- Inactive Weeks 1-2.
- Did not play Weeks 3 and 5.
- Waived 10/7
- Signed to the Bears practice squad 10/8.
- Signed to the active roster 11/3.
Yet Bass, a second-year veteran, made arguably the most significant play of Chicago's victory over the Buccaneers with his third-quarter strip-sack of Josh McCown, which led to the first of Matt Forte's two touchdown runs. With the Bears down 10-7 with 5:09 left in the third quarter, Bass dropped McCown for a 12-yard loss with Christian Jones recovering at the Tampa Bay 13.
Forte busted a 13-yard run on the next play to give Chicago the lead for the first time all afternoon.
"Josh does a great job of escaping the pocket," Bass said. "He's a fast and mobile quarterback, and we saw that last year. We studied the offensive line that we were going against and tried to find their weaknesses to maximize every opportunity we got."
Bass certainly did that against the Buccaneers, but it's clear he's capitalizing on his latest break. Lamarr Houston suffered a season-ending knee injury on Oct. 26 at New England, and veteran Trevor Scott has been inactive the last two weeks due to a knee injury. That opened the door to more playing time for Bass, who kicked it down Sunday with a strong showing.
"You know me, I'm just trying to maximize every opportunity I get," Bass said. "It's a blessing just to be here. Anytime I get a chance to go out onto the field, I just want to go out there and have fun."
Bass admitted to being disappointed with the team cutting him and later placing him on the practice squad.
"I like to control what I can control. Unfortunately, I didn't like the way that played out, but that's part of the game," Bass said. "I just kept telling myself God's got a plan and whatever's meant to be is going to happen. I just stayed patient."
Forte finished with a game-high 89 rushing yards and two touchdowns in the 21-13 victory, but the offense managed to put together scoring drives of only 58, 13 and 15 yards. The Bears scored 14 of their 21 points off turnovers provided by the defense.
Forte said penalties and a lack of attention to detail hurt the Bears all afternoon. The Bears have still not scored above 28 points in a game this year.
“It was all on us,” Forte said. “Penalties ... backing us up first-and-15 and not executing little nuances of the plays. If all 11 aren’t on the same page, sometimes the play can work but most times it won’t work. Halftime we came in and Kyle [Long] wrote on the board, ‘execute and no excuses.’ Don’t make excuses of why we didn’t do this or why we didn’t do that, just go out there and execute the plays and drive the ball down the field.”
Penalties continue to plague the Bears. Wide receiver Brandon Marshall was flagged three times in the first half, twice for illegal blocking (the Bucs declined one of the illegal blocking penalties) and once for a false start.
Marshall offered no explanations for why the Bears looked so sluggish, but he did throw a bouquet at the defense for its four-turnover, five-sack effort.
“Man, they won the game,” Marshall said. “They did a great job today. We’re really proud of them. They did a great job.”
CHICAGO -- Here are five things we learned in the Chicago Bears' 21-13 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers:
1. Defense is the backbone of the team: Sounds crazy, right? We’re talking about the same defense responsible for surrendering 50-plus points consecutive weeks to New England and Green Bay. Certain people even accused the defense of giving up three weeks ago at Lambeau Field. Guess what? The defense is the team’s strength. Look it up. Week 12’s four-takeaway, five-sack effort versus the Bucs is another example of the defense willing the Bears to a win. With the exception of Green Bay (both games) and New England, the Bears defense has shown up every week. The victory over Minnesota -- that’s on the defense. The road win at New York -- the work of the defense. The Bears haven’t scored more than 28 points in 11 games. Yet, the team still finds itself 5-6. That’s actually a remarkable accomplishment, given the putrid offensive output. Here’s a question you never imagined asking yourself: Where would the Bears be without the defense? Scary stuff.
