What History tells us about Bears vs. Buccaneers
|Thursday, October 21, 2021, 12:00 PM- -|
With the NFL adding a 17th regular-season game into the mix this season, there will be 18 weeks instead of the normal 17. That means that after six weeks, the Bears are not only sitting at 3-3, but have finished the first third of their season at .500. Should that continue all season, you are looking at a team in the 8-8 to 9-8 range, which may be good enough to make a wild card, but that is about it.
As Chicago begins to prepare for the next third of their season schedule, not only are they in the middle of their most brutal stretch of the season, but they will be up against the defending Superbowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers on the road. This was a game where the Bears surprisingly upset the Bucs at home last season, and for the most part, have dominated this series since these teams began facing each other.
With Tampa Bay entering the league in 1976, you would think that these teams play very sparingly, considering they are in separate divisions. If you remember, these teams were part of the NFC Central for the longest time before the NFL realigned the divisions in 2002, sending the Buccaneers to the NFC South. This will be the 61st meeting between the two teams, with the Bears dominating the overall series thus far 40-20.
After winning the first-ever meeting between the teams by a score of 10-0 in 1977, the two teams split the first four games, with each team alternating wins. Once 1979 came around, not only did the Bears grab the upper hand in the series, but they started to dominate the overall series in the process. The Bears not only won four straight games from 1979 into 1981, but lost just a total of two games between the two teams spanning the next 10 years.
Those losses came in 1981 and 1983, but the Bears followed that with 12 consecutive wins, which took things into the 1989 season.
In 1989, the Buccaneers swept the season series, winning a pair of contests four weeks apart before the Bears started to roll yet again. Following another six-game winning streak against Tampa, the Bears went on to win 13 of the next 16 contests as this was a one-sided rivalry heavily in the Bears favor. The Bears had a run of success against Tampa that not many franchises can say, but their luck started to run out in 1997.
Ironically, in 1997, the Buccanneers started to change things around for the franchise as the once laughing stock of the division began to put together playoff-caliber seasons. Spanning a stretch of three seasons, the Buccaneers not only knocked off the Bears six straight times, but swept them in three consecutive seasons before the Bears answered with three straight wins of their own. As the new millennium began and the teams were placed in different divisions, it was the Bears who suffered the heartbreak early, with Tampa Bay winning both contests in 2002 and 2004 before the Bears answered with two wins of their own after.
2008 saw the Bears fall to Tampa Bay 27-24 in OT, but it has been the last decade where things have been trending in the right direction once again. Not only have the Bears won 5 of the last seven games between the two, but they won three straight from 2011-2015 before both of Tampa Bay's wins came in 2016 and 2017. The last loss the Bears suffered against Tampa was in 2017 when Mike Glennon was still the starting QB, only to lose 29-7.
In the two meetings since it has been all Bears which included a 48-10 beatdown of Tampa in 2018. Last season saw Chicago welcome the Buccaneers to Soldier Field, where they were massive underdogs against Tom Brady and Company. Instead, Chicago put together what could be their best performance of the season, squeaking out a 20-19 victory, which seemed to be the wake-up call the Buccaneers needed on their way to the Superbowl.
This will be the Bears first trip to Tampa since 2017, where they lost 29-7 last time out. This is also the first meeting since they won the Superbowl last season, and Chicago needs to use this game as a measuring stick for the rest of the season. Despite Chicago dominating this series from start to finish, this isn't the early days anymore.
Tampa Bay is a much better franchise now than in the past, so they will not be dominated like they were in the past. I would go as far as to argue that if these teams were in the same division, it would be the Buccaneers who would be dominating this rivalry as they have a much superior team than Chicago has right now.