Bears stop 3-game skid with win over reeling Buccaneers
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) The Chicago Bears feel they're better than the losing record that will keep them out of the playoffs for the fifth straight year.
''Those guys feel it. We're getting there,'' coach John Fox said Sunday after a 26-21 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers stopped a three-game losing streak and gave the Bears (6-9) one more victory than they had last season under Marc Trestman.
''We need to improve. They know it,'' Fox added. ''But they're still trying to finish this year well. We've got one more game to try to avoid a double-digit losing season.''
Second-year running back Ka'Deem Carey ran for one touchdown and caught a pass for another for the Bears, who rushed for 174 yards to dominate time of possession and keep Tampa Bay's Jameis Winston off the field for long stretches. Rookies Harold Jones-Quartey and John Timu had big games on defense.
''That's what we need,'' linebacker Pernell McPhee said of the contribution from young players.
''It was awesome,'' McPhee added. ''We have a lot of young guys that have talent, and it showed today.''
Carey caught a 1-yard TD pass from Jay Cutler on the first play of the fourth quarter, and the third-string running back also scored on a 1-yard run while teaming with Matt Forte and Jeremy Langford to spearhead a rushing attack that kept Tampa Bay's defense on its heels.
The victory was only the second in the past six games for Chicago, which closes the season at home next week against Detroit. Tampa Bay (6-9) has lost four of five, including three straight after rebounding from a slow start to climb into contention for a wild-card playoff berth.
The Bucs, who travel to Carolina next Sunday, are assured of finishing with a losing record for the fifth straight season.
''We had a lot of reasons to play well. We practiced well. I thought we were prepared,'' said Bucs coach Lovie Smith, who feels his team is better than it has performed during its late-season skid.
''We're disappointed. What it says about our team is if you turn the ball over and you make a couple critical mistakes on the other end, you have an outcome like that,'' Smith added. ''This is a better football team. Today we didn't play our best ball.''
Winston completed 15 of 29 passes for 295 yards with one costly interception - Jones-Quartey's goal-line pick that prevented the Bucs from building on a one-point, third-quarter lead. The No. 1 overall pick in this year's draft threw for two TDs, including a 43-yard Hail Mary toss to Austin Seferian-Jenkins with 1 second remaining.
Meanwhile, Tampa Bay's Doug Martin was limited to 49 yards rushing and fumbled twice, the second setting up Chicago's go-ahead touchdown.
''Right now it feels like a bad dream,'' Martin said. ''That's out of character for me to fumble the ball twice in one game. I'm embarrassed. ... I let the team down.''
Some things to know about Bears-Bucs:
STEADY AND EFFICIENT: Jay Cutler improved to 4-0 in his career vs. Tampa Bay. He was 20-of-27 passing for 156 yards, one TD and no interceptions. He said the running game, with Langford gaining 83 yards, Forte 54 and Carey 16, was the key. ''We didn't do a lot of play action because we didn't have a lot of opportunities with the coverage they were playing,'' the quarterback said. ''We knew it was going to be a run the ball, hopefully get 5 yards a carry, maybe bust a few and maybe dink and dunk and make some plays on third down. That's what the guys did.''
STRUGGLING: Tampa Bay's defense did not force any turnovers. The Bucs have one takeaway in their past five games. The Bears, meanwhile, forced three turnovers, including a pair of fumbles by Doug Martin. Jones-Quartey forced one of the fumbles, and Tumi recovered both of the mistakes by the Tampa Bay running back.
PERFECT: Bears kicker Robbie Gould hasn't been as reliable as usual this season, but he was 4 for 4 on field goals Sunday, converting attempts of 26, 27, 49 and 50 yards. The two long kicks helped Chicago build on its fourth-quarter lead.
DISAPPOINTED: Tampa Bay's Lovie Smith is the third-winningest coach in Bears history, but fell to 0-2 against his former team. He led Chicago to three division titles and appearances in two NFC championship games and one Super Bowl in nine seasons from 2004-2012.
LAST-PLACE WOES: Tampa Bay is in danger of becoming the first NFC team since the 1970 merger to finish last in its division five consecutive seasons. That will happen if New Orleans beats Atlanta and the Bucs lose to Carolina next week.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL