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Pleased to Meet You: Week 12, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Former Bears' head coach Lovie Smith returns to Soldier Field for the first time. What can we expect from the Buccaneers?

David Manning-USA TODAY Sports

The Bears picked up their first win in a month with a victory over the Vikings, and things look a little brighter than they did the week before. While it may not have changed much in the long term and season future, a win always feels good, and this week, the Bears have a chance to pick up their second in a row against Lovie Smith's Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Last Year: Finished 4-12, which was good for last in the NFC South.

This Year: So far, they're 2-8, having just picked up their second win of the season against the Washington Redskins. They're still in last in the NFC South, but they're only two games behind the division leading Saints and Falcons.

When Last We Met: It was in 2011, and the Bears beat the Bucs 24-18. That year the Bucs were 4-2 heading into the matchup against the Bears; that loss plunged the Bucs into a ten-game losing skid to finish that season at 4-12. Matt Forte ran for 145 yards and a touchdown, and Roy Williams caught a touchdown in the victory. Josh Freeman helped that a little with his four interceptions, though he did also throw a pair of touchdowns.


Offense Defense
Total Points 194 (25th) 279 (30th)
Total Yardage 3,133 (28th) 3,843 (27th)
Rushing Yardage 858 (28th) 1,182 (22nd)
Passing Yardage 2,275 (19th) 2,661 (30th)

Offense: The Bucs picked up not only the former Bears head coach in Lovie Smith, but they also picked up their former (backup) quarterback in Josh McCown to be their main starter. First, savor the irony in the offense being a higher-ranked unit than the defense under Lovie Smith. And second, take a look at rookie Mike Evans (having a great year, given this offense) and Vincent Jackson (prime free agency acquisition of a couple years past). Evans over the last three games has been on fire, picking up 21 receptions for 458 yards and five touchdowns.

Honestly, the Bucs might be better served to go with the younger Mike Glennon, but when McCown's been healthy, he's been their guy, and he's been... fairly pedestrian, with six touchdowns to six interceptions and barely 200 yards per game, though with a nearly similar rating to Glennon (balanced out by a higher completion percentage).

As far as running the ball, Doug Martin is their main guy, but like McCown, he's been injured, giving the reins to Bobby Rainey for a fair amount of time. Largely, however, the offense has revolved around the passing game, especially to Evans and Jackson.

Defense: This is an issue, because the Tampa 2 guru himself has a defense that has played bad in all the wrong areas. Their saving graces are in turnovers forced (gee, I wonder why), and in rushing yards per attempt, both of which are in the top half of the league. All the other numbers are, pretty much, in the bottom of the league or near there. Not picking up first downs (29th in the league offensively) and allowing first downs (29th in the league defensively) leads to some pretty ugly counting statistics.

Sack-wise, they haven't yet eclipsed the 20-sack mark (close, though, and the Bears are barely above that mark themselves); Gerald McCoy leads the team with six and a half sacks, and three other players have three, including Michael Johnson, formerly of the Bengals. Adrian Clayborn went on injured reserve after week 1 with an elbow injury.

Four of the top five tacklers on the team are safeties Mark Barron and Dashon Goldson (and Major Wright) and cornerback Alterraun Verner. Something to chew on.

Basically, the Tampa 2 isn't being very Tampa-2-y so far this season for Tampa. The defensive line isn't generating nearly enough pressure for the defensive backs and the linebackers aren't quite quick enough to hit the holes they need to.

If the Bears do this: Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall returned to form against the Vikings and made some of the plays they made for Josh McCown and Cutler last season, and the offense looked... well, better than it has in a while, though 21 points isn't as much as you'd think they'd've had given the offensive stats yesterday. Protecting the ball is going to be the main key for the Bears and churning out drives against Lovie Smith.

If the Bucs do this: If Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson get going, they can do some damage to the Bears' secondary, especially if the Bucs' offensive line keeps McCown upright.

Closing Thoughts: Four-win Chicago versus two-win Tampa Bay. Enjoy, folks.