TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — In a three-play span in the opening quarter, Chicago's chances of ending a franchise-record losing streak took a big hit.
The Bears lost safeties Jaquan Brisker and Eddie Jackson, and their short-handed secondary was unable to stop Baker Mayfield in a 27-17 loss at Tampa Bay that extended Chicago's skid to 12 consecutive games dating to last season.
The struggles of Justin Fields and a sputtering offense were a factor again. But losing Brisker and Jackson opened the door for Mayfield, who completed 26 of 34 passes for 317 yards and a touchdown.
The Bears (0-2) didn’t record a sack or force a turnover. The Bucs (2-0) converted 8 of 15 third downs and rolled to 437 yards on offense on a warm day in Florida.
“Defensively I though the guys battled,” Bears coach Matt Eberflus said. “We had a couple opportunities early. Brisker had a couple opportunities to get some takeaways. He stripped the one, (but) forward progress was down. He gave them back another one, could have intercepted that."
Bears defensive coordinator Alan Williams missed the game for personal reasons. With Williams gone, Eberflus, a former defensive coordinator with Indianapolis, called the defensive plays.
Brisker departed due to dehydration and later returned.
“I gave him a big hug after the game,” Eberflus said. “I said ‘Man, I really appreciate you coming back out.’ I though he played well when he did come back in, made some good tackles and did some good things. Played with good passion, too.”
Jackson has a knee injury.
Tampa Bay only punted once on its first six possessions. The Bucs got two touchdowns, two field goals and had one field-goal attempt blocked.
“We had a lot more zone coverage beaters in our game plan,” Mayfield said. “I say that. Especially when they were down a couple of guys and knowing we’d get more zone coverage and anticipating that.”
Mayfield set up a first-quarter touchdown with a 70-yard completion to Mike Evans. He also finished an 89-yard drive with a 32-yard scoring pass to Tampa Bay’s all-time leading receiver early in the second half.
The Bears forced a fumble on second down, but Mayfield recovered it. On the next play, Evans grabbed his TD reception on a third-and-14.
“We had fumbled the ball on a second-and-short,” Evans said. “Baker made a good play getting back on the ball and then we called a shot play. So, I just ran an inside-go. Baker threw a good ball and I caught it.”
It looked as if Evans may have pushed off on Bears defensive back Tyrique Stevenson on his 70-yard reception.
“I'm going to go back and look at the tape. ... I'm not really going to comment on that,” Eberflus said. “I saw what I saw on the field, but we'll see what it looks like on the tape.”
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Mark Didtler, The Associated Press