Put in hole by offense, Bears’ defense takes a step back vs. Bucs

SHARE Put in hole by offense, Bears’ defense takes a step back vs. Bucs
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Running back Jacquizz Rodgers celebrates a touchdown Sunday. (Getty Images)

TAMPA, Fla. — The Buccaneers started their second drive at their 38-yard line, the next at the Bears’ 13 and the fourth at the Bears’ 35.

The Bears’ defense didn’t have a prayer.

Yet defensive end Akiem Hicks wasn’t hearing any excuses, be it field position or time spent on the field in muggy weather that reached 89 degrees at kickoff.

“You can’t point fingers,” Hicks said. “The first finger you point better be at yourself.

“Just because the ball was in their hands doesn’t mean they have to score. So I think collectively we can do a little bit better.”

The Bears’ offense never gave the defense a chance. No one will lay Sunday’s 29-7 loss at the feet of the defense, which forced three field goals and could only watch as Robert McClain returned an interception thrown by Mike Glennon 47 yards for a touchdown. Another touchdown drive took only one play because Tarik Cohen’s muffed punt gave the Bucs the ball at the Bears’ 13.

Still, Bears defenders pointed to sloppy play, particularly three holding penalties on third down that would’ve gotten them off the field. Linebacker Danny Trevathan held on the Bucs’ first drive, which ended in a 42-yard Nick Folk field goal. He and outside linebacker Willie Young each held on third down on the Bucs’ second touchdown drive.

“That was crazy, but it’s football,” outside linebacker Pernell McPhee said. “Lack of discipline with eyes. We’ve just got to keep our eyes in the right place and try to avoid those penalties.”

Hicks repeated coach John Fox’s mantra — that the third-down flag was as bad as a turnover.

“You have a chance to get a guy off the field,” Hicks said, “and you get a tough call.”

Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston’s numbers weren’t gaudy — he went 18-for-30 for 204 yards, with one touchdown pass and no sacks — but he didn’t have to be.

“It’s a great team over there,” Young said. “Winston is doing a great job over there, getting those guys in check and keeping them on course. I definitely see that being a playoff team this year.”

Asked about rushing the former No. 1 pick, Hicks was blunt.

“I didn’t touch him,” he said. “So it wasn’t very good for me.”

The Bears allowed 311 net yards, less than the 372 the Falcons had in Week 1. Wide receiver Mike Evans had nine catches for 93 yards, including the 13-yard touchdown.

“I think we took advantage of our opportunities . . . though by no means was that our best game,” Winston said.

Winston completed only eight second-half passes as the Buccaneers bled the clock with a comfortable lead, and backup Ryan Fitzpatrick finished the game.

For a team that wants to build around its front seven, this performance was a step back — regardless of how bad the offense looked.

“[Expletive], it starts in the film room, on the practice field and start taking care of your body,” McPhee said. “That’s got to be the main focus — getting in the film room, going out practicing real hard and just taking good care of yourself and get yourself ready the best you can.”

Young phrased it more succinctly.

“Very simple,” he said. “Get. Back. To. Work.”

Follow me on Twitter @patrickfinley.

Email: pfinley@suntimes.com

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