Sunday’s game in Orchard Park, New York was less a competition than it was a business trip for the Bears. The game had the feel of an organized scrimmage. The Bears were destined to leave New York as victors as long as they took care of business.
After a wild second quarter that saw them score 28 points, business was certainly good.
The Bears closed the deal in short order, en route to a crushing, 41-9 victory over the Bills. The offense put up 27 points, and the defense scored two touchdowns and smothered the Bills all day.
In fact, by the time the Bears scored their second touchdown, the game was already out of reach.
Opportunistic defense. Eddie Jackson with the strip and score. Barring a letdown from the defense — which is possible but improbable — I’m not sure the defense could allow 14 points to a Nathan Peterman led offense. #CHIvsBUF
— BearsBeat.com (@bearsbeat) November 4, 2018
There was no way that an offense quarterbacked by turnover machine Nathan Peterman was going to lead a massive comeback.
Bears offense needed a good sparring partner
The Bills were averaging about 10 points per game and hadn’t scored a touchdown in three weeks. The idea that they were going to hang more than that on this Bears defense seemed highly implausible.
The key matchup instead was on the other side of the ball, between the Bears offense and the Bills defense. This game offered a unique opportunity for the Bears to see what it could do on the road against a decent defense.
Although it seemed like a season ago, this is a Bills defense that stifled the Vikings earlier this year. It’s a defense that just last week held the Patriots in check, trailing only 12-6 heading into the fourth quarter.
In short, could the Bears offense — sans Allen Robinson and Kyle Long — score enough points on the road?
As it turned out, the answer was an emphatic yes. Even without the two defensive touchdowns, the Bears scored 27 points in the victory.
Offense was efficient, if not explosive
If you’re a stats nerd who only checked the box score, you’d have thought that the Bears lost. Or, at least, that the game was much closer.
The Bears tallied only 190 yards of offense, gained only 64 rushing yards, picked up half as many first downs (11) as the Bills did, lost the time of possession by nearly ten minutes, and accrued four more penalties (14) than the Bills.
And four of the Bears’ first five possessions ended with punts.
But the stats don’t tell the tale of the tape. They are often misleading, and the only true stat that matters is the one on the scoreboard.
The Bears offense was efficient with their limited time on the field.
Special teams, Defense set up offense with good field position
The Bears began their first offensive touchdown drive of the game at the Bills’ 37-yard-line after a late hit penalty on the Bills’ punt team. Six plays later, Jordan Howard punched it into the end zone.
The next time the Bears scored offensive points came after a Tarik Cohen 36-yard punt return near the end of the first half. The Bears set up shop at the Bills’ 23-yard-line and two plays later, Howard scored again.
The Bears picked up a 47-yard defensive pass interference penalty on the Bills a little later — which works out just as well as if it were a completed pass.
Later in the game, following a Peterman interception, the Bears offense went three-and-out but already were in range for a Cody Parkey 45-yard field goal.
And on the Bears’ final touchdown drive of the game, they started with advantageous field position yet again, beginning at the 50-yard-line.
It would have been nice to see them sustain some long drives, but you can’t argue with working off short fields all game. And that’s a credit to the Bears’ special teams and defense.
Defense remained as stout as a truck without the Mack
The Bears chose to hold linebacker Khalil Mack out of action for the second consecutive week, and the results worked out in their favor.
For the second time in as many weeks, the defense held its opponent to just a field goal and a touchdown, allowing Mack to stand on the sideline and rest his ankle.
The Bears held the Bills to 264 yards of offense. Much of that came late when the game was out of hand.
Four of the Bills’ eight first half possessions ended in punts. Another concluded when safety Eddie Jackson forced and recovered a fumble, returning it 65 yards for a touchdown. Two other drives were killed by Peterman interceptions — one of which was returned by Leonard Floyd for a score. The Bills quarterback tossed three picks to the Bears on the day.
Real test begins in three-game division stretch
The Bears now are exactly where we thought — and expected — they’d be when we surveyed the damage following their loss to the Patriots two weeks ago. They had two upcoming AFC East cupcakes on the schedule and they rightfully feasted on them to maintain their lead in the NFC North.
Now, the Bears have the opportunity to build on that lead when they face the Lions (twice) and the Vikings in a critical three-game stretch.
All three games are winnable, to be sure. But neither divisional foe is a pushover like the Jets and Bills proved to be.
The Bears are a better football team than the Lions, of this we can be certain. But Detroit’s offense is far more capable of putting points on the board than the Jets and Bills are.
We are well acquainted with the dangers that quarterback Matthew Stafford poses. The Lions traded Golden Tate at the deadline but have a pair of talented receivers in Marvin Jones and Kenny Golladay.
And then there’s the threat of the Lions’ improved run game, once a laughing stock of the league. The Lions rushing attack added the bruising LeGarrette Blount to pound between the tackles. They paired him with rookie dynamo Kerryon Johnson — who is fourth in the league with 5.7 yards per carry.
This three-game stretch is where the Bears can prove their worth. They have the opportunity to separate themselves from the pack in the hunt for the playoffs.