2. Now... about that offense: The offense is a wreck. Zero first-half points against the 2-9 Tampa Bay Buccaneers? Trailing 10-0 at halftime? Are you kidding me? Even with the benefit of amazing field position almost the entire afternoon, the Bears managed to score 21 points. There needs to be a full-scale offseason investigation to figure out why the offense is broken. The group looks lethargic. Is it the play calling? Is it the quarterback? Is it the work of moody skill position players? You cannot pin this colossal failure on the injuries to the offensive line. Did fill-in left guard Brian de la Puente have a tough time against Gerald McCoy? Absolutely. But even when the offensive line appeared to settle down after halftime, the Bears still couldn’t mount a drive unless the defense gift-wrapped field position deep inside Tampa territory. The Bears had one respectable drive to begin the second half. One drive! How much deeper can the offense sink? We’ll find out over the final five games.
3. Yellow flags everywhere: It doesn’t help the underachieving offense that somebody seems to commit a penalty every drive. Instead of first-and-10, it’s first-and-15. Instead of second-and-1, it’s second-and-10. Brandon Marshall hurt the Bears in the first half with a pair of illegal blocking penalties and one false start. The Bears (six penalties for 45 yards) actually won the penalty battle over the Bucs (nine penalties for 87 yards), but let’s keep in mind that Tampa is 2-9 for a reason. The Bears lack discipline. This is another area of the team that isn’t improving. The focus is not where it needs to be.
4. Feed Matt Forte: Forte is the best player on offense. Why only five carries in the first half? Just another example of the Bears forgetting about one of the most versatile tailbacks in the league. Forte did catch four passes for 25 yards in the opening 30 minutes, but haven’t opposing defenses caught on to Jay Cutler constantly checking down to Forte? You know what teams haven’t picked up on? Running the ball, because the Bears rarely do it with any consistency. Forte finished the game with 89 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 23 attempts. He is one of the few bright spots for an offense that is struggling to forge any sort of identity, outside of being dysfunctional.
5. Stephen Paea makes contract push: In the final year of his original rookie contract, Paea is second on the team with 6.0 sacks. Paea dominated the interior of the Bucs offensive line, sacking Josh McCown twice and forcing a fumble that McCown eventually recovered. Paea is another homegrown talent, developed by the team that drafted him in 2011 in the second round. Organizations love to reward their own. Even though Paea wasn’t drafted by current general manager Phil Emery, the defensive tackle has done enough to warrant a new deal. Paea is incredibility fast, strong and athletic. His issue is staying healthy. We are finally starting to see what Paea can do when he avoids injuries. He seems like a smart investment, as long as the price is reasonable.
CHICAGO -- Lovie Smith stamped Chicago's defense with a takeaway mindset during his nine-year tenure, and standing on the opposite sideline Sunday as coach of Tampa Bay, he watched the Buccaneers fall victim to his Bears brainchild.
Down 10-0 to start the second half, the Chicago Bears scored 14 points off three third-quarter takeaways to best the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 21-13 at Soldier Field.
In all, Chicago gobbled up four takeaways.
A light rain fell at kickoff, but as the game progressed, the precipitation increased along with Chicago's prospects for forcing turnovers. Several Bears defenders said the sloppy conditions helped them to take away the ball.
"Yeah, I guess you could say that," safety Ryan Mundy said. "But takeaways are our focus every game. We come in trying to be plus-2 [in turnover margin] every game because that's what this defense has thrived on for so many years. That's one of the pillars of our defense. Particularly, when the weather gets nasty, offenses have trouble handling the ball. So we need to exploit that moving forward. We knew they were going to be playing for takeaways because when Coach Smith was here, those were the coaching points for [the Bears]."
David Bass' strip-sack of Josh McCown with 5:09 remaining in the third quarter turned the tide of the game, as Matt Forte busted a 13-yard touchdown run behind left guard Kyle Long on the next play from scrimmage to give the Bears a 14-10 lead after the extra point.
In a span of 1:49, Forte scored two touchdowns off Bears takeaways. Mundy picked off a pass that bounced off Charles Sims' hands to set up Forte's second score. Chicago needed to move the ball a total of 28 yards on five plays for Forte's touchdowns.
"When you get into this weather, it's not optimal throwing conditions," McCown said. "But you've got to manage it the best you can. Those two [turnovers] right there back-to-back hurt us. It's tough, but we've got to do a better job of managing it."
