TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Tom Brady became the first player to throw 600 career touchdown passes, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers routed the Chicago Bears 38-3 on Sunday for the best seven-game start in franchise history.
The defending Super Bowl champions won their fourth straight game, improving to 6-1 and avenging one of their five regular-season losses from a year ago, with Brady completing 20 of 36 passes for 211 yards and four TDs.
The Tampa Bay defense did its job, too, limiting the offensively challenged Bears (3-4) to Cairo Santos’ second-quarter field goal and sacking rookie Justin Fields four times, forcing two fumbles. Dee Delaney had one of the Bucs’ three interceptions, a first-quarter pick that led to Brady’s 599th career TD pass.
With Antonio Brown and Rob Gronkowski sidelined by injuries, Mike Evans had big day receiving for the Bucs, finishing with six catches for 76 yards and three TDs, including a 9-yarder that gave Brady No. 600 with six seconds remaining in the first quarter.
Evans also had scoring receptions of 2 and 8 yards as the Bucs built the lead to 35-3 at halftime. Chris Godwin had eight catches for 111 yards and a 5-yard reception set up by Delaney’s interception. Rookie Jaelon Darden’s 43-yard punt return led to Leonard Fournette’s early 2-yard TD run.
Fields, meanwhile, fell to 2-3 as the Bears starter. The first-round draft pick finished 22 of 32 for 184 yards and three interceptions. He also lost two fumbles and has now been sacked a league-leading 22 times.
Brady improved to 7-1 all-time against Chicago, the lone setback a 20-19 loss in a game last October that's best remembered for ending with the seven-time Super Bowl champion losing track of downs with Tampa Bay trying to move into position to attempt a potential winning field goal.
The Bucs didn’t leave anything to chance this time.
Safety Antoine Winfield Jr., back in the lineup after missing two games with a concussion, sacked Fields on the second play of the game, forcing a fumble Chicago recovered. The Bears weren’t as fortunate when Shaquil Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul got to the rookie, creating a pair of first-half turnovers that added to the young quarterback’s frustration.
Brady played into the fourth quarter, finally leaving after turning Fields’ third interception into a field goal that put the Bucs up 38-3. Backup Blaine Gabbert finished up, entering the game with 7:58 remaining.
In addition to boosting his regular-season career TD pass total to 602, the 44-year-old Brady has now thrown at least 20 TD passes in a season a record 19 times. He’s followed on the list by Drew Brees (17), Peyton Manning (16), Philip Rivers (15) and Brett Favre (15), who are all retired.
Rookie Khalil Herbert rushed for 100 yards on 18 carries for the Bears.
Bears: Did not announce any during the game; however, they played the fourth quarter without DE Bilal Nichols, who was ejected for throwing a punch late in the third quarter.
Buccaneers: Played without WR Antonio Brown (ankle), TE Rob Gronkowski (ribs), LB Lavonte David (ankle) and CB Richard Sherman (hamstring).
Bears: Host San Francisco next Sunday.
Buccaneers: Visit New Orleans next Sunday, beginning a stretch of four of five games on the road.
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Fred Goodall, The Associated Press