CHICAGO -- Lovie Smith stamped Chicago's defense with a takeaway mindset during his nine-year tenure, and standing on the opposite sideline Sunday as coach of Tampa Bay, he watched the Buccaneers fall victim to his Bears brainchild.
In all, Chicago gobbled up four takeaways.
"They were big," Bears coach Marc Trestman said. "We're not going to apologize for the short fields. We haven't had very many, but we're not going to apologize for creating the turnovers we did."
A light rain fell at kickoff, but as the game progressed, the precipitation increased along with Chicago's prospects for forcing turnovers. Several Bears defenders said the sloppy conditions helped them to take away the ball.
"Yeah, I guess you could say that," safety Ryan Mundy said. "But takeaways are our focus every game. We come in trying to be plus-2 [in turnover margin] every game because that's what this defense has thrived on for so many years. That's one of the pillars of our defense. Particularly, when the weather gets nasty, offenses have trouble handling the ball. So we need to exploit that moving forward. We knew they were going to be playing for takeaways because when Coach Smith was here, those were the coaching points for [the Bears]."
David Bass' strip-sack of Josh McCown with 5:09 remaining in the third quarter turned the tide of the game, as Matt Forte busted a 13-yard touchdown run behind left guard Kyle Long on the next play from scrimmage to give the Bears a 14-10 lead after the extra point.
In a span of 1:49, Forte scored two touchdowns off Bears takeaways. Mundy picked off a pass that bounced off Charles Sims' hands to set up Forte's second score. Chicago needed to move the ball a total of 28 yards on five plays for Forte's touchdowns.
"When you get into this weather, it's not optimal throwing conditions," McCown said. "But you've got to manage it the best you can. Those two [turnovers] right there back-to-back hurt us. It's tough, but we've got to do a better job of managing it."
Earlier in the game, Chris Conte picked off McCown. But Jay Cutler fumbled on the ensuing possession, and Tampa Bay capitalized with a McCown touchdown pass to Mike Evans. Chicago's opponents this season have now scored 82 points off turnovers, with Cutler committing 18 of the team's 21.
The Bears' defense, however, has scored 63 points this season off 18 takeaways. Since 2006, the Bears are 50-10 when they finish games with a positive turnover margin (8-0 under Trestman in those conditions), 13-35 in games on the negative side of turnover margin and 14-16 when the turnover margin is equal.
"With them coming in, Lovie preaches [turnovers] a lot, so we knew we had to win the turnover battle," cornerback Tim Jennings said. "That was huge for our success today. We needed that."
During Smith's tenure in Chicago, the Bears led the NFL in takeaways (310), returning 34 of them for touchdowns, including 26 interceptions returned for scores. That tied for the most in the NFL during that span.
Smith couldn't help but admit that the Bears beat him at his own game.
"Yeah, I think most teams win with that turnover ratio," Smith said. "There are a lot of defensive players [for Chicago] that bought into that, and, like most games, that's normally what's going to determine the winner."