The Bears’ best quarter in two months kept disaster at the locker-room door Sunday. Three touchdowns and three forced turnovers in the third quarter alone propelled the Bears from a 10-point halftime deficit to a 21-13 home win against the Buccaneers, former coach Lovie Smith and all the associated symbolism.
The Bears can say, with a straight face, the following: Thursday in Detroit, they’ll have a chance to win their third game in 11 days.
Beat the Lions, and the Bears — 3-6 only nine days ago — will be only one game behind them.
“We put ourselves in this hole; we’re trying to slowly dig out of it,” defensive end Jared Allen said. “We’ve got to focus on winning. This was a huge game. Detroit lost (Sunday). We got some momentum, and we’ve got to carry that through.”
And, yes, he said, ugly wins against 2-9 teams still count as momentum. To have any postseason illusions — or delusions — the 5-6 Bears likely have to win their next five games.
“We know the situation,” tackle Jermon Bushrod said. “We have quite the mountain to climb. And we’re just looking forward to this opportunity.”
It won’t last long if the Bears offense plays the way it did in the first half, totaling 68 yards and continuing its six-game streak of scoreless first quarters.
Gerald McCoy’s blind-side sack forded a Jay Cutler fumble, which led to Mike Evans’ second-quarter, 19-yard touchdown catch against rookie Kyle Fuller. Fuller (knee) and linebacker Lance Briggs (groin) were lost for the game in the second quarter.
Down 10-0, the Bears were booed at they ran to the locker room.
Marc Trestman told his team it played the worst half of football he’d seen. Guard Kyle Long wrote “Execute” and “No Excuses” on the marker-board.
“A lot of guys were like, ‘This ain’t us,’” tight end Martellus Bennett said.
Cutler said offensive players were challenged.
“We knew, if we continued down this road, we’re going to lose this game,” he said.
On his first third-quarter possession, Cutler — who was 17-of-27 for 130 yards — threw a touchdown to Alshon Jeffery on third-and-goal to make it 10-7.
After trading punts, David Bass sacked former Bears cult hero Josh McCown, whose fumble was recovered by Christian Jones. Matt Forte scored on the first play, a 13-yard run.
McCown — who went 25-for-48 for 341 yards, two interceptions and five sacks — threw an interception on the next play to Ryan Mundy. Forte, who had 23 carries for 89 yards, ran the ball four-straight times, scoring on a third-and-goal play from the 1, to go up, 21-10.
Sunday, the Bears scored their first points off a turnover since Oct. 5.
“It’s kind of like the alley-oop,” Long said. “Whenever the defense throws it up for us and says ‘All right, we got the ball back, here you go,’ and we don’t finish, it’s tough. … “Obviously we need to do a better job of finishing.”
Do that, and the Bears might stay relevant a few more weeks.
“We got one-game seasons,” Bennett said.