Earlier in the game, Chris Conte picked off McCown. But Jay Cutler fumbled on the ensuing possession, and Tampa Bay capitalized with a McCown touchdown pass to Mike Evans. Chicago's opponents this season have now scored 82 points off turnovers, with Cutler committing 18 of the team's 21.
The Bears' defense, however, has scored 63 points this season off 18 takeaways. Since 2006, the Bears are 50-10 when they finish games with a positive turnover margin (8-0 under Trestman in those conditions), 13-35 in games on the negative side of turnover margin and 14-16 when the turnover margin is equal.
"With them coming in, Lovie preaches [turnovers] a lot, so we knew we had to win the turnover battle," cornerback Tim Jennings said. "That was huge for our success today. We needed that."
During Smith's tenure in Chicago, the Bears led the NFL in takeaways (310), returning 34 of them for touchdowns, including 26 interceptions returned for scores. That tied for the most in the NFL during that span.
Smith couldn't help but admit that the Bears beat him at his own game.
"Yeah, I think most teams win with that turnover ratio," Smith said. "There are a lot of defensive players [for Chicago] that bought into that, and, like most games, that's normally what's going to determine the winner."
“We were challenged, offensively,” Cutler said. “Defensively, they were playing really good football. They just had to sustain that. Offensively, Marc [Trestman] challenged us. The players, we challenged each other. We knew if we continued down this road, we were going to lose this game. We didn’t want that to happen.”
Asked to elaborate on how the team was challenged, Cutler said, “Verbally, we questioned guys. Made sure everyone was in this for the right reasons. Made sure when we left that locker room, everyone’s mind was right on what we wanted to accomplish.”
The Bears obviously responded well to the halftime challenges.
The offense marched 58 yards on six plays in the team’s first possession of the second half, with Cutler finding Alshon Jeffery for a 2-yard touchdown to cap the drive and put the club’s first points on the board.
Still, the Bears finished with a season-low 204 yards on offense and converted on just 25 percent of third downs. Matt Forte scored a pair of touchdowns late off turnovers forced by the defense to lift the Bears.
“To me, it was very easy,” Trestman said of his first-half assessment of the team. “Dropped balls, penalties, tipped balls, all of that. As I said to the guys at halftime, there was no one guy. We passed it around to everybody. You can’t be efficient playing football that way, especially when you are dropping footballs and you have penalties. When we get over that, we’ll move the ball effectively and efficiently, but we have to get over that. And we did.”
Week 12 Report Card: Bucs at Bears
About the only positive is Jay Cutler didn't throw an interception. Cutler completed 17 of 27 pass attempts for a paltry 130 yards. The Bears had one completion for more than 20 yards (26). Only five passes total gained 10 or more yards. Cutler's protection was just OK. Tampa recorded three sacks (one forced fumble/recovery). Ugly.
Matt Forte had a strong second half to finish with 89 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries. Forte carried the ball only five times in the opening 30 minutes. Marc Trestman prefers to throw the ball. We get it. But maybe the reason the Bears keep falling behind every week is because Trestman forgets about Forte. Forte is the best player on offense. Take the ball out of Cutler's hands and give it to Forte. The Bears will be better off for it.
Josh McCown passed for 341 yards (25-of-48), but he also had two balls picked off (Chris Conte and Ryan Mundy). McCown was sacked five times and rarely seemed comfortable in the pocket. The Bears experienced a couple of breakdowns -- McCown hit on big pass plays to Louis Murphy (54 yards), Vincent Jackson (40 yards), and Mike Evans (19-yard touchdown) -- but forcing four turnovers made up for the errors.
The Buccaneers don't have an effective run game. That's largely because the Bucs' offensive line is poor, a group the Bears' front-seven exploited throughout the entire afternoon, despite Lance Briggs leaving early with a groin injury. Tampa gained only 66 yards rushing on 22 carries (3.0 yards per carry), and never appeared to challenge the Bears in the trenches.
The Bears have enough talent to rout Tampa. Why was it so close? The offense is horrible, a direct reflection of Trestman. The head coach passed on a chance to run one more play before halftime. He declined. Credit goes to Mel Tucker and the defense for saving the day (four takeaways and five sacks). However, the Bears lack the focus and discipline to beat quality opponents. Sunday's win against the Bucs did nothing to change that assessment.
