TAMPA—So much for the notion that a Hurricane Irma-imposed layoff might hinder the Tampa Bay Buccaneers against the Bears.Jameis Winston and Co. played like a team with heightened expectations in winning their season opener 29-7 on Sunday. They also looked confident, fully capable of ending a long playoff drought.
”Complementary football at its finest,” the third-year quarterback said. ”Defense played phenomenal. Offense had great drives, eliminated the three-and-outs, and eliminated turnovers.”
Winston threw for 204 yards and one touchdown, the Bucs’ defense stymied former teammate Mike Glennon with four turnovers, and the sloppy Bears (0-2) didn’t get into the zone until Deonte Thompson scored on a 14-yard reception with 1:43 remaining.
”Basically, not a good day at the office,” Bears coach John Fox said. ”I think any time you go out and have four giveaways in the first half, it’s not good news.”
The Bucs (1-0) dominated despite having a short week of practice following the massive storm that forced postponement of the team’s scheduled season opener at Miami.The team joined the Dolphins and Jacksonville Jaguars in wearing ”ONE FLORIDA” decals on their helmets Sunday. First responders who’ve worked tirelessly in the aftermath of Irma were among special guests in the announced crowd of 56,640 at Raymond James Stadium.
”We had a chip on our shoulder. … We wanted to be a pick-me-up for our fans, definitely the cities around the Tampa Bay area,” Winston said. ”It was fun out there. The crowd was electric, and we tried our best.”
Winston completed 18 of 30 passes without an interception. He threw a 13-yard TD pass to Mike Evans, who had seven catches for 93 yards.Glennon, who signed as a free agent last winter, was 31 of 45 for 301 yards and two interceptions in his return to the city where he played for the first four years of his career . The Bears finished with 310 yards total offense, 1 yard less than a Bucs offense that hasn’t had much work in the past month.By the time he lined up to face the Bears, Winston hadn’t taken a snap in a game in three weeks. Eight regulars, including Evans, receiver DeSean Jackson, linebacker Kwon Alexander and defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, hadn’t seen game action in a month.The Bucs insisted, though, that they would not use rustiness as an excuse if they had a less-than-sharp debut. The way the Bears played, the layoff never had a chance to become an issue.After opening the season with a solid performance in a 23-17 loss to defending NFC champion Atlanta , the Bears turned over the ball four times in the opening half, helping Winston build a 26-0 halftime lead.If the Bears had an advantage entering the game, it figured to be Glennon’s knowledge of the Tampa Bay defense. The fifth-year pro faced it in practice every day the past four seasons, the last two as Winston’s backup.And while the Bears did have some success moving the ball, the barrage of turnovers was too much to overcome.Glennon’s first-half miscues led to two touchdowns. Rookie Tarik Cohen’s ill-advised decision to scoop a punt off the ground and run with it deep in Bears territory set up Tampa Bay’s first TD, Winston’s 13-yard pass to Evans.Noah Spence sacked Glennon, forcing a second-quarter fumble that led to Jacquizz Rodgers’ 1-yard TD run. Robert McClain’s interception and 46-yard return up the sideline on the Bears next possession hiked the lead to 23-0.