The problem areas the Bears cleaned up vs. Buccaneers


After near-weekly miseries of allowing opposing offenses a first-possession touchdown drive to get warmed up, the Bears’ defense not only finally stopped an opponent’s opening possession without a touchdown but also kept Tampa Bay out of the end zone altogether for the first 33 minutes other than with the help of a blocked punt giving the Bucs the ball at the Chicago 4.

Tampa Bay came into Sunday standing No. 2 defensively in rushing average, allowing a paltry 3.3 yards per carry. The Bears pushed around the Buccaneers front for 174 rushing yards and at a clip of 4.5 yards per carry. Notably, it was done with no carry longer than 16 yards (one each of those by Jay Cutler and Matt Forte).

And in spite of a team from December Chicago playing in 86-degree temperatures, the Bears got physical early and carried the fight to Gerald McCoy, Lavonte David and the rest of Lovie Smith’s Tampa-2 defense. The Bears were physical from the outset and never backed off. Offensive coordinator Adam Gase called five runs in the first quarter, 14 in the second, seven in the third and 13 in the fourth. Backs averaged 3.2 yards per carry in the first quarter, 5.6 in the second, 4.0 in the third and 3.9 in the fourth.

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One of the reasons Gase was able to exercise that offensive option was an about-face on penalties from the Minnesota debacle. The Bears had zero penalty yards assessed on eight of their 11 possessions, meaning Cutler and the offense weren’t working from behind the chains, nor from behind on the scoreboard because of the play on defense.

The Bears began the game with the NFL’s highest holding-penalty total (33) and did have three on Sunday but only two assessed: one on wide receiver Deonte Thompson and the other against guard Vladimir Ducasse.

The Bears didn't take a negative approach by chanting something like “Don’t hold, don’t hold, don’t hold, don’t hold.” Rather they took a positive one, focusing on what to do and what not to do.

“We still had more penalties than we would’ve liked,” guard Matt Slauson said. “We talked all week about mental toughness, and that’s in your heart and your mind that you’re not going to be the one to get a penalty, my guy isn’t going to be the one that makes the play.

“When we put it in terms like that, it helps guys tighten up all the screws, just really focusing all week, focusing on the keys, the techniques, growing in the knowledge of the game. Guys worked hard at that all week.”

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