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Rookie gives Bucs rundown feeling

Defense has no answer for Anthony Thomas, or anything else presented by the Bears.

By RICK STROUD, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published December 17, 2001

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CHICAGO -- He may have borrowed the nickname, but Anthony Thomas owned the Bucs on Sunday.

The Bears rookie, known as "A-Train," produced the eighth best rushing performance against the Bucs, gaining 173 yards and a touchdown on 31 carries in Chicago's 27-3 win at Soldier Field.

Heretofore, the "A-Train" was located in Tampa Bay under the alias of fullback Mike Alstott.

But Thomas put the game away for the Bears, gaining 146 yards in the second half.

"They got the 'A-Train' going," safety John Lynch said. "The first half, we had a couple fits that we missed and they took advantage of it. The second half, they just ran it right down our throat. That's the ultimate; there's no worse feeling than to have that happen. Monte (Kiffin) talks all the time that the easiest thing in the world is to turn around and hand the ball off, and that's what they were able to do in the second half."

Most of Thomas' rushing yards came on running plays to the left at defensive end Simeon Rice. Though Rice dominated tackle Blake Brockermeyer with two sacks in pass rush situations, the Bears felt they could overpower him and the Bucs defense with the running game.

"The 'A-Train' ran real well," Bears offensive lineman Olin Kreutz said. "Everything just clicked today. Everyone played well. It's not just the offensive line. The tight ends blocked, the receivers blocked and Anthony made guys miss. So that's what made us look so good."

The Bears finished with 207 yards rushing. Tampa Bay's defense had allowed 266 in three previous games.

"We missed some tackles, and any time that happens, you're going to have the big runs," linebacker Derrick Brooks said.

The Bucs weren't much better against the pass. They yielded touchdown passes of 2 yards to Marty Booker and 18 yards to Fred Baxter from quarterback Jim Miller.

Tampa Bay also was burned on a 62-yard pass to rookie David Terrell, setting up a score.

"They hit two touchdowns, both of them, basically we've got guys double-covered and they get touchdowns," coach Tony Dungy said.

"This time of year you've got to be able to stop the run, you've got to run it, you've got to create some turnovers yourself and take care of the ball, and we really didn't do any of those today."

Trailing 13-3 at halftime, Lynch thought Tampa Bay still was in the game until Thomas got going.

"We were moving the ball offensively, we had some turnovers but we felt like we were right in it if we eliminate the big plays and don't turn the ball over," Lynch said. "But the second half was unacceptable. That was bad football.

"There's no silver lining on this game. This game was ugly. They proved to us when we played them both times they were the better team. The first game they beat us with the pass. Today they ran it right down our throat and hit some big plays in the passing game."

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