CHICAGO -- It was a classic Lovie Smith victory: not much offense, a few timely takeaways, good ol' fashioned Bear weather.
Of course, that timeless formula came back to bite Smith, as his old bad team, the Chicago Bears, used his timeless formula to beat his new bad team, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 21-13 at soggy Soldier Field.
Lovie's Legacy 1, Lovie 0.
Yes, the Lovie Bowl was everything it was cracked up to be: Two unwatchable offenses go into Soldier Field, one comes out with the sloppy victory.
Oh, man, you should've been there. What's that? You taped your tickets to a tree and then the tree died? That's too bad. The fans who were consistently booing Jay Cutler seemed to have fun.
In any event, while the Bears continue to fail the eye test -- as in you go blind if you watch a first half of any game -- they did improve to 5-6 after taking two straight from last-place teams.
A win on Thanksgiving in Detroit, and this team is not only officially mediocre, but also on the outer edge of the playoff hunt.
A blowout loss and it's "Fire Trestman! Fire Emery! Bench Cutler!" all over again. But the Bears bought everyone another few days of peace.
One thing about the Bears: They're good enough to beat the bad teams. The good teams, well, that's the problem.
Although the Bears constantly harp about forcing turnovers, several players in the locker room said they expected to gobble up more takeaways as the weather worsened.
As the game progressed Sunday, the rain began to fall harder and the Bears forced three turnovers in the third quarter alone -- four for the game.
Kromer stays late: Offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer stayed in the locker room and met for several minutes with tight end Martellus Bennett before going over to offensive linemen Jordan Mills and Kyle Long. Bennett appeared to be discussing better ways to get open for Jay Cutler.
Jay Cutler threw a 2-yard TD pass to Alshon Jeffery as the Bears (5-6) scored 21 straight points to erase a 10-0 halftime deficit. Forte had a 13-yard run that put Chicago ahead to stay, and then added a 1-yard plunge that made it 21-10.
Smith coached the Bears to three playoff appearances and a trip to the 2007 Super Bowl during his successful nine-year run in Chicago. He was hired by Tampa Bay in January, and his first game back at Soldier Field showed just how far he has to go to get the lowly Bucs (2-9) back on track.
CHICAGO -- A few thoughts on the Chicago Bears' 21-13 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Soldier Field:
What it means: The Bears captured victories in consecutive outings for the first time since Weeks 2 and 3. The win over the Bucs, however, did little to improve the club's standing in the division since it entered the contest three games behind the lead. It's not impossible for the Bears to get back into the thick of the race, but at this point, the team has no margin for error.
Stock Watch: Defensive tackle Stephen Paea contributed two second-half sacks against the Bucs, and proved to be a disruptive force throughout the game. Paea hit Josh McCown just as the quarterback released a deep ball intended for Austin Seferian-Jenkins that was picked off by Chris Conte in the first quarter. Nagging injuries over the first four years of Paea's career have played a role in impeding the defensive tackle's progress. But he's been healthy this season, and playing arguably the best ball of his career. A pending free agent, Paea has put himself in position to receive a nice payday from the Bears or another team if the club lets him hit free agency.
OL woes: It was only a matter of time before all the shuffling along Chicago's offensive line would prove detrimental, and that's exactly what occurred against Tampa Bay with right tackle Jordan Mills missing his second consecutive game due to a rib injury. The offensive line gave up three sacks, including one that caused Jay Cutler to turn over the ball for the 18th time this season. The Bears, who have utilized six combinations of starters along the offensive line, were shut out in the first half for the fourth time this season. Cutler finished with just 130 yards passing.
Game ball: David Bass seemed an afterthought once the Bears signed Lamarr Houston and Jared Allen in free agency. He was inactive for Weeks 1 and 2, and didn't play in Weeks 3 and 5. The club waived Bass on Oct. 7, before bringing him back to the active roster on Nov. 11. Against Tampa Bay, Bass' strip-sack of McCown in the third quarter turned the tide of Sunday's game and allowed the Bears to take the lead after being down 10-0 to start the second half.
