TAMPA, Fla. — The game looked like a mismatch on paper and, for 30 minutes, it was. The other way.
Unbeaten Chicago escaped its second scare of the season from Tampa Bay on Sunday by scoring 24 points in the second half to recover from a slow start and beat the Buccaneers, 27-19.
The offensive show directed by quarterback Jim McMahon after halftime was impressive, but Chicago Coach Mike Ditka said defense was the key to the club's fifth straight victory.
The Bears held Buccaneers' running back James Wilder, the NFL's leading rusher, to 29 yards in 18 carries and withstood a 346-yard passing performance by Tampa Bay quarterback Steve DeBerg.
"We didn't let Wilder go crazy and that helped us," said Ditka, who watched his team fall behind, 12-0. "We got a couple of turnovers too, and that got us back in the game."
Walter Payton scored on runs of four and nine yards and became the sixth man in NFL history to score 100 career touchdowns as the Bears rallied from a nine-point halftime deficit.
McMahon, who completed 22 of 34 passes for 292 yards, also bounced back from a lackluster start and threw a 21-yard touchdown pass to Dennis McKinnon. Kevin Butler kicked field goals of 30 and 31 yards.
The Bears appeared flat in the first two quarters when Tampa Bay capitalized on two Chicago turnovers and built a 12-0 lead on the strength of DeBerg's 21-yard touchdown pass to Kevin House and field goals of 19 and 36 yards by Donald Igwebuike.
"Our comeback shows the kind of character we have on this ball club," said McMahon, who was intercepted twice. "We came out kind of flat. . . . I'm not happy at all with my performance. I made a lot of mistakes and played a lot of foolish football."
Payton finished with 63 yards rushing in 16 carries, while Chicago tight end Emery Moorehead caught a career-high eight passes for 114 yards.
The 5-0 start is the Bears best since 1963 when Chicago won its last NFL championship. Wilder was gunning for a record-tying seventh consecutive 100-yard game, so stopping him was an added bonus.
"From my viewpoint, we played more like a good football team than we had at any time during the season," Buccaneers' Coach Leeman Bennett said.
"In the second half, we couldn't stop them and I thought that was the real key to the ball game," he added. "Of course, that is why they're 5-0--because they're a good football team."
Tampa Bay dropped to 0-5 after its second loss to the Bears in five weeks. The Buccaneers also led at halftime of the first meeting, Sept. 8, but faltered in the second half.