The new flagship team from Florida wreaked havoc on Sunday that ignited a minirebellion among the Chicago Bears' offensive unit against its coaches.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' well-schooled defense that a week earlier chased Pat Haden of the Los Angeles Rams out of a game came close to forcing Chicago quarterback Vince Evans out of Sunday's game, and reduced Walter Payton's role as one of the premier running backs into that of a more effective pass catcher. The Bucs beat Chicago, 17-13.
Jim Finks, executive vice president and general manager of the Bears, had his image scuffed in the flurry of postgame quotations. He had fired Abe Gibron as head coach of the Bears and brought in Neill Armstrong from the Minnesota staff.
Gibson, now chief assistant to John McKay of the Bucs and his defensive line coach, was presented with a game ball and mentioned to another former Bear employee, "Boy we really stuck it to Finks today, didn't we?"
Wide receiver Golden Richards, a former Dallas Cowboy, said after the Bears third straight loss for a 2-3 record, "Tampa Bay shouldn't be 5-0. They won some games early and they did beat the Rams, but we're a good football team. We have no business getting beat by them."
Surely, that will become bulletin-board material for the Buccaneers when they play again on Dec. 2 in Tampa.
A member of the Bear organization said after the game that he had never seen Armstrong so angry.Armstrong had said after Evans' first two starts that he would open at quarterback the next game. But he didn't say that Sunday.
He said he thought about yanking Evans during the game and won't announce the quarterback for the Bears' next game until Friday.
"I'm worried about this team," Armstong said. "I'm not happy at all with what we're doing on offense."
Payton said of his 65-yard touchdown scoot with a short screen pass, "It was one of the new plays we put in this week. There were a lot of others we didn't get to, but we have to go with their (the coaches') decisions.
"There was a lot of the game plan we never got to," said a lineman who begged off being identified.
Wide receiver James Scott said, "It happens every week. They (the Buccaneers) were calling our plays.'
"You have to credit Tampa with good defense and coaching," Payton said. "They know our formations."
A Chicago defensive player, irked at being on the field for 77 plays to the offense's 49, requisted anonymity and said, "We go out and make the trade of the century to get Golden Richards and he gets one dinky pass thrown to him."
"One token pass," Richards said of his eight-yard reception.
In the second quarter, Evans delivered a pass smartly to Scott in the near corner of the end zone that might have won the game, but Scott came down with only one foot in the legal playing field, making it incomplete.
"It was on the short side of the field," Scott said. "I didn't have room. We should have run it to the other side. We didn't run any 'out' passes all day though they (the Buccaneers) were playing 900 yards off us."
Payton was held to 46 yards rushing. He caught five passes for 88 yards, including his 65-yard touchdown.
Linebacker Dewey Selmon of the Bucs said, "When they refused to keep trying to run the ball they were telling us in effect that they didn't think they could run the ball against us. That meant a lot to us. When you keep a team from doing what it does best, you've taken a lot away from them. We were glad to see it."
McKay said in a news conference in Tampa yesterday that a few times the Buccaneers took out two linebackers and used six defensive backs to get speed in the defense to try to make Payton to run laterally so he could not turn upfield.
"You cannot allow Walter Payton to turn his shoulders and head upfield; you must keep him running sideways," McKay said. "As soon as he turned his shoulders Sunday (on his touchdown pass reception-run), I yelled, 'Block that kick!'" meaning the upcoming conversion by Bob Thomas which put the Bears ahead, 13-10, in the fourth quarter.
McKay was hoping that with a missed conversion the Bucs would face a 12-10 deficit rather than 13-10. But Doug Williams went on to pass Tampa Bay to the 17-13 victory.