by Carlos Nazario
Matte Forte has been playing like a man on a mission so far this season. He was not about to let a trip out of the country slow that mission.
Forte had another stellar game, garnering 145 rushing yards and a touchdown, and adding 38 reception yards, leading the Chicago Bears to a 24-18 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the fifth annual International Game at Wembley Stadium in England.
Jay Cutler completed 17 of 32 passes for 226 yards and a touchdown, and the defense intercepted Josh Freeman four times, as the Bears won multiple games in a row for the first time this season.
The offensive line had another good game (not great), allowing just 2 sacks and once again opening holes and blocking downfield for Forte and Marion Barber. Barber had 39 yards and a touchdown himself.
Two receivers that have been relatively quiet this season came through on Sunday. Roy Williams caught 4 passes for 59 yards and a touchdown, while Johnny Knox caught 3 passes for 53 yards. If those two, along with Earl Bennett (expected back after next week’s bye) can contribute significantly, then this is a completely different offense.
After a great game by the defense last week against the Vikings, the Bears defense showed that it is working its way back to elite status. In addition to the four interceptions, it allowed only 280 yards of total offense, and held the Bucs’ running game to just 30 yards.
The Bucs were without LeGarrette Blount, who did not make the trip due to a knee injury. They also lost Earnest Graham, who blew out his Achilles tendon.
Things were not all rosy for the Bears, however. They owned a comfortable 21-5 lead in the 4th quarter, but then the mistakes started to pile on. An interception thrown by Cutler, missed tackles by the defense, and questionable play calls almost cost the Bears dearly. They will have plenty to look at during film sessions this week. For right now, though, a win is a win.
“It was a big win,” defensive end Julius Peppers said. “That’s what we came over here to do, to get to 4-3, and we accomplished that.”
Peppers was instrumental in forcing a turnover on the last drive to seal the victory. He did not have many tackles (2) but he put pressure on Freeman all game long. That pressure on Freeman forced him to rush his throw into the hands of DJ Moore for the interception.
“Just being where I’m supposed to be,” said Moore.
After the game, head coach Lovie Smith was happy with the defensive effort overall, but also noted the Bucs’ comeback.
“Whenever you take the ball away four times you got a good chance of winning the game,” he said. But he added, “We didn’t get enough pressure there in the second half, which allowed them to get back in the game…we let it slip away from us a little bit.”
With the win, the Bears now own the last playoff spot. Big wins against the Falcons and the Bucs will go a long way to helping the playoff run. With Detroit’s loss on Sunday, the Bears are now just a game behind them, with another game coming up between them.
The Bears are also at 4-3 going into their bye week, the same record they had at this point last season. The coaching staff made the proper adjustments during the bye and finished up 11-5. Hopefully, they can repeat that this season, and with the addition of key injured players, the Bears can make another deep playoff run.