CHICAGO — It was Bear weather and Bear football. And Chicago had its first laugher of the season.
Mark Green ran for two touchdowns Saturday as the Bears returned to their reliable rushing game on a bitterly cold day and defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 27-0, clinching Chicago's seventh NFL playoff berth in eight years.
"The weather was hard for them because of where they come from," Chicago Coach Mike Ditka said. "At least we (only) have to go from our car to our house in it."
"The winds were as bad as I've played in, but it didn't affect my lofts," said Bear quarterback Mike Harbaugh, who passed only 14 times on a day the wind chill was minus-3 degrees and winds gusted to 37 m.p.h. at Soldier Field.
"I have no problems riding the coattails of the running game," he said of the 49 Chicago running plays.
Green had his best game as a pro.
"We found things that worked for us early and we stuck with it," the third-year pro from Notre Dame said.
Ditka liked the running game, which netted 182 yards. "I would have been happy today to run the ball 70 times," he said.
Tampa Bay quarterback Jeff Carlson, replacing injured Vinny Testaverde, was the victim of a bad-snap fumble, three interceptions and four sacks. Carlson had never started an NFL game in three pro seasons. Testaverde was sidelined because of a back injury.
"It was a tough situation for a young guy to step into," Tampa Bay Coach Richard Williamson said. "It was a hard day for him. I know that."
Carlson said: "I made a couple of mistakes and it hurt us."
Richard Dent had three sacks and an interception for Chicago.
With one weekend left in the regular season, Chicago (11-4) took a half-game lead over Detroit in the battle for the NFC Central title. The Lions play at Green Bay today.
The Bears stayed on the ground against Tampa Bay (2-13) and dominated ball possession by a 2-1 margin.