April 20, 2024


Analysis

Bears vs. Buccaneers preview: 5 things to watch during the Week 5 matchup

Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers visit Soldier Field on Thursday night for a primetime matchup against the Bears. Here are five things to watch for during the Bears-Bucs game.

The first quarter

Only Russell Wilson and the electrifying Seattle Seahawks have scored more points in the first quarter (40) than Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (38).

The Bucs have scored at least one touchdown in the first quarter of each game. Tampa Bay is winning the first quarter 38-14. Not until Week 4 against the Los Angeles Chargers did the Bucs allow any points in the first quarter, and the defense has only allowed one touchdown (Brady threw a pick-six for the other score).

The Bears, meanwhile, have been sluggish early in games. They have scored 16 points in the first quarter, and 10 of those came in Week 2 against the New York Giants.

Allen Robinson

Robinson has had back-to-back 100-yard receiving games. After a relatively slow (by his standard) first two games, he has been the most dynamic Bear on the field the past two weeks.

“You’ve just got to throw it in his general area and he’ll make plays,” Bears quarterback Nick Foles said. “It reminds me a lot of when I played with Alshon Jeffery [in Philadelphia], where you just throw him the ball and let him do his thing.”

The Bears are going to need Robinson to continue that trend this week. While the Buccaneers sport the No. 2 run defense in the NFL, they haven’t fared as well against the pass. Tampa ranks 19th in passing yards allowed per game and passing yards allowed per play.

Robinson will have opportunities. The Bears need to take advantage of them.

Under center or in the gun?

That Buccaneers defense is allowing only 64.3 rushing yards per game. The Bears’ performance running the ball against the Colts on Sunday – 28 yards total – was underwhelming, to say the least.

Make no mistake, Matt Nagy is committed to this run game.

“We just got to stay with it,” Nagy said. “We can’t get caught off guard and all of a sudden try to be one-dimensional, and that’s my job.”

The Bears are playing from the shotgun more since Foles took over at QB. Foles lined up under center just 27% of plays against the Colts, according to SharpFootballStats.com. In Weeks 1 and 2, QB Mitch Trubisky was under center 57% of the time.

Running back David Montgomery has had more success running the ball when the QB is under center. Don’t be surprised if Foles lines up under center more frequently to facilitate the run.

Bears defensive front vs. Bucs running backs

Tampa Bay running back Ronald Jones had a really good game last week against the Chargers, rushing for 111 yards on 20 carries. Running mate Leonard Fournette, who is dealing with an ankle injury, is reportedly a game-time decision.

Tampa Bay isn’t a great running team. They rank 27th in the league in rushing yards per game. But the last thing the Bears need is for the Bucs to develop a competent running game to complement Tom Brady.

Last week, the Bears did a decent job of slowing down the Colts rushing attack. The Colts averaged only 2.7 yards per carry. The Bears need that to continue Thursday.

Byron Leftwich vs. Chuck Pagano

The coaching tree is fun in this one. Bucs head coach Bruce Arians filled in for Pagano in 2012 when Pagano took a leave from his head coaching position in Indianapolis to battle leukemia. With Arians as the interim coach, the Colts made the playoffs just as Pagano returned. It was the feel-good story of the 2012 season.

Now Arians, known for his offensive wizardry and his blunt personality, has handed the reins of his offense to coordinator Byron Leftwich. The former first-round draft pick is making a name for himself in the coaching ranks and is being pegged by many as a future head coach.

How Pagano and his defense scheme against Leftwich and his offense will be the coaching matchup to watch. Tampa Bay will take deep shots. The Bears will dial up the blitz. The question is when and how do they counter each other?

Sean Hammond

Sean Hammond

Sean is the Chicago Bears beat reporter for the Shaw Local News Network. He has covered the Bears since 2020. Prior to writing about the Bears, he covered high school sports for the Northwest Herald and contributed to Friday Night Drive. Sean joined Shaw Media in 2016.