CHICAGO (AP) — Matt Forte and the Bears used a big rally to hand their former coach a loss in his return to Chicago.
Forte rushed for two touchdowns in the third quarter, and the Bears beat Lovie Smith and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 21-13 on Sunday.
Jay Cutler threw a 2-yard TD pass to Alshon Jeffery as the Bears (5-6) scored 21 straight points to erase a 10-0 halftime deficit. Forte had a 13-yard run that put Chicago ahead to stay, and then added a 1-yard plunge that made it 21-10.
Smith coached the Bears to three playoff appearances and a trip to the 2007 Super Bowl during his successful nine-year run in Chicago. He was hired by Tampa Bay in January, and his first game back at Soldier Field showed just how far he has to go to get the lowly Bucs (2-9) back on track.
Tampa Bay had three turnovers in the third. Josh McCown, who played for the Bears for the previous three seasons, lost a fumble and threw an interception. Vincent Jackson also lost a fumble at the end of a 24-yard reception that would have resulted in a first-and-goal.
Each of Forte’s touchdowns came after a Buccaneers turnover. McCown also threw an interception in the first quarter that ended another promising drive.
Forte had 23 carries for 89 yards as Chicago won consecutive games for the first time since September. Cutler was 17 for 27 for 130 yards.
McCown was 25 for 48 for 341 yards for Tampa Bay, which has dropped six of seven. Rookie Mike Evans had a touchdown reception for the fourth consecutive game, and Jackson had five catches for 117 yards.
The Buccaneers, who were coming off a 27-7 win at Washington, managed just 156 yards and six first downs in the second half after getting off to a fast start on a warm, rainy day in Chicago.
Smith was let go by the Bears after they failed to make the playoffs for the second straight season in 2012 despite a 10-6 record. He was 81-63 in his first stint as a head coach in the NFL.
Most of Smith’s tenure in Chicago featured a stout defense and an ineffective offense, and general manager Phil Emery replaced him with a coach with an offensive background when he hired Marc Trestman last January. It has been a rocky start so far for Trestman, and Smith’s return seemed to increase the pressure on the former CFL coach with Montreal.
It got even worse for Trestman when Tampa Bay controlled most of the first half, with the lowly Buccaneers playing like some of Smith’s winning teams in Chicago.
Gerald McCoy knocked the ball loose when he had a big hit on Cutler in the first quarter and Clinton McDonald recovered for the Buccaneers. McCown then capped a six-play, 46-yard drive with a 19-yard touchdown pass to Evans for a 7-0 lead.
Tampa Bay scored again right before halftime, making it 10-0 on rookie Patrick Murray’s 32-yard field goal. Louis Murphy helped set up Murray’s 12th field goal with a 54-yard reception when he spun out of a tackle attempt by Tim Jennings, and Jackson had a 27-yard grab on a third-and-23 on the drive.
The crowd of 54,706 booed as the Bears ran off the field after they had just three first downs and 68 yards of offense in the first half. Forte had 16 yards rushing at the break.