The Tampa Bay Buccaneers kicked of their 16 straight game crusade with a lopsided victory over the Chicago Bears. Second overall pick Mitchell Trubisky remains the understudy.
Turnovers Spoil Glennon Homecoming, No Timetable on Trubisky
Tampa Bay Quarterback Jameis Winston highlighted the opening possession by feeding the football to his favorite target, Mike Evans. However, it didn’t start that way. Winston nearly began the game with a quick three and out. He tried to find Bucs first round tight end, O.J. Howard, but the pass fell incomplete. Running back Jaquizz Rodgers, the feature back in Doug Martin’s absence, carried the ball for a six yard gain that set up a third and four. Winston looked for tight end Cameron Brate deep in center field for an incomplete. Chicago was flagged for defensive holding and the Buccaneers were afforded a new set of downs.
After a short gain by Rodgers, Winston found his Pro Bowl pass catcher for an 18 yard strike. Two plays later, he found his new Pro Bowl seasoned vet DeSean Jackson for a 10 yard gain and a new set of downs. Tampa was rolling. Winston went deep for Jackson but was unable to connect. Another Evans eight yard snag kept the chains moving. Just outside the red zone, the Buccaneer offense was primed to score a touchdown. A short gain on first down was followed by Winston eating a sack as his ankles were wrapped up by Chicago’s Willie Young. On third and long, rookie receiver Chris Godwin couldn’t haul in the pass and Tampa sent out kicker Nick Folk to put three points on the scoreboard.
Glennon’s Pass Picked Off
Former Buccaneer quarterback Mike Glennon looked sharp on the Bears opening offensive possession. He was spreading the ball around, finding different receivers to convert second and third downs. Glennon was sharp and the offense was fluid. Kendall Wright, Tarik Cohen, Zach Miller and Josh Bellamy each had a catch resulting in a fresh set of down.
Glennon had Chicago in Tampa Bay territory. He tried to connect with tight end Dion Sims inside the 20 yard line. Buccaneer linebacker Kwon Alexander made a tremendous play on the ball, resulting in an interception returned just outside of mid field.
The Buccaneers could not capitalize (or so it appeared) on the Bears turnover. On a third and one, Tampa Bay running back Charles Sims couldn’t convert and the Bucs were forced to punt. Without Martin in the backfield, Tampa’s running game is not as potent as it could be. Rodgers finished with a decent game on the ground, but Martin’s offensive production cannot be matched by both Sims and Rodgers.
Cohen’s Costly Turnover
On the ensuing punt, Chicago’s Cohen made a boneheaded decision that resulted in another Bears turnover. Cohen, who was surrounded by Buccaneer jerseys, elected to hop around before suddenly picking up the football in an attempt to gain some return yards. The ball was ripped out of his grasp and Tampa had possession of the ball in the red zone with 15 seconds left in the first. This turnover was momentous. Winston would not be denied another chance to produce points off a turnover. He went to Evans near the pylon for a toe-tapping touchdown that gave the Bucs a 10-0 lead as the first quarter came to a close.
For Chicago, it was all downhill from that point on.
Glennon was doing his best to recapture some of the momentum he was building on the first offensive series. Slowly but surely, the Bears were moving the ball. Glennon connected with Cohen to keep the chains moving. Facing a third and eight, Glennon was swarmed and tried to get the football out. He was devoured by Buccaneers’ Noah Spence and coughed up the ball, resulting in another Bears turnover.
Winston looked to take advantage once again. He also looked to develop chemistry with Jackson. He couldn’t connect with Jackson on first. Winston tried to go to Jackson again on third down. Chicago was flagged again for defensive holding, giving the Buccaneers another set of downs. Tampa would lean on Rodgers as they dialed up four straight runs that made it first and goal from the nine yard line. Winston looked for Evans on second and goal, but no luck. The Bears would bail out the Buccaneers on a third down Winston scramble with another defensive holding penalty. Rodgers would carry it in for the score and the game beginning to get out of control.
More of the Same
A pattern was developing. After a pair of runs, Glennon converted third down to keep the offense on the field. Two more back to back runs with little positive yardage put it on Glennon to convert. Near midfield, Glennon tried to find Bellamy for the conversion. Instead, Tampa Bay’s Robert McClain jumped the route and raced down the sideline to complete the pick six.
With a little over four minutes remaining in the second quarter, the Buccaneers had a commanding 23-0 lead. A raucous Raymond James Stadium was on their feet. This was not the homecoming Glennon had envision. One week removed from nearly upsetting the NFC champion Atlanta Falcons, Glennon found himself on the wrong end of a demoralizing beat-down. There he stood, in Tampa, with a rookie first round quarterback hovering over his shoulder on the verge of taking his job.
