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Bears vs Bills: Notes, Scribbles, and Things Jotted Down

We're going through our notes and other minutiae from yesterday's overtime loss to the Bills.

Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

  • First, we have to look at the running stats, because the story they tell isn't all that congruent with what we thought we knew about the Bears' defense. Last year the Bills ran the ball. A lot. 546 times, in fact, the most in the NFL, for 2307 yards, second in the NFL. Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller averaged 4.3 and 4.6 yards per carry, respectively, though neither rushed for 1000 yards. Notice who's not on their schedule in 2013 - the Bears and their league-worst run defense. Yesterday, the Bills rushed 33 times for 193 yards, including Jackson's game-ending 38-yarder and Anthony Dixon's 47-yard run. Running is a tremendous part of the Bills' game plan, and on the other 31 rushing attempts, the Bills went for 108 yards - aside from those big plays, the Bills were held to 3.48 yards per carry. That's not to discount what the Bills did on their two biggest rushing plays of the game, but the defense was doing some work for the most part. With enough running plays, sooner or later a bigger play happens, and the Bills have guys that can make those big plays happen. One of them happened to come at only the worst possible time.
  • I did admit, I didn't like seeing Chris Conte shoved away so easily by Fred Jackson at the end, but Conte was right about one thing - he knew the Bills were already in field goal range no matter what, so forcing the fumble is the only way the Bears can truly stay alive in the game.
  • We may as well hit all the defensive notes, because there are some problems. Right away, the top two tacklers on the team yesterday were Ryan Mundy and Chris Conte - the safeties again, each with seven. Behind them are Jeremiah Ratliff with five, then Kyle Fuller, Charles Tillman, Willie Young, and Tim Jennings. Five defensive backs in the top seven of tacklers for the game. Jon Bostic and Lance Briggs led the linebackers with three total tackles apiece, then Shea McClellin with two. D.J. Williams didn't hit the stat sheet. So in a game with 33 run attempts and six receptions to Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller, the linebackers combined for eight tackles? Preston Brown had seven all by himself for the Bills.
  • So is it simply that Lance Briggs is done? That Jon Bostic doesn't have anything? That McClellin can't hack it as a linebacker? Briggs could certainly be a case of a willing mind and a body that can't get it done anymore. But with what seems like continued chronic "Cannot Find The Right Hole -itis", it could be a case of Mel Tucker, as well. I'd certainly lean more to the players, though - Briggs struggled last year, so it's not a new thing.
  • A lot of people were complaining the Bears weren't getting enough pass rush - the problem with that is when the Bills are running three of every five plays on the ground, at what point do you pick up your pressure with a quarterback who already successfully read a crashing Jared Allen and ran out to Allen's vacant side for a two-yard touchdown?
  • The Bills were using lots of misdirection, trying to bait the Bears into wrong gaps or to the wrong side, and were using it to pretty good success.
  • Willie Young with the team's first sack of the year. Meanwhile, barely a peep out of Lamarr Houston and Jared Allen over the game. Way too many tackles having to be made by the defensive backfield.
  • Ego Ferguson didn't make a tackle, but I was pretty okay with the penetration skills displayed by Will Sutton, except for one play when he was pretty much driven straight out of a run play through his gap.
  • Speaking of the Bills, how many Williamses do they have?!
  • I thought Chris Conte's first game after Packergate was a pretty solid one. There was the one missed tackle broken on the long 47-yard run, a very solid baited interception, and not a whole lot else.
  • Offensively, I'm not sure how something could have started so, so well and then gone so horribly, horribly wrong. The first drive was probably one of the most beautiful sequences we've seen since Jay Cutler's been in Chicago.
  • The two interceptions though - especially the second one - might be some of the worst throws, however. The first one, Martellus Bennett took the blame for; he didn't look back for the ball until it was in the air and nearly in the hands of Corey Graham. The second one was all Cutler.
