Monday, September 22, 2008
Bears react to Bucs' 'dirty stuff' that led to costly overtime penalty
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Charles Tillman jumped on the pile, took a swing and got flagged for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty at the worst possible time for the Chicago Bears.
His teammates believe the referees saw only half the picture.
Still stinging after blowing a 10-point lead in a 27-24 overtime loss to Tampa Bay on Sunday, the Bears believe they were victimized as much by dirty play as their own mistakes.
"We saw a lot of the dirty stuff that they were doing, and we retaliated, got caught," Bears receiver Marty Booker said Monday. "It's always the second man."
Not too long ago, the Bears were all smiles after taking the season opener at Indianapolis. Then, they blew a 14-point lead before losing at Carolina and now this.
The Bears (1-2) and Buccaneers already had several skirmishes when this scene unfolded in overtime.
Tampa Bay had third-and-9 at the Chicago 8 when Jerramy Stevens caught a 2-yard pass from Brian Griese, but instead of having to punt, the Buccaneers caught a major break.
Jeremy Trueblood took some shots at Bears defensive end Adewale Ogunleye during a pileup, and Tillman ran over and jumped on. Then, he was caught taking a swing at Michael Clayton, resulting in a 15-yard penalty that kept the drive going.
"There are plenty of opportunities on the field to injure somebody," Bears defensive end Israel Idonije said. "You never think about that because that guy is a player in the NFL. There's a code. You play tough, you play hard, but you don't intentionally go out to injure somebody."
And he thought Trueblood was trying to do just that.
"They called us for something that was not nearly on the same level as what was going on," Idonije said.
Even so, coach Lovie Smith wouldn't absolve Tillman.
"I think everyone knows that's unacceptable," he said. "Me just saying, 'Hey guys, don't do it anymore,' it's not that easy. Charles knew when it happened. It's something that in the heat of passion, sometimes you do things that you regret later. That's one play out of a lot of opportunities we had."
Wide receiver Antonio Bryant wound up beating Nathan Vasher along the left side on a 38-yard pass from Griese a few plays later that put the ball on the 6, and after a 3-yard run by Earnest Graham, Matt Bryant booted the winning 21-yard field goal.
Tillman said he didn't think he threw a punch.
"I just tried to swing him off me," he said after the game.
Should Tampa Bay have been penalized?
"Well, you know the saying is they always see the second man who hits, they always see the second push, not the first," said Tillman, who also had a run-in with Donald Penn after the game's first play from scrimmage. "Obviously, they saw that second push. Like I said, costly mistake. Shouldn't have happened. Shouldn't have put myself in that situation."
A sixth-year pro who has played at a Pro Bowl level doing that was surprising, but the game should have ended long before that.
"That whole Peanut [Tillman] part, it shouldn't have even gotten that far," defensive tackle Tommie Harris said. "We should have finished the game."
The Bears had their chances.
A first down after Tampa Bay's Matt Bryant kicked a 35-yard field goal with 3:11 left in regulation would have done the job. Instead, the Bears went three-and-out, and the Bucs took over with 1:49 left. Griese led them on a 79-yard drive that ended with a 1-yard TD pass to Stevens tying it at 24 and sending the game into overtime.
Along the way, the Bears were unable to stop Tampa Bay on third-and-10 at its 32. Instead, Griese connected with Stevens for 18 yards, hit Clayton for 13, Ike Hilliard for 17 and Antonio Bryant for 19 to put the ball on the 1.
Was the defense worn out?
Smith said it might have been.
In overtime, Rashied Davis dropped a pass near the Tampa Bay 35 on third down from the Chicago 47, stopping a possible scoring drive and forcing the Bears to punt.
"I took my eyes off the ball," Davis said. "It should have been an easy catch. I just dropped an easy pass. It shouldn't have happened, but it did."