Waiting in the wings is Bears second overall pick, Mitchell Trubisky. Surely he would see some action in the second half with Chicago being blown out 26-0, right? Wrong. Fox would stick with Glennon in the second half, giving him a chance at redemption.
Tampa kicked off the second half with Winston and Evans playing catch. Together, the duo was responsible for 26 of the 63 yards of the drive. The drive didn’t end how Tampa planned. Sims coughed up a screen pass in the red zone. Chicago’s Leonard Floyd pushed the ball back upfield. What stood out on this play was Winston. Instead of standing idly by, Winston met Floyd head up and began valiantly trying to punch the football loose! Have to love that kind of effort by a quarterback. He could have easily took the route of Ezekiel Elliott following the Broncos interception as seen below.
Could the Bears capitalize on the turnover? Nope. Chicago went three and out after beginning the series with an offensive holding call. The Bears just couldn’t get out of their funk. Even when something went right, the wrong would follow shortly after. Following the Bears punt, Tampa would march down the field to tack on another field goal. The scoreless Bears could just look on and wonder what changed in one week.
With Tampa up 29-0, there was still no signs of Trubisky. Glennon had the offense moving. An unnecessary roughness penalty brought Chicago to the Tampa Bay 14 yard line. What did Glennon do? Absolutely nothing. In four down territory, Glennon had four incompletions. He targeted Wright twice, and neither Cohen or Miller could make a catch. A quick three and out gave Chicago another chance. Glennon helped drive the ball right back to the Bucs 14 yard line. Again, he couldn’t get the job done. Glennon’s first two passes were incomplete. He found Cohen for a gain of seven, making it fourth and three from the Tampa seven. Another Glennon incompletion ended the drive and gave the Bucs possession.
With the game out of reach, Glennon remained behind center. Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick took over for the Bucs, as Trubisky remained a sideline spectator. On Chicago’s final offensive possession, Glennon threw a passing touchdown. It didn’t matter. This game was over by half time. The Bears clearly had their hearts ripped out by multiple first half turnovers.
Glennon’s confidence in front of his former home crowd was shattered. Despite his abominable performance, Fox insists there will not be a quarterback change. In fact, he spread the blame for the loss around even though it’s plain as day the bulk of the fault rests squarely on Glennon’s shoulders. Yes, the receiving weapons he has to work with aren’t even close to the caliber of a Mike Evans or DeSean Jackson. Yes, the Chicago Bears running game was obsolete. 16 carries for 20 yards combined? There is no question to whether an ineffective run game contributed to Glennon throwing the football 45 times.
In fact, the combination of both – plus a standout performance by the Bucs defense – would equate to exactly what the final score reflects.
Trubisky Remains on Standby
It’s no secret, Glennon is in a lose-lose situation. Even if he play near perfect football and executes the offense, what matters in the end is if he was able to produce a win. It doesn’t matter what the stat sheet says, it means nothing if the Bears are losing. That being said, Glennon remains Fox’s guy.
For Chicago fans that witnessed the San Francisco draft robbery that resulted in the Bears trading up one spot to draft Trubisky, it’s time to let the former Tar Heel get his feet wet. Sure, Trubisky doesn’t have a ton of college starts under his belt, but – and this is a big one – what he was able to do in the preseason showed that he is ready for the NFL stage. So Chicago could wind up hurting Glennon’s feelings by giving up on him so early in the season, but who cares? As the saying goes, this is a business. Chicago needs to be in the business of winning, not in the business of being cordial.
The Bears’ season is a sinking ship with Glennon at the helm. Chicago will benefit more from Trubisky playing through his growing pains, even if he loses most games. At the least he will gain valuable, meaningful NFL experience. If Chicago finishes with a top 5 pick (which they very well could end up doing), they’ll have the chance to either draft the best offensive linemen in the draft, or maybe find Trubisky a reliable receiving threat that won’t be as injury prone as Kevin White. The Bears need to invest in solidifying the offensive line and providing Trubisky with some offensive firepower.
Building Around the Franchise QB
Chicago could take the path of the Tennessee Titans or the team they just lost to, the Bucs. Both GM have made moves centered around their franchise signal caller. The Bears must do the same. Chicago is probably a few solid offseasons away from being where they want to be. Free agency and hits in the draft with be crucial for the trajectory of this team.
However, the hard part is over. Trubisky will be good and could be the franchise quarterback they drafted him to be. The Bears brass just can’t mess it up.
Odds are, Fox knows once he hands over the reins to Trubisky, there is no turning back. Similar to Deshaun Watson in Houston, once the decision is made there will be no “Glennon’s Bears”, as phrased by Fox.
It will be the Mitchell Trubisky show.
Stats referenced at ESPN.com and NFL.com