TAMPA, Fla. -- Seven straight victories and first place in the NFC North are just a start for the Chicago Bears.
Coach Lovie Smith thinks the NFL's top-ranked defense is capable of leading his rejuvenated team to even greater heights.
"Hopefully it can carry us all the way. If you don't let a team score you have a heck of a chance of winning. I know that is simple, but that is how it is," the second-year coach said after Sunday's 13-10 victory over Tampa Bay.
"We play good defense, we run the football and try not to make too many mistakes. That is our formula for success."
Still, the Bears (8-3) needed some help to ensure their first seven-game winning streak since 1986, prevailing after Matt Bryant missed a potential game-tying 29-yard field goal attempt for the Bucs (7-4) with 2:47 to go.
"We won by two or three inches," Brown said. "If the ball goes left two or three inches, they make the field goal."
Kyle Orton threw for 134 yards and a TD and Robbie Gould kicked field goals of 25 and 36 yards for the Bears, who lost three of their first four games before putting together their longest winning streak since the season after Chicago won its only Super Bowl title.
A week after sacking Jake Delhomme eight times and forcing two turnovers in a 13-3 victory over Carolina, the Bears sacked Simms four times and used the Tampa Bay quarterback's fumble at his own 1 to take an early lead on Orton's 1-yard TD pass to John Gilmore.
Brown finished with two sacks and his third forced fumble in two weeks. The agile defensive end also batted down three passes in the backfield and broke up a pass downfield intended for tight end Anthony Becht.
Adewale Ogunleye also had two sacks, the last coming on the final play of the game, ending any hope for a miracle finish.
"They're a great defense. ... We knew it was going to be a game like this the whole day," Simms said. "But we hung in there and moved the ball on them. I know we scared them a little bit at the end."
With both teams ranked among the top three in fewest yards allowed, it figured to be a low scoring game that would be decided by turnovers and field position.
Defensive tackle Tommie Harris fell on Simms' fumble at the Bucs 1 on Tampa Bay's third offensive play of the day, setting up Orton's TD pass on the next play.
The Bears took advantage of good field position again, moving 40 yards in 10 plays just before the half to go up 10-3 on Gould's 25-yard field goal. Gould added a 36-yarder to make it 13-3 late in the third quarter.
The Bucs, who rallied in the fourth quarter to beat Washington and Atlanta the previous two weeks, remained patient and worked themselves back into the game with a 50-yard scoring drive that Mike Alstott finished with a 2-yard TD run -- the first touchdown against Chicago in 12 quarters.
Following a Chicago punt, Simms went back to work and used completions of 30 and 16 yards to Joey Galloway to fuel a march from the Tampa Bay 31 to the Chicago 11. Bryant had only missed twice in 17 attempts before pushing his shortest field goal try of the season wide right.
"It seems like when you're a good football team and you keep on pressing on people, you press them into mistakes," Orton said. "That's just what we're doing. We're wearing on people."
Bucs coach Jon Gruden said Bryant hurt his hamstring on the opening kickoff. Bryant made a 27-yard field goal in the first quarter and didn't say the injury was a factor in missing the 29-yarder.
"I missed it. That's it," said Bryant, who made a 45-yarder to beat Atlanta last week. "It was one of those days where something like that shouldn't happen. But it happened, so you have to move on."
Simms finished 19-of-30 for 202 yards. Galloway had seven catches for 138 yards, and Cadillac Williams rushed for 84 yards on 20 carries for Tampa Bay, which outgained the Bears 275 yards to 239.
- Orton was 14-of-28 with one interception.
- Tampa Bay DE Simeon Rice had his ninth sack and sixth forced fumble of the season. The Bucs record for forced fumbles is seven.
- Chicago's Rex Grossman, who broke his left ankle during the preseason, was in uniform for the first time and was the Bears' emergency quarterback.
- Galloway has four 100-yard games and went over 1,000 yards for the fourth time in his career.