Bears 34, Buccaneers 31, OT

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CHICAGO (AP)—The Chicago Bears checked another item off their to-do list.

A division title, a first-round bye and now home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs have been secured.

But this much is also certain: Chicago will have to play better than it did in the second half Sunday or the stay in the postseason will be short.

The Bears squandered a 24-3 third-quarter lead, recovering in overtime behind plays from backups Rashied Davis and Adrian Peterson to beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 34-31.

“Obviously, you give up 31 points, it’s not our best game. It was good enough to win, though,” Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher said.

“We’re 12-2, we have home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. What more do you want from us at this point in time?”

Robbie Gould, who missed earlier in overtime from 37 yards, connected on a 25-yarder with 3:37 left to give the Bears the victory.

The win, coupled with Washington’s upset of New Orleans, clinched the home-field advantage for the NFC North champion Bears (12-2).

“It’s not like we’re going to shut down our team. We have a few things to correct going into the playoffs,” coach Lovie Smith said, looking ahead to remaining regular-season games against the Lions and Packers.

Gould’s field goal came after Davis made an over-the-shoulder catch of 28 yards on a third-and-8 pass from Rex Grossman to get to the Tampa Bay 20.

Ronde Barber, defending on the play, said it wasn’t a catch and questioned why there wasn’t a booth review.

“The fact that they want the game to be over and they don’t feel like it needs to be reviewed, it’s fine with me,” Barber said. “But that ball hit the ground, man.”

Replays in overtime are instigated from the booth, not by coaches’ challenges.

“If you are not going to make the call or you’re scared to make the call, then what’s the use of having replay in the first place?” Barber asked.

Davis’ view, predictably, was a little different: “I made an adjustment to catch it and I caught it.”

Peterson, Chicago’s third-team tailback, then had runs of 2 and 11 yards to move the ball to the 7.

Trailing by three TDs, the Bucs (3-11) stunned the Bears with three fourth-quarter touchdowns, tying the game on Tim Rattay’s 44-yard TD pass to Ike Hilliard with 3:44 left.

Rattay, who replaced the struggling Bruce Gradkowski in the first half, also had a 64-yard TD pass to Joey Galloway that capped a 95-yard drive in the final quarter.

“Tim took charge and made great throws, stood in there and took a couple of shots and got us going,” Hilliard said.

Tampa Bay ended a 13-quarter drought without a touchdown when Mike Alstott scored on a 14-yard run with 25 seconds left in the third quarter.

That made it 24-10, and moments later the Bucs got back in the game when Bears rookie kick return star Devin Hester—who had two TDs last Monday— fumbled the ensuing kickoff after a hit by Blue Adams, with Wesly Mallard recovering at the Chicago 16.

Rattay hit Alex Smith with a 9-yard TD pass and suddenly the Bucs were within a touchdown.

But Grossman, who finished 29-of-44 for 339 yards—all career highs—hit four straight passes in a 77-yard drive, and Cedric Benson’s 4-yard TD run made it a two-touchdown advantage with 9:23 to go.

But the Bears couldn’t put it away.

Chicago tight end Desmond Clark caught seven passes for 125 yards and a pair of touchdowns, all but one of the receptions in the first half when the Bears built a 21-3 lead.

Bears starting nose tackle Tank Johnson, arrested Thursday for possession of firearms without proper identification, was inactive. Early Saturday morning, Johnson was at a downtown Chicago bar when his friend, Willie B. Posey, was shot to death during a fight.

A team spokesman said Johnson was not at Soldier Field on Sunday.

The Bears were missing both starting defensive tackles, because Tommie Harris is already out after surgery on a torn hamstring.

Smith said no decision has been made on Johnson’s future with the Bears.

Hester, who has an NFL-record six returns for TDs this season, lined up as a wide receiver late in the first quarter, but Grossman’s pass to him on the outside was too way low and incomplete. Hester fumbled three times on kicks, losing just one.

^Notes: The Bears were booed at the end of regulation when they ran out the clock and decided to go to overtime instead of trying to score with the ball deep in their end. … Rattay finished 20-of-35 for 268 yards. … The Bears also played without starting left tackle John Tait (ankle) and defensive back Nathan Vasher (hamstring), who were inactive. … The Bucs have lost seven of eight. … Clark’s 100-yard receiving game was the first by a Bears tight end since Emery Moorehead had 114 against the Bucs in 1985.

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Top Performers

 Top Performers
 Tampa Bay
T. Rattay T. Rattay QB
20-35, 268 yds
3 TDs, 1 INT
R. Grossman R. Grossman QB
29-44, 339 yds
2 TDs

Team Stat Leaders

Passing Yards
Rushing Yards
Receiving Yards