  • I think that was a bit of a broken play. It looked to me like he was supposed to have a receiver breaking across or there was supposed to be open space for him to run to, but there was a free defender blocking that entire open area from Cutler - he had to go to the air. Throwing the ball into the gut of Kyle Williams is not the way to get that done. He said himself he should have thrown it away, and, well... Yeah.
  • The third throw, one that was nearly intercepted, was only that way because Santonio Holmes slipped and fell on the grass. I guess it could be worse - it could be Tony Romo yesterday.
  • I'm tempted to blame the flea flicker, but it was a play that itself worked, just wasn't completely executed properly and was left short to an open receiver. It seemed like the Bears were trying to get too cute with their play selection, and were paying for it.
  • To a throw that should have been caught, because Cutler did throw some good balls in this one - Matt Forte had eight receptions on nine targets. The ninth target should have been caught for a touchdown.
  • The Bears suffered a ton of injuries, including ankle injuries to Roberto Garza and Matt Slauson - And I didn't really see a drop in production. If anything, Brian de la Puente seemed to provide a bit better center play over Garza, even though he did miss a couple of line calls. Thought Michael Ola played just fine too.
  • But speaking of Garza, he had a low snap on the play that eventually turned into Brandon Marshall's fumble. Can someone explain to me how Garza's low snap leads to a completed pass fumbled by Marshall and it's Garza's fault? Talking to you, Twitter folks.
  • The Bears also lost Brandon Marshall for periods and Alshon Jeffery for what turned out to be the rest of the game, and lest we forget, the Bills were also missing Kiko Alonso and Stephon Gillmore, Alonso for the season. Gillmore's replacement picked up an interception. Jeffery's replacements couldn't hold onto the ball or run solid enough routes. Michael Spurlock struggled pretty badly.
  • Nice how we spent so much time griping about a guy whose job appears to be either "Take a knee" or "Take it out of the endzone and get lit up at the 10." Though Senorise Perry's returns didn't exactly excite anyone.
  • Matt Forte got 25 total touches and 26 total opportunities for 169 total yards. And yet it still felt like when he was going, the Bears decided to go away from him a bit.
  • A large chunk of this game rests on the offense. The Bills scored 13 points off turnovers, on a combined 58 yards. The field goal and touchdown in the second quarter both combined for 21 yards.
  • It's also kind of amazing that for as up and down as the Bears' offense was (moving the ball, despite bad results), the Bears didn't commit a single three and out all game, and led time of possession, on a team that was running the ball 60% of their snaps.
  • Martellus Bennett is still a very good receiving option in this offense, very dependable when Marshall and Jeffery were both hurt. I'm a little surprised they didn't go back to him again in that sequence.
  • The Bears also committed fewer penalties (4 for 43) than the Bills (9 for 108).
  • So what's the main takeaways here? That for as bad as the linebackers and defensive line were playing, the back four (or five in nickel) played good, solid defense, made some good tackles, and kept an offense that was shooting itself in the foot consistently in the game with an opportunity to win. And it was an offense that was producing yardage - the Bears had six drives consisting of at least fifty yards - two touchdowns, two field goals, Brandon Marshall's fumble, and Cutler's interception to Kyle Williams. The Bills, to the contrary, had two drives of fifty yards - the first quarter touchdown, and the overtime field goal. There were good things happening on offense, but big mistakes such as turnovers end drives instantly with no benefit. And there were too many of those big mistakes.
  • The thing is, if the Bears turn those big mistakes into continued drives and at least turn them into field goals instead of touchdowns, this is a team that can get by on allowing twenty points a game - or fewer, if the other offense doesn't have as many short fields to work with.
  • It remains to be said, though - the Bears find themselves in an early 0-1 hole, but it's only Week 1. There are still 15 games left to play, and a lot can happen between now and then. No division winner has ever finished the season at 1-0, and no division loser has ever finished the season at 0-1. Just do better in the next 15 and overcome this loss.