The Buccaneers will be appearing on primetime for the first of five times this season on Thursday as they take on the Bears in Chicago. It’s the first time Tampa Bay will travel to the Windy City since taking on their former division rivals in 2018. Both teams are sitting at 3-1 and in contention for their division. The crisp, fall evening at Soldier Field will be a formidable matchup as the Tampa Bay offense takes on Chicago’s improved 2020 defense. Watch Free
The Buccaneers are coming off a come-from-behind victory at home over the Los Angeles Chargers in which quarterback Tom Brady rallied the team from a 17-point deficit to win 38-31. The Tampa Bay defense held the Chargers to just 46 yards on the ground, their second-straight game of holding an opponent to under 50 yards rushing. They’ll aim to do it a third time against the Bears and likely quarterback Nick Foles as Chicago made the switch in their last contest.
The game will be available nationally on FOX, NFL Network and on Amazon. See below for how to watch and listen to the Thursday night game.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-1) vs. Chicago Bears (3-1)
All-time record: Chicago leads the all-time series 39-20
Road record: 6-22
Key Matchups (via Scott Smith):
- Bears WR Anthony Miller vs. Buccaneers CB Sean Murphy-Bunting
As noted above, Allen Robinson is the focus of the Bears’ passing attack, and thus it’s possible the Buccaneers’ defense will make a point of trying to neutralize him first. If they are able to do that, Foles will have to turn to other targets, including third-year man Anthony Miller, a second-round pick in 2018. Miller operates almost exclusively out of the slot, taking 90% of his snaps (125 of 139) inside. That means he’ll be the primary responsibility of Murphy-Bunting, who overcame a groin injury to suit up and play every snap against Los Angeles. Murphy-Bunting starts on the outside in the Bucs’ base defense but moves into the slot in the nickel, which generally consists of about 60% of the team’s defensive snaps. Murphy-Bunting is still looking for his first interception of 2020 but he led the team in that category with three of them as a rookie in 2019. Miller is shifty and quick and had 1,079 yards and nine touchdowns over his first two seasons. This year, Miller has been limited to nine grabs in four games but he’s averaged 14.8 yards per reception.
- Buccaneers TE Rob Gronkowski vs. Bears OLB Khalil Mack
Mack comes into Week Five with “only” 1.5 sacks but there’s no doubt he’s one of the NFL’s most fearsome edge rushers and a serious concern for the Bucs’ blockers on Thursday night. Mack has it all as a pass-rusher, including a good first step, a deep array of moves and the ability to power through blockers. In addition, he is capable of dropping into coverage and affecting the offense in multiple ways. This is a player who once was named a first-team Associated Press All-Pro at both defensive end and outside linebacker. The Buccaneers will need a concerted effort to keep Mack in check, and that will include strong games from tackles Donovan Smith and Tristan Wirfs. But Gronkowski, who has taken 91% of his snaps this year tight against one of those tackles, more often on the right side, will have to deal with Mack on multiple occasions, too. On one hand, Gronkowski, an excellent blocker, will be looking to keep Mack away from Tom Brady. On the other hand, Mack may occasionally have to keep Gronkowski in check when he releases from the line.
- Bears RG Germain Ifedi vs. Buccaneers DL Will Gholston
Chicago signed Ifedi, the former Seahawks first-rounder, in free agency and moved him back to guard after he had played the last few seasons in Seattle at tackle. Ifedi and the Bears’ offensive line have had some success early in 2020, as the team ranks 14th in sacks allowed per pass play (5.10%) and 12th in yards per carry (4.38). It will be a tough challenge for the Bears’ interior line, however, against the Bucs’ down linemen, who collectively were the key to the NFL’s best run defense in 2019. That same group, lead by Gholston, Ndamukong Suh and Vita Vea, have the Bucs ranked second in the same category this year and are allowing just 2.7 yards per carry. Gholston will be difficult for Ifedi to move when they lock up on running plays, but that’s not the only issue for the Bears’ blocker. According to NFL Next Gen stats, as reported by ESPN, Gholston had the third-best win rate on pass rushes among all NFL defensive tackles leading into the NFL’s fourth week of action.
- Buccaneers RB Ronald Jones vs. Bears S Tashaun Gipson
Jones had his best game of the season in Week Four, rushing for 111 yards on 20 carries and impressing both his coaches and his teammates with how hard he ran on several tackle-breaking jaunts. Head Coach Bruce Arians credited Jones’s success on the ground with creating the environment that allowed Tom Brady to open up the passing attack with downfield shots in the second half of Sunday’s win over the Chargers. Arians specifically noted that he didn’t think the Chargers’ safeties were able to corral Jones all afternoon when the blocking sprung the back past the initial line of tacklers. The Bears have a pair of strong tacklers at safety in Gipson and Eddie Jackson, and they may be the key to keeping Jones from cracking 100 yards again. That might be particularly important if the Bucs’ passing attack is hamstrung by its multiple injuries. Gipson has been strong in run support with 13 of his 24 tackles so far coming on run plays.
The game will kick off at 8:20 p.m. ET. (7:20 p.m. CT). The broadcast can be found on FOX, locally. It will also be available on NFL Network, Amazon Prime Video and a live stream that can be accessed through the Buccaneers Official App and Yahoo Sports. See below for details.
Uniform Combination: White jersey, white pants, black socks
Watch on TV:
Thursday, October 8, 2020
Kickoff: 8:20 p.m. ET
Location: Soldier Field
Television Network: FOX/NFL Network/Amazon