CHICAGO (AP)—For one brief moment, Brian Griese acknowledged a little extra satisfaction.
He refused to take shots at his former team during the week, but landed a big one at the last moment on a day when he was off target.
“I can’t lie to you guys,” he said. “The game meant a lot to me, personally, coming back.”
After blowing a 14-point lead in a 20-17 loss at Carolina last week, the Bears couldn’t protect a 24-14 advantage in the fourth quarter.
The Buccaneers got a 35-yard field goal from Matt Bryant with 3:11 left, and Griese orchestrated a 79-yard touchdown drive in the final 1:49, hitting Jerramy Stevens with a 1-yard pass in the closing seconds of regulation. Several key mistakes cost Chicago (1-2) in overtime.
After Tampa Bay (2-1) punted, Rashied Davis dropped a third-down pass near the Buccaneers 35. Tampa Bay then took over at its own 7 and had third-and-9 at the 8 when Griese hit Stevens with a 2-yard pass.
There was a pileup and Charles Tillman jumped in late, leading to an unnecessary roughness penalty that gave the Buccaneers a first down at the 24. Tampa Bay was at the Chicago 44 when Antonio Bryant beat Nathan Vasher for a 38-yard pass that set up the winning field goal.
“It was a costly mistake on my part,” said Tillman, who had a shoving match with Tampa Bay’s Donald Penn after the game’s first play from scrimmage.
Griese said he “kept preaching” that his teammates maintain their focus after that skirmish and “it ended up paying off for us,” he said.
Traded by the Bears in the offseason, Griese threw a franchise-record 67 passes, completing 38 for 407 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions in his second straight start. The man he replaced last week, Jeff Garcia, was listed as the third quarterback.
The Buccaneers were leading 14-9 when Vasher picked off Griese midway through the third quarter, and the Bears immediately grabbed the lead.
Kyle Orton, who struggled in the first half, orchestrated an 86-yard touchdown drive that ended with a 6-yard pass to Matt Forte. Brandon Lloyd caught the conversion pass to give the Bears a 17-14 lead and added a 19-yard TD that made it a 10-point game midway through the fourth quarter.
Orton was 22-for-34 for 268 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Not bad, considering he passed for just 76 yards in the first half, got sacked three times and had one pass intercepted in the end zone by Barrett Ruud and another returned 45 yards by Gaines Adams for a TD.
“I think we kept them off balance a little bit (in the second half),” Orton said. “Basically I think we executed and that’s what it always comes down to, is execution. And I thought we were put in good position all day. We really got it going there for a stretch, we were executing and moving the chains.”
Lloyd had six catches for 124 yards, and Forte caught seven for 66. The rookie also ran for 89 yards on 27 attempts.
The Bears were able to get good field position because of their defense even though Pro Bowl kick returner Devin Hester was sidelined by a rib injury, but they missed several touchdown chances early on.
Chicago took away the run game, holding Warrick Dunn to 31 yards on five carries and Earnest Graham to 16 on 12 attempts. Antonio Bryant caught 10 passes for 138 yards, none bigger than the last one. And Ike Hilliard added six catches and 57 yards with Joey Galloway nursing a sprained foot.
“It was just a great ball and a great catch,” Vasher said, referring to Antonio Bryant’s 38-yarder. “It was a long game and they made some plays when they needed to.”
That Griese led a late rally was ironic. And just to be clear: He called some plays while others came from the sideline as the Buccaneers made their run.
Why bring that up?
Because Griese found himself in an awkward situation after his finest moment as a Bear last season.
He led Chicago on a 97-yard touchdown drive with no timeouts in the final two minutes of a 19-16 win at Philadelphia and mentioned afterward that he had to call all but the final play because the audio in his helmet wasn’t working. The next day, he was at the podium to clear up a “miscommunication” and say some of the plays were, in fact, called from the sideline.
“This is huge,” coach Jon Gruden said. “We lost a difficult game at the end of regulation in New Orleans, and we didn’t want to lose another in a similar fashion.” ^Notes: Brad Johnson threw 61 passes for the Buccaneers against Carolina on Sept. 14, 2003. … The 67 passes by Griese were the most by a Bears opponent. … With Hester out, Danieal Manning returned four kickoffs for 108 yards— including a 46-yarder. And Nathan Vasher had three punt returns for 25 yards. … TE Greg Olsen caught two passes for 16 yards after fumbling twice last week.
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