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Bears Matchup Flashback: Foles and Fourth Downs

Just over a year ago, Nick Foles and the Bears defeated Tom Brady and the Buccaneers in an empty Soldier Field. Take a trip down memory lane to relive the victory before this weekend's matchup.
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Khalil Mack Tom Brady Bears Buccaneers

Photo: John J. Kim/Chicago Tribune

On Sunday, the Chicago Bears will take on the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers down in Florida. The Bucs are riding high with a 5-1 record while the Bears enter the contest at 3-3. Chicago looks to keep pace with the Green Bay Packers for first place in the NFC North. On the flip side, Tampa Bay tries to maintain and/or expand its lead in the NFC South.

[RELATED: Bears vs. Buccaneers: A Comprehensive Guide]


The Bears and Buccaneers have a complicated history. From 1977 to 2001, these two teams were divisional foes in the NFC Central division. That all changed in 2002 when the NFL realigned from six divisions to eight with the addition of the 32nd team, the Houston Texans. As a result, the NFC Central became the NFC North and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers shifted to the newly formed NFC South.

Overall, Chicago and Tampa Bay have played one another 60 times. 12 of those meetings occurred after the realignment. The Bears lead the series 40-20-0 over the Buccaneers. Additionally, Chicago has gone 7-3 against Tampa Bay over the last 10 games.

Previous Matchup

The last time these two teams lined up against each other was in Week 5 of the 2020 season -- a Thursday Night game on October 8. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic caused an empty Soldier Field as the Bucs made the trek north. It made for an eerie feeling on the lakefront as artificial noise flooded the stadium and broadcast.

Nevertheless, Tom Brady came to Chicago for the first time as the quarterback of the Buccaneers. Tampa Bay and Chicago were both 3-1, but the former side was not exactly clicking on all cylinders.

First Quarter

The Buccaneers got the ball first to kick the festivities off. Tampa Bay took an early 3-0 lead after the offense marched 54 yards on 11 plays. Ultimately, they settled for a 39-yard field goal on a drive that spanned five minutes and 12 seconds. Next, the Bears responded the only way they knew how. Nick Foles and the offense went 20 yards on five plays and punted the ball after the veteran QB missed a wide-open Allen Robinson in the flat for a first down. Fortunately, the Bears' defense buckled down and stopped the Bucs offense dead in their tracks to force a three-and-out. However, Foles tossed an interception on the fourth play of the ensuing drive. The pick resulted from a bobbled ball that a Tampa Bay defender took out of Robinson's hands.

As a result, the Bucs stormed 50 yards downfield on five plays to extend their lead to 10-0 when Tom Brady connected with Mike Evans. In response to Tampa Bay, the Bears punted the ball back to Brady and the Bucs after five plays and 14 yards of offense.

Second Quarter

On their first possession of the second quarter, the Bucs went on a 13-play, 73-yard drive to extend their lead thanks to Ryan Succop's 35-yard field goal. Tampa Bay's offensive possession was aided by two brutal Bears' penalties -- a Kyle Fuller face mask on third down and a defensive pass inference call on Jaylon Johnson a few plays later. Down 13-0 and needing a spark, the Bears' offense finally showed signs of life. They went on a 10-play, 75-yard scoring drive that David Montgomery capped off with a three-yard run. As a result, Chicago cut the Tampa Bay lead down to 13-7.

Now, this is where the momentum and the feel of the game swung in the Bears' favor. On the third play of the ensuing drive, Kyle Fuller laid a massive hit on Ke'Shawn Vaughn that forced the ball out. After review, the referees ruled it a fumble recovered by Chicago.

Via Tenor

Via Tenor

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Next, the Bears took their first lead of the game after a four-play, 27-yard drive that ended with Jimmy Graham's 12-yard touchdown reception. After Chicago's scoring drive, Tampa Bay ran a few plays but ultimately took a knee to end the first half. At halftime, the Bears sported a 14-13 lead.

Third Quarter

The Bears got the second half started by punting the ball to the Bucs after going three-and-out. Then, Tampa Bay regained their lead after Succop drilled a 46-yard field goal. However, on the drive, Khalil Mack sacked Brady AND hip tossed a 340-pound Tristan Wirfs.



After the Bucs went ahead 16-14, the teams traded punts on the next two drives. On their third possession of the half, the Bears drove 59 yards down the field on 12 plays. Cairo Santos connected on a 47-yard field goal to put Chicago back in front, 17-16.

Fourth Quarter

Continuing the back-and-forth affair, the Buccaneers responded with a 10-play, 66-yard drive and took the lead right back. This time, Succop was accurate from 25 yards out. However, it should be noted that Mack once again sacked Brady, this time following up with a death stare to let him know.

Khalil Mack Tom Brady Stare Bears Buccaneers

Photo: FOX

Regardless, Tampa Bay led Chicago 19-17 at this point. Once again, the Bears and Bucs traded punts after the score. With Chicago back on offense, Foles and co. drove 32 yards on nine plays in just 1:08 to set up a Santos 38-yard field goal, giving the Bears a 20-19 lead.

This is where things got comical -- but in a good way -- for Bears fans. The Buccaneers regained possession with just 1:13 left in the game, which typically would be too much time for a Tom Brady-led offense. And it nearly was this time around. However, four plays and 16 yards later DeAndre Houston-Carson broke up a pass intended for Cameron Brate. The Buccaneers turned over the ball on downs, but Tom Brady thought otherwise. The 43-year-old quarterback had lost track of downs and threw up four fingers thinking it was fourth down. The GOAT looked perplexed when all of his offensive teammates jogged off the field.

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Via Tenor

As a result, Foles hit the field with the rest of the offense and took one knee. Time expired and the Bears escaped with a 20-19 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Nick Foles defeated Tom Brady for the second time, of course the first instance being Super Bowl LII. Similarly, Foles didn't get a postgame handshake once again.

Nick Foles Tom Brady Handshake Bears Buccaneers

Photos: FOX


Following this game, the Bears were 4-1 and the Buccaneers fell to 3-2. However, the Week 5 matchup proved to the turning point in the Buccaneers' season. They went 8-3 to finish the regular season at 11-5. That set them up to run table in the playoffs, which culminated with a Super Bowl victory over the Kansas City Chiefs at Raymond James Stadium.

On the flip side, Chicago won the following week in Charlotte against the Carolina Panthers then lost six straight. However, they would recover to finish the season 8-8 and squeak into the playoffs. The Bears saw their season come to an end in the Wild Card game when they lost to the New Orleans Saints.