TAMPA, FLA., OCT. 25 -- The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and 70,747 of their partisans discovered today what a healthy Jim McMahon means to the Chicago Bears -- and to the NFC Central Division race.
Making his first appearance since separating his right throwing shoulder 11 months ago, McMahon ran for one touchdown and hit Neal Anderson for the winning score with 88 seconds remaining today in rallying the Bears to a 27-26 triumph in sun-drenched Tampa Stadium.
The Buccaneers (3-3) were hoping to tie the Bears (5-1) for the division lead, and appeared in a position to do so after taking a 20-0 lead after the first quarter behind two touchdown passes by Steve DeBerg.
But McMahon came off the bench to start the third quarter in relief of Mike Tomczak and completed 17 of 24 passes for 195 yards. He scored on a one-yard sneak with 5:31 remaining, then hit Anderson from six yards out several minutes later.
"The ideal situation would have been for me to come into the game with a lead and break things in slowly," said McMahon, who came in with Chicago trailing, 23-14. "Unfortunately, that wasn't the case. They changed up their philosophy a little bit on defense the last couple of series, rushing three guys. That's when we started moving the ball."
"It would have been easy to throw in the towel, but we didn't," said Chicago Coach Mike Ditka. "Jim McMahon did it on his own with a lot of help from his offensive line. He's a tough son of a gun. We're going to try and keep him healthy. Jim is our starting quarterback and will be our starting quarterback until something changes. Mike is a class kid, but Jim's our starter. We didn't deserve to win, but we found a way."
McMahon, who hurt his shoulder Nov. 23 when he was slammed to the turf by Green Bay's Charles Martin on a celebrated late hit, started the final drive at his own 29 with 2:44 left. He found Willie Gault for gains of 19 and 16 yards and hit rookie Ron Morris for 19 yards. On second and five from the 6, Anderson took a swing pass in the right flat and vaulted into the end zone for the final yard as the Bears beat the Buccaneers for the 10th consecutive time.
Play was sloppy in the first half as the teams combined for 17 penalties. The Bears, who committed four turnovers and forced none, ran into punter Frank Garcia three times before intermission.
DeBerg, who was sacked seven times, completed 23 of 38 passes for 249 yards. He threw TD passes of seven yards to Calvin Magee and 28 yards to running back Jeff Smith off a flea flicker. Rookie linebacker Winston Moss recovered a Tomczak fumble in the Chicago end zone for another Tampa Bay score and Donald Igwebuike, who had an extra-point attempt blocked, added field goals of 46 and 37 yards.
Anderson ran 38 yards for a Chicago score and Dennis McKinnon returned a punt 65 yards for another second-quarter touchdown as the Bears closed within 23-14 at the half. Chicago 0 14 0 13 27 Tampa Bay 20 3 3 0 26
TB -- MacGee 7 pass from DeBerg (Igwebuike kick), 5:47
TB -- Smith 28 pass from DeBerg (Igwebuike kick), 10:13
TB -- Moss recovered Tomczak fumble in end zone (kick blocked), 11:50 Second Quarter
C -- Anderson 38 run (Butler kick), 2:13
C -- McKinnon 65 punt return (Butler kick), 5:50
TB -- FG Igwebuike 46, 13:04 Third Quarter
TB -- FG Igwebuike 37, 8:59 Fourth Quarter
C -- McMahon 1 run (kick failed), 9:29
C -- Anderson 6 pass from McMahon (Butler kick), 13:32
A -- 70,747 Bears Buccaneers First downs 19 20 Rushes-yards 14-91 26-101 Passing yards 209 184 Return yards 89 32 Passing 23-34-1 23-38-0 Sacked-yards lost 4-31 7-65 Punts-average 2-41 5-33 Fumbles-lost 4-3 4-0 Penalties-yards 10-58 11-75 Time of possession 24:
RUSHING -- Chicago: Anderson 6-52, Payton 6-30, McMahon 2-9. Tampa Bay: Wilder 19-75, Smith 6-26, DeBerg 1-
PASSING -- Chicago: McMahon 17-24-1, 195 yards, Tomczak 6-10-0, 45. Tampa Bay: DeBerg 23-38-0, 249.
RECEIVING -- Chicago: Anderson 7-45, Gault 4-67, Morris 3-55, McKinnon 3-25, Boso 2-35, Morehead 2-13, Payt
MISSED FIELD GOALS -- Chicago: Butler, 47.