TAMPA—For once this season, the Bears played an inspired second half.
Problem was, they trailed by 20 points at halftime Sunday and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers escaped with a 20-17 victory to end their losing streak at five games.
Butler absorbed the wrath of head coach Mike Ditka on the sideline after kicking off out of bounds in the third quarter when the Bears trailed 20-3.
"It is up to me to change his mind," Butler said about Ditka's angry comments. "From a kickoff out of bounds, I am the worst kicker in the league, I'm gutless, and I am mentally weak. I don't buy that. If he does, I guess he will get a mentally strong kicker."
Butler did not blame anyone else for his missed field goal, which collared the Bears with a third straight loss to leave them tied at 4-6 with the Bucs and Packers in the NFC Central.
"I don't expect to hear any encouragement, that's for sure," Butler said. "But you just try to forget that, and you try to get ready and make the field goals when it comes down to the time. And I didn't."
Butler missed two of three field goals Sunday; he has missed four of his last five tries.
"The ball was held, and the ball should be kicked," Ditka said. "And I am not blaming the kicker; I'm not blaming the snapper. It was certainly not the snapper or the holder. It just didn't work."
The Bucs outgained the Bears 235 yards to 55 in the first half. The Bears turned the tables in the second half, 260 yards to 64.
"In the first half, we weren't in sync in our nickel package," said quarterback Jim Harbaugh (17 of 33 for 225 yards and one TD). "We weren't picking up the first downs, for whatever reason."
A 27-yard Butler field goal made in 20-3 in the third period. Neal Anderson scored from a yard out at the end of a 64-yard drive to pull the Bears to within 20-10 with 7:31 left in the game.
Then an 11-yard TD pass from Harbaugh to Anderson made it 20-17 with 3:35 to go.
Ditka sent Chris Gardocki in to kick off in place of Butler, and Gardocki booted the ball into the south end zone for a touchback.
"It sounds like he had a problem with me," said Butler of Ditka. "He is the head coach. He took me off of kickoffs. I don't think you will see me back out there. Take it for what it is worth. Sure, it is fair. He is the head coach, and he can do what he wants."
The Bears' defense held and forced a punt. They started the potential game-tying drive from their 28 with 1:37 left.
The drive included a 16-yard pass to Tom Waddle and a 7-yarder to Anderson. Following a two-yard sack by Keith McCants, Harbaugh passed 20 yards to Waddle over the middle.
Anderson was stopped for a 1-yard gain on a draw play to the Tampa Bay 31 as the Bears were operating with no timeouts left.
"I probably should have killed the clock, looking back on it," said Harbaugh. "I just thought I would try to pop a trap in there and try to pick up seven or eight more yards to get it down into field goal range, then kill the clock. But that play didn't work."