CHICAGO (AP)Leonard Fournette never touched the ball.
LeSean McCoy was inactive.
Ronald Jones showed up – again.
While Tampa Bay’s high-profile running backs were non-factors Thursday night, Jones went over 100 yards rushing for the second straight game. But the Buccaneers stalled in the second half of a 20-19 loss to the Chicago Bears.
”Definitely left a lot of points on the board tonight,” Jones said. ”Just kept shooting ourselves in the foot. Ultimately it cost us the game.”
Jones finished with 106 yards on 17 carries, including a 37-yarder in the third quarter that set up Ryan Succop’s 46-yard field goal for a 16-14 Tampa Bay lead. He also had three catches for 19 yards.
Jones became the first Buccaneers running back to rush for 100-plus yards in back-to-back games since Jacquizz Rodgers in 2016.
”He made explosive runs and ran hard and took care of the football,” Bucs quarterback Tom Brady said. ”He’s a great runner, and he’s just doing a great job for us.”
Tampa Bay (3-2) signed McCoy in August and Fournette in September, but the 23-year-old Jones has been the team’s most consistent back so far. McCoy had two carries for minus-2 yards in the first four games. Fournette had 103 yards rushing in Week 2 against Carolina – and just 20 yards in his other two games.
Fournette missed last weekend’s 38-31 win over the Chargers with an ankle injury, and McCoy left Sunday’s victory in the first half with an ankle injury.
Jones has started all five games in his third season, and he leads the Buccaneers with 359 yards rushing on 74 carries. He also has 15 receptions for 76 yards.
”O-line did a great job again, getting push, making my job easy,” he said. ”Again, we just got to score points in the red zone.”
Jones said he hasn’t adjusted his style at all in the wake of the injuries for McCoy and Fournette.
”Nothing like that. You got to keep moving, things like that,” he said.
Tampa Bay drove inside the Chicago 20 three times, and kicked field goals on two of the occasions. Brady threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to Mike Evans in the first quarter, helping the Bucs build a 13-0 lead.
Tampa Bay managed just two field goals in the second half. It was hurt by 11 penalties for 109 yards.
”We all have to do a better job,” Brady said. ”This isn’t one position, this isn’t one player, this is a team-wide thing. We all have to collectively learn each other quickly and make improvements quickly. We all have to do a better job.”
Jones led Tampa Bay with 724 yards rushing last season, averaging 4.2 yards per carry. He had a career-high 111 yards rushing against the Chargers, and he picked up right where left off against Chicago.
He had 11 carries for 56 yards in the first half, while the Bears had 35 yards rushing – for the game. It was Jones’ third career 100-yard game.
”RoJo is having a good season and he is going to continue to get better,” coach Bruce Arians said.
Jay Cohen can be reached at https://twitter.com/jcohenap
More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP-NFL