What's next: It's a quick turnaround for the Bears, who hit the road Wednesday for a Thanksgiving matchup against the Detroit Lions. The Bears hit the practice field on Tuesday after taking off Monday.
CHICAGO -- Bears linebacker Lance Briggs left Sunday's 21-13 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after suffering a groin injury in the second quarter, and rookie cornerback Kyle Fuller suffered a knee injury that kept him out for the second half.
Athletic trainers took Briggs into the locker room just before intermission, and the club announced he wouldn't be back when the Bears returned to the field for the second half. Minutes later, the team announced Fuller was out for the game.
A seven-year Pro Bowler with a contract set to expire at the end of the season, Briggs, 34, has already missed three games due to a rib injury. It's unknown whether Briggs' latest setback will force him to miss time.
Briggs currently earns $4.75 million in base salary from a three-year extension signed back in 2012, but likely won't be able to command such a salary to return to the Bears in 2015, and has said he expects this season to be his last in Chicago.
Briggs has missed a total of 10 games over the past two seasons. He missed seven outings last year due to a fractured shoulder.
@mikecwright: Good question. It made me have to go through my salary files, which is always a good thing. With the way Matt Forte is performing, I'd say it would be a good idea to try to lock him up for the next three years or so with a new deal that will somehow represent a cap savings in 2015. He certainly hasn't shown any drop-off in play. As it stands, Forte is to make $6.65 million in base salary in 2015, which would count $8.8 million against that year's cap. We have all heard about the decline running backs hit when they turn 30, and next month, Forte turns 29, which is something the organization surely would weigh in any decision it makes. It's cheaper to keep a player when a team locks him up before he actually hits free agency (assuming there is a market for said player). I personally think the Bears would try to get something done with Forte early in the offseason, but the problem I see is the team will probably look into to redoing other contracts such as Alshon Jeffery, whose rookie deal also wraps up in 2015.
@mikecwright: I agree with you, Pierce. I think Josh McCown was a major loss for the offense, because in many ways he was somewhat of a coach on the field during his time with the Bears. McCown also set a positive example with his work habits, which was instrumental in teaching some of the younger players how to be pros. But I also see Jimmy Clausen taking on a similar role now with the Bears. I've been in the locker room when Clausen is on the field after practice, watching him work with some of the younger players, especially rookie quarterback David Fales. I even saw Clausen in the locker room the other day showing rookie cornerback Kyle Fuller how particular offenses are trying to attack him on a down-to-down basis. So, though the loss of McCown was major, I do see Clausen transitioning into that role very quickly.
@mikecwright: That would be a major knee-jerk reaction, and that's not the way the Bears roll. Go through this team's recent history, and see for yourself. There will probably be some firings at the conclusion of the season, but nobody will receive pink slips if the Bears lose Sunday to the Buccaneers.
@mikecwright: Vincent, just walked in from practice, actually, and that's my expectation based on what I saw. Besides that, Chris Williams hasn't practiced all week, and the club declared him out for Sunday's game. That means Marc Mariani gets the call, which should be interesting, considering he made the Pro Bowl as a return specialist in 2010 coming off his rookie season.
@mikecwright: Malcolm, I can't think of any other way to look at it. Phil Emery's first draft consisted of Shea McClellin, Jeffery, Brandon Hardin, Evan Rodriguez, Isaiah Frey and Greg McCoy. Only McClellin and Jeffery remain on the team, and it's safe to say at this point that McClellin has been inconsistent at best as a linebacker. Emery followed up his first draft with a 2013 class featuring defenders Jonathan Bostic, Khaseem Greene and Cornelius Washington. Only Bostic has been a major contributor. Emery has said he wants to build the team through the draft, but to do that, you have to hit on your draft picks. I think Emery did a better job selecting defenders in his latest draft by adding Kyle Fuller, Ego Ferguson, Will Sutton and Brock Vereen. But I'm sure Emery would even say he has to do a better job with the draft. He also has to do better in free agency.