Tampa Bay (1-1) at Chicago (1-1)

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Temp: 80° F
  • Game info: 1:00 pm EDT Sun Sep 21, 2008
  • TV: FOX
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The Chicago Bears have struggled to solidify the quarterback position for years. On Sunday, Brian Griese can make his case to the Bears that they let their best option to do so get away.

Griese is expected to go for his second straight win as the starter for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers when they face the Bears on Sunday at Soldier Field.

The only constant for the Bears (1-1) at the game’s marquee position in recent years has been a lack of consistency. Since the start of the 1992 season, Chicago has used a league-high 21 different starting quarterbacks - a list which includes obscure players such as Henry Burris, Chad Hutchinson, Steve Stenstrom and Peter Tom Willis.

Griese made that list last season, when he split time with Rex Grossman and Kyle Orton. Griese was the most successful of the bunch, throwing 10 of Chicago’s 18 touchdown passes while going 3-3 in six starts for a team that finished 7-9.

Despite that showing, the Bears dealt the 11-year veteran to Tampa Bay - where he played in 2004 and ’05 - in March for a 2009 draft pick.

After watching Jeff Garcia quarterback the Buccaneers (1-1) during a 24-20 loss at New Orleans in Week 1, coach Jon Gruden inserted Griese into the lineup last Sunday against Atlanta. The result was a competent, if unspectacular, performance in a 24-9 victory.

“I wanted to come out and get the win. That was my goal,” Griese said.

“Secondly, I wanted to knock the rust off myself and get a rhythm going. I think we did some good things that we can improve on. At the same time, I’m grateful for the opportunity to play.”

Griese went 18-for-31 for 160 yards and a touchdown, a 5-yard toss to tight end John Gilmore to open the scoring. The effort seemed to be good enough to earn Griese another start this week ahead of the struggling Garcia.

“I foresee Brian being the starter next week, but I’m not going to say it until I talk to both guys,” Gruden said after the win.

“He managed the game. It’s his first game back here as a starter, and to win is quite an accomplishment. He missed a couple of guys he would normally hit, but he managed the game and will get better and better.”

Griese benefited from a Tampa Bay defense that limited the Falcons to 234 yards, one week after giving up 438 to the Saints. Running backs Earnest Graham and Warrick Dunn combined for 165 yards on the ground, highlighted by Graham’s career-long 68-yard touchdown.

With Griese out of the picture in Chicago, Orton won a preseason competition with Grossman for the starting job. His results through the first two weeks of the regular season have been mixed.

While Orton has completed 60.4 percent of his passes and has yet to throw an interception, the fourth-year player out of Purdue doesn’t have a touchdown pass. The Bears, Baltimore and Cincinnati are the NFL’s only teams without a passing touchdown, and Chicago’s 138.5 passing yards per game rank 27th in the league.

The lack of TDs reflects a career pattern for Orton. He has 12 touchdown passes in 501 attempts, giving him a 2.4 touchdown percentage - the lowest for any quarterback on an active roster with at least 20 career games played.

Orton overthrew several receivers Sunday, when the Bears squandered a two-touchdown lead and fell 20-17 at Carolina. The disheartening defeat followed an impressive season-opening victory at Indianapolis.

“A disappointing loss,” Bears coach Lovie Smith said. “Whenever you have control of the football game like that, you’ve got to be able to finish.”

There were some positives for Chicago. Rookie running back Matt Forte followed up his 123-yard debut in the Bears’ Week 1 win with a 92-yard effort, and the Bears scored on defense or special teams for the second straight week as Brandon Lloyd returned a blocked punt nine yards for a touchdown.

Chicago limited the Panthers to 216 yards of offense and stopped them on 13 of 15 third downs.

A similar defensive effort may be necessary this week, particularly if special teams star Devin Hester can’t play. Hester, who returned a total of 11 kicks for touchdowns while making the Pro Bowl in his first two seasons, suffered a rib injury against Carolina and may not be able to return to face the Bucs.

“Devin’s done quite a bit for us,” Smith said. “But we feel like we have some guys that can step in and that’s what happens.”

The Bears hold a 35-17 lead in the series between these teams, which were NFC Central rivals before the league realigned in 2002. They’ve split four meetings since then, with each club winning once on the other’s home field.

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