TAMPA, Fla. – The Bears will visit Raymond James Stadium on Sunday afternoon to square off against Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
This will be a tall task for rookie quarterback Justin Fields and the Bears. The defending Super Bowl champion Bucs enter at 5-1 and among the best in the NFC. The Bears (3-3) are coming off another defeat at the hands of the Green Bay Packers last week.
Shaw Local Bears reporter Sean Hammond will be in Tampa, Florida, for the game on Sunday. Follow him on Twitter at @sean_hammond and on Instagram at @bears_reporter. Shaw Local analyst Hub Arkush will also be providing insight on Twitter at @Hub_Arkush.
Catch up on all the news of the week below, and stay here for live updates all game long.
Bucs score quick touchdown, take 7-0 lead
The Bears won the coin toss and elected to receive the opening kickoff. Their first possession went nowhere. Fields was strip sacked on the second play. Thankfully for the Bears, running back Khalil Herbert jumped on the fumble.
After a Bears punt, Tom Brady and the Bucs took advantage of a good punt return from Jaelon Darden and a defensive pass interference call on the first play from scrimmage. Leonard Fournette punched in a 2-yard touchdown to give Tampa Bay a 7-0 lead.
For the Bears, Lachavious Simmons earned the start at right tackle in place of Elijah Wilkinson.
— NFL (@NFL) October 24, 2021
Bears add 2 more players to the COVID-19 list; announce inactives
The Bears placed two more players on the reserve/COVID-19 list Sunday morning. Linebacker Caleb Johnson and offensive tackle Elijah Wilkinson will both be unavailable Sunday. The Bears have now placed five players on the COVID-19 list since Oct. 14.
With Germain Ifedi out due to an injury, Wilkinson has been the starting right tackle. Offensive tackle Lachavious Simmons could be in line for the start. Simmons is listed as the backup right tackle on the team’s depth chart. The Bears pulled up offensive lineman Arlington Hambright from the practice squad Sunday.
Inactive for the Bears on Sunday is quarterback Nick Foles, receiver Breshad Perriman, safety Tashaun Gipson and defensive tackle Akiem Hicks.
#Bears inactives today vs. the Bucs:
• QB Nick Foles
• WR Breshad Perriman
• S Tashaun Gipson
• DT Akiem Hicks
— Sean Hammond (@sean_hammond) October 24, 2021
Jimmy Graham goes on the COVID-19 list, Damien Williams returns
The Bears placed tight end Jimmy Graham on the reserve/COVID-19 list Friday, while activating running back Damien Williams off the COVID-19 list Saturday.
Graham was the third player to go on the COVID-19 list in eight days, following Williams and outside linebacker Robert Quinn. The team was also without wide receivers coach Mike Furrey for several days due to COVID-19 protocols.
Williams being activated means he is expected to play Sunday. Graham and Quinn will be unavailable.
Hicks is out due to groin injury
The Bears announced Saturday that defensive tackle Akiem Hicks will be out due to a groin injury. Hicks did not travel with the team to Florida.
In a corresponding move, the Bears flexed defensive tackle Margus Hunt and offensive lineman Dieter Eiselen from the practice squad to the active roster.
The team had previously ruled out safety Tashaun Gipson (hip) on Friday.
In other injury news, the Bears have a number of starters who were listed as questionable heading into the game. Return specialist Jakeem Grant (ankle), inside linebacker Caleb Johnson (knee), outside linebacker Khalil Mack (foot), receiver Allen Robinson (ankle), tight end J.P. Holtz (quad), defensive tackle Bilal Nichols (knee) and defensive back Duke Shelley (ankle) are all questionable.
What to watch for in Sunday’s game
It will be strength vs. strength in this game. The Bears have run the ball well in all of their wins, while the Bucs sport the best run defense in the NFL. The Bears lead the NFL in total sacks, while the Bucs protect Brady better than any team protects its quarterback.
As he does every week, Arkush provided his key matchups, X-factor, player to watch and more ahead of the game. Read his breakdown here.
Hammond wrote his top five things to watch in Sunday’s game. Find that here.
Was anybody on the Shaw Local staff brave enough to pick the Bears over the Bucs this week? Check out our staff picks here.
Trevis Gipson’s moment?
With Quinn unavailable, the Bears are going to need somebody else at outside linebacker to step up and support superstar pass rusher Khalil Mack. Quinn has been a solid Robin to Mack’s Batman this season (Mack has six sacks, Quinn has 5.5), but a stint on the COVID-19 list means he’s unavailable.
In his place could step second-year pro Trevis Gipson. Gipson has never started an NFL game, but he has played in five games this season, recording two sacks.
Gipson comes from an athletic family with former NFL and college basketball talent in his bloodline. He said the thing that motivates him is still the fact that he had only one scholarship offer coming out of high school. Tulsa chose him as much as he chose it, but he turned himself into a 2020 draft pick and now, potentially, an NFL starter.
What else did I miss this week?
Catch up on all the latest news coming from Halas Hall in Lake Forest this week. Be sure to follow coverage at shawlocal.com all week long. Follow @bears_insider for the latest news.
Source: The Daily Chronicle