WEMBLEY, England - On both sides of the Atlantic, Matt Forte is carrying the offense for the Chicago Bears.
Forte ran for 145 yards and a touchdown and the Bears held on to beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 24-18 on Sunday in the fifth annual NFL regular season game at Wembley Stadium.
Jay Cutler threw for 226 yards and a touchdown and the Bears (4-3) intercepted Josh Freeman four times for their second win in a row. The Buccaneers (4-3) lost for the second time in three years in London.
Freeman threw two TD passes in the fourth quarter to pull the Bucs within three points with just over 7 minutes left. But, after a 25-yard field goal by Chicago's Robbie Gould, Freeman was picked off for the fourth time with 37 seconds left by D.J. Moore to end the threat.
Tampa Bay's loss completed a miserable day for the Glazer family, owners of the Bucs and Manchester United. Earlier, the Glazers were on hand at Old Trafford as the English Premier League champions were thrashed 6-1 by crosstown rival Manchester City. The Glazers came straight down to London for the NFL game and ended up 0-2 for the day. The Bucs lost to New England, 35-7, in London two years ago.
Attendance was 76,981, short of a sellout in the 82,000-capacity Wembley. It's the first time since the NFL began playing regular season games here five years ago that tickets haven't sold out. Organizers blamed the NFL lockout, which meant the game wasn't officially confirmed and tickets put on sale until a few months ago -- rather than at the beginning of the year as in the past.
Still, the game provided plenty of action, as well as plenty of turnovers, penalties and some unusual moments -- including when a male fan ran onto the field, ripped off his shirt and high-fived players before being tackled by security guards.
Forte, who came to London with a league-leading 908 yards running and receiving, went over the 1,000 yard mark after seven games.
He was already over 100 yards for the game with 8:39 left in the first half. He broke through the right side of the Bucs defense and cut back across the field for a weaving 32-yard TD run that put the Bears ahead in the first quarter. He also had a 22-yard run on the same drive.
Forte also ended up in his own end zone a few minutes later, tackled for a safety by Ronde Barber. That capped a quirky sequence of back-to back interceptions. First, Tanard Jackson picked off a ball that went through Marion Barber's hands and returned it 42 yards to the Chicago 21. On the next play, Freeman hit Mike Williams over the middle at the goal line, but Chicago safety Chris Conte wrestled the ball out of his arms for a takeaway.
Freeman finished 29 of 51 for 264 yards and two touchdowns. Cutler was 17 of 32 for 226 yards and two interceptions.
The Bucs had to rely on the pass after losing running back Earnest Graham in the first quarter to a right ankle injury. He was starting for the second straight week in place of LeGarrette Blount, who was out with a knee injury.
Cutler found Roy Williams for a 25-yard touchdown pass with 7:49 to go in the half to put the Bears up 14-2. The score was set up by a 29-yard run by Marion Barber on third and 1.
Freeman and the Bucs offense looked out of synch for most of the first half. One Tampa possession early in the second quarter included four penalties in a row and five in all -- three against the Bucs and two against the Bears.
The Bucs didn't pick up a first down until just over three minutes left in first quarter and had five first downs in the half. Freeman finally got the offense moving late in the first half, leading a 77-yard-drive on 10 plays with a mix of short and medium-range throws, but the Bucs had to settle for a 33-yard field goal by Connor Barth as time expired.
After an interception by Corey Lynch, Freeman hit Kellen Winslow for a 2-yard TD with 12:18 left in the game to pull within 21-11. The Bucs went for a 2-point conversion but Freeman's quick slant to Mario Williams fell incomplete.
After the Bears went three-and-out, Freeman led the Bucs on a 53-yard scoring drive, capped by a 24-yard throw to Dezmon Briscoe with 7:17 to play to close to 21-18.
But the Bears drove 64 yards in 12 plays, with Gould's field goal with 1:55 left putting the Bears back up by six.