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Bears not laughing vs. Bucs

By Compiled by ERNEST HOOPER

© St. Petersburg Times, published November 19, 2000

Once, a Bucs victory against the Bears was fodder for a comical story line on L.A. Law.

After Chicago had a disappointing season, a character sued the Bears for fraud and asked for a refund of his season tickets. The character lamented to coach Mike Ditka that the team was so bad it even lost to the Bucs.

Now it's the Bucs' domination of the Bears that is unprecedented. Never has Tampa Bay put together a winning streak like the current six-game skein it has against Chicago.

The Bucs routed the Bears 31-17 in 1997, then rallied from a 15-0 deficit against the Bears in the Raymond James Stadium debut in 1998 to win 27-15. In fact, since Chicago took that 15-point lead, it has been outscored by the Bucs 125-26 in 18 quarters.

Of the Bears' 53-man roster, 40 have never been members of a Bears team that has beaten one from Tampa Bay.

"When someone can say you've never beaten them, that's something you don't ever want to hear," safety Tony Parrish said. "As a competitor, that adds something to it, to go out there and play that much harder."

Of particular concern is the offense's struggles against the Bucs. Since coach Dick Jauron and offensive coordinator Gary Crowton came aboard last season, Chicago has not scored an offensive touchdown against Tampa Bay. Jauron is taking steps not to single out the offense.

"The most important thing in any football game ... is to play with heart and to win it," Jauron said. "You've got to find ways to win. We don't particularly care how they are.

"The normal thing in our game is for our offense to score. We would love our offense to score ... but the most important thing is as a team, we have to figure out a way to win."

TURNING POINT: The Bears were preseason favorites to make a post-season run, and even Bucs general manager Rich McKay labeled the team as one of the league's most-improved.

It all went awry for 2-8 Chicago and some observers believe the Bucs' humbling 41-0 win in Week 2 may have been the turning point.

"The first game is over with," cornerback Jerry Azumah said. "But at the same time, you can't forget about it."

Now Chicago is hoping to prove there's no give up in its giddyap. Chicago's playoff possibilities are remote at best, and the team has a habit of faltering down the stretch. Not since 1998 have the Bears done better than .500 in their final six games.

"If the guys in this locker room go to sleep and just worry about going home for Christmas, we're going to lose these six games," said Bears receiver Eddie Kennison, who endured a late-season collapse in New Orleans. "Everybody in the (Saints) locker room, after they found out they weren't going to the playoffs, was thinking, "Why am I going through this?'

"Everybody was kind of separate and hush-hush. Here, I don't see that happening."

PRO BOWL POTENTIAL: Not only is Brian Urlacher bidding to be rookie of the year, but now he's seen as Chicago's best hope to snap the Bears' six-season run without a position player in the Pro Bowl.

Urlacher had 16 tackles, including 10 solos against Buffalo last week. He leads the Bears with 108 and has had seven games with 10 or more tackles in eight starts.

Is there a better middle linebacker in the NFC?

"Offhand, I can't think of one," Jauron said. "He's a really good player. And I'm sure glad we have him."

Another rookie who may merit post-season honors is safety Mike Brown. Brown has 70 tackles (45 solo), an interception and a fumble recovery in 10 starts.

TRADE CADE?: Injured quarterback Cade McNown is not playing today, but his popularity continues wane in the Windy City.

McNown was rebuked recently by Chicago Tribune columnist Skip Bayless for not being more supportive of backup Jim Miller during the Bears' upset of the Colts in Week 9. McNown reportedly did not speak to Miller during the game; Miller offered assistance during all of his starts.

Now comes a Web site, It includes a petition asking the Bears to trade McNown and a list of things the team could do with the money it would save with the trade: return the Honey Bears cheerleaders, hire beer vendors, install more bathrooms and clone Urlacher.

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