By ROGER MILLS, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published December 29, 2002
With major renovations occurring at Soldier Field, the Bears have played all their home games at Memorial Stadium in Champaign, Ill., on the campus of the University of Illinois.
Considering that Champaign is a little less than two hours south of Chicago, the Bears have had to travel to every game this year. The bigger question going into the season was whether the Bears fans would make the trek south. It appears they did.
"The fans there have been outstanding," Jauron said. "They've been loud. Because of the nature of the stadium, we felt it would be louder than Soldier Field and we weren't disappointed. It has been a good venue for us in that regard. We just haven't given our fans many wins. It's hard to travel every single weekend."
WHEN LAST THEY MET
It was one of those games the Bucs won't easily be able to forget. Bears running back Anthony Thomas rushed for 173 yards on 31 carries, the eight best rushing effort ever against the Bucs, and scored on a 5-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter to polish off the Bucs 27-3 at Soldier Field, Dec.16 last year.
The Bucs turned over the ball four times, gave up 207 yards on the ground. Tied 3-3, the Bears scored 24 consecutive points, including 10 at the end of the second quarter and seven at the start of the third quarter. Bears quarterback Jim Miller was 14-of-29 for 190 yards and two touchdowns.
The one bright light in what was a demoralizing day for the Bucs last season was the play of defensive end Simeon Rice. Rice, a Chicago native playing in Soldier Field for the first time as a Buc, had two sacks and four tackles.
SOME INSIDE STUFF
With a win tonight in Champaign, Ill. the Bucs will finish the year 12-4 and set a franchise record for most victories in a season. The 1999 team (11-5) holds the current record.
With early season victories at Baltimore (25-0), at Cincinnati (35-7) and Atlanta (20-6),the Bucs set a new franchise record for consecutive road wins. With a win tonight, Tampa Bay could set a new franchise record for victories on the road. The Bucs are 5-2 on the road, equaling the mark set last season.
Every time they play, it seems Bears receiver Marty Booker torments the Bucs with a huge play or a couple of touchdowns. As it turns out, Tampa Bay isn't his only victim. The Pro Bowl receiver, in his fourth year out of Northeast Louisiana, has 93 catches for 1,164 yards this season. Booker has been the Bears leading receiver in 12 of 15 games this season.
HMMM!, NOW THAT'S INTERESTING
Despite the arrival of free agents Keenan McCardell, Joe Jurevicius, Michael Pittman, Ken Dilger and Rickey Dudley, all of whom have played critical roles in the Bucs passing game, receiver Keyshawn Johnson still has gotten his catches. Entering today's season finale, Johnson has 71 catches for 1,047 yards. It is the second consecutive year Johnson has had 1,000 yards receiving and the fourth time of his career.
1.5: sacks Rice (15.5) needs to set a new franchise record for sacks in a single season.
4: teams in the NFL (Bucs, Panthers, Dolphins and Eagles) who rank in the top 10 in all three defensive categories.
5: career touchdowns for running back Mike Alstott against the Bears.
14: times backup Rob Johnson has been sacked in five games.
21: times starter Brad Johnson has been sacked in 13 games.
THE LAST WORD
"We beat Carolina with Rob and in the Green Bay game, he came in for a couple of series and did a good job. We're very familiar with who ever is taking the snaps. But, he is only one guy. There's 10 other guys on the field and we all have to do the best to help us succeed." -- Bucs left tackle Roman Oben on having to step up the intensity with a new quarterback.
Back to the Bucs
BucsPlayoff swagger is critical
Brad Johnson team's MVP
California attitude with a twist
High profile -- Brian Urlacher
Chucky's Chalk Talk
Gary Shelton: Nice job, Jon
LightningRamsay: odyssey on ice
Hubert Mizell: With Rays, Piniella will need patience above all
Walsh scores 29 as Gators rout B-CC
Bulls' balanced attack baffles LIU
Saint Louis 71, Southern Illinois 60
Boston's 3-point barrage buries FSU
Florida prevails over UMass in double OT
UConn win streak holds up versus USF
UCLA skid at three as Michigan hits 11 3-pointers
Manhattan guard gets second MVP in victory
SEC foe again tops Sooners
Buckeyes running back in a big hurry
Gators guard Snell won't forgo his senior season
Gator bucks tradition, awaits Michigan
Miami has fun, but it's not all fun
O.J. pays a visit to his old team
Athletic director puts Seminoles on notice to behave
Confidence catching on
Virginia runs over West Virginia
Dolphins fight against past
NFL Game Day: Week 17
Raiders clinch AFC's top seed
Overtime win lifts Giants into playoffs
Poll: Georgians prefer to keep status quo at Augusta National
Yankees cut payroll? Ha!
2002: The Year in Review
Double winners, bizarre finishes and deadlocks
Straka strikes, Canadiens denied in 3-2 Penguin win
Orlando breaks the Celtics' hold
Title game to be all-Pinellas affair
Cowboys edge Chiefs
Lakewood can't stay with best 6A team
Bears outlast Eagles to win River Ridge title
Ridgewood earns another chance at Ram title
Durant gets last shot to defend county's honor
Good start turns bad for Barons
Lakewood can't stay with state's best
Rays in limbo: How low can management go?
Sheepshead plentiful and they are tricky