Bears 13, Buccaneers 10
-- Seven straight victories and first place in the NFC North are just a start for the Chicago Bears.
Coach Lovie Smith thinks the NFL's top-ranked defense is capable of leading his rejuvenated team to even greater heights.
"Hopefully it can carry us all the way. If you don't let a team score you have a heck of a chance of winning. I know that is simple, but that is how it is," the second-year coach said after Sunday's 13-10 victory over Tampa Bay.
"We play good defense, we run the football and try not to make too many mistakes. That is our formula for success."
Alex Brown sacked Chris Simms to force a fumble that set up Chicago's only touchdown and the Bears kept the Buccaneers out of the end zone until the fourth quarter.
Still, the Bears (8-3) needed some help to ensure their first seven-game winning streak since 1986. Matt Bryant missed a potential game-tying 29-yard field goal attempt for the Bucs (7-4) with 2 minutes 47 seconds to go.
"We won by two or three inches," Brown said. "If the ball goes left two or three inches, they make the field goal."
Kyle Orton threw for 134 yards and a touchdown and Robbie Gould kicked field goals of 25 and 36 yards for the Bears, who lost three of their first four games before putting together their longest winning streak since the season after Chicago won its only Super Bowl title.
A week after sacking Jake Delhomme eight times, the Bears sacked Simms four times and used the Tampa Bay quarterback's fumble at his 1-yard line to take an early lead on Orton's 1-yard touchdown pass to John Gilmore.
Brown finished with two sacks and his third forced fumble in two weeks. The agile defensive end also batted down three passes in the backfield and broke up a pass downfield intended for tight end Anthony Becht.
Adewale Ogunleye also had two sacks, the last coming on the final play of the game.
"They're a great defense. . . . We knew it was going to be a game like this the whole day," Simms said.
The Bucs, who rallied in the fourth quarter to beat Washington and Atlanta the previous two weeks, got back into the game with a 50-yard scoring drive that Mike Alstott finished with a two-yard touchdown run -- the first touchdown against Chicago in 12 quarters.
Following a Chicago punt, Simms completed passes of 30 and 16 yards to Joey Galloway to lead a march to the Chicago 11.
Bryant had missed only twice in 17 attempts before pushing his shortest field goal try of the season wide right.