa Bay's improving
ground game suddenly looked like it might be in trouble again.
Mike Alstott had already been helped from the field with a
sprained right knee and Pittman, the star in Sunday's 19-7 victory
over the Chicago Bears, appeared to be injured seriously when he
was dragged down awkwardly for a 4-yard loss.
Turns out it was only a scare.
Despite being bothered by back spasms, Pittman rushed for a
season-high 109 yards and one touchdown. He also had a 46-yard
reception, setting up a field goal as the Bucs (2-5) won a matchup
of teams desperately needing to jump-start disappointing seasons.
"I needed to be in the game, so I kept going back in," Pittman
said after limping off to a standing ovation. "It was hurting bad,
but I thought my team needed me."
Brian Griese threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to Michael Clayton
and Martin Gramatica kicked a pair of 22-yard field goals for Tampa
Bay, which rushed for a season-best 138 yards. Pittman became the
fourth back in six games to top the century mark against the Bears
Pittman, making his third start after missing three games while
serving a suspension for violating the NFL's personal conduct
policy, sealed the outcome with a 3-yard TD run with just under 9
minutes to go.
"Mike played an unbelievable game. ... I think he made more
plays today for us than he has all year. It's a credit to him
because he was in pain," Griese said.
Watching Pittman leave the field limping because of his back,
rather his one his knees, was a relief for Bucs coach Jon Gruden,
who already has lost Charlie Garner to season-ending knee surgery.
Gruden said Alstott had a MCL injury that needed further
"We don't know the exact severity," the coach said.
Chicago continued to struggle with Jonathan Quinn filling in at
quarterback for injured Rex Grossman. Craig Krenzel replaced Quinn
after the Bears fell behind 13-0, and the rookie completed 9 of 19
passes for 69 yards and threw an interception that set up Pittman's
Jones, who rushed for 52 yards on 13 carries, has been one of
the bright spots for the Bears in their slow start under first-year
coach Lovie Smith.
The shifty 220-pound back has two 100-yard rushing and looked
like he might get off to a big day when he took a swing pass from
Quinn on Chicago's first play from scrimmage, found an opening on
the right side and streaked up the sideline untouched for an
apparent 77-yard touchdown.
But receiver David Terrell was penalized for offensive pass
interference for throwing a block on linebacker Derrick Brooks on
the opposite side of the field, nullifying the score and setting
the tone for a mistake-filled day.
The Bears also hurt themselves with an unnecessary roughness
penalty after backing the Bucs up inside their own 5-yard line when
defensive tackle Tommie Harris jumped offside and knocked Griese to
the ground late in the first quarter.
The play allowed Tampa Bay to get out of the hole and Griese
proceeded to complete the longest field goal drive in Bucs history
-- 93 yards -- to take a 3-0 lead.
"We've got to get better," Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher
said. "We've got good players. We just make stupid mistakes. We've
got to eliminate those."
Clayton's touchdown, finishing another 93-yard drive, made it
10-0 just before the half and Gramatica's second field goal made it
13-0 before Pittman's fumble -- caused by Urlacher and recovered
Todd Johnson at the Tampa Bay 31 -- gave Chicago a chance to get
back in the game.
Quinn was 5 of 9 for 47 yards. The Bucs sacked each Bears
Smith said he has not made a decision on whether Krenzel or
Quinn will start next week.
"We'll evaluate that," the Chicago coach said. "I can't be
that pleased because we didn't get the win."
Griese was 15-of-23 for 163 yards and no interceptions. ...
Pittman joined Ahman Green, Bryant Westbrook and Clinton Portis as
backs rushing for 100 yards against the Bears. ... Chicago's Jason
McKie sprained a knee returning the second-half kickoff. He fumbled
on the play, setting up Gramatica's second field goal. ... Tampa
Bay WR Joe Jurevicius, out nearly a year with knee and back
injuries, made his season debut and had two catches for 21 yards.
... Bucs WR Tim Brown had one reception for 13 yards, extending the
league's longest current streak of consecutive games with a catch
Doctors treating Giants tight end Daniel Fells for MRSA are more optimistic than they were a few days ago that Fells won't lose his foot, sources close to the situation said.
The NFL has blamed an error by a clock operator, and the failure to correct it by on-field officials, for an unusual run-off of 18 seconds near the end of Monday's Steelers-Chargers game.
With starter Tyrod Taylor possibly dealing with an undisclosed injury, the Buffalo Bills signed veteran quarterback Josh Johnson on Tuesday and released veteran kicker Billy Cundiff.
The Denver Broncos are planning to be without pass-rusher DeMarcus Ware for Sunday's game against the Cleveland Browns, a source told ESPN NFL Insider Ed Werder.
DeAngelo Williams was told by NFL vice president of football operations Troy Vincent that he couldn't wear pink accessories because there are no exceptions to the uniform policy.
The Jaguars have been unable to determine when Bernard Pierce suffered a concussion in Sunday's loss to Tampa Bay, and the running back told the team he's also unsure when it happened.