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Bears vs. Bills: Notes from the final preseason game of the year

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The Bears held a 27-3 lead heading into the fourth quarter before allowing 25 unanswered points.

NFL: Buffalo Bills at Chicago Bears
Tyler Bray had a solid performance in the final preseason game of the year, but it wasn’t enough to overcome Buffalo’s late-game heroics.
Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports
  • The Bears’ defense kicked off the first drive of the game by forcing the Bills to punt. Not a noteworthy drive for either team, excluding a pressure by an unblocked Cavon Walker. Bills punter Colton Schmidt was able to pin the Bears at their own two-yard line, which backed them into a corner on their first offensive drive.
  • Despite being backed up so far into their own territory, the Bears led a solid drive that ended in a 47-yard field goal by Cody Parkey. The receivers were able to create separation throughout the drive, the coaching staff did a good job of scheming them open, and Tyler Bray was accurate on a majority of his throws. It was a good overall first offensive drive for the Bears.
  • Cornerback Doran Grant added to Chicago’s lead by jumping the route on an A.J. McCarron pass intended for Travaris Cadet for a pick-six.
  • Grant, who currently sits on the roster bubble, needed to stand out in yesterday’s game, and returning an interception for a touchdown is certainly a good way to do that.
  • Undrafted defensive lineman Cavon Walker picked up a sack late in the first quarter. He blew right past Buffalo’s offensive line with a rip move and showed off the athleticism to chase down McCarron.
  • A pass interference call on Doran Grant flipped the field for the Bills, who were initially in great position to at least kick a field goal. Had it not been for a sack on a corner blitz off the edge by Jonathon Mincy, the Bills likely would have scored.
  • Fortunately for the Bears, Buffalo was eventually forced to punt.
  • Ryan Nall was able to pick up a 24-yard gain on a run up the middle in the second quarter. Chicago’s offensive line created a hole for him in the inside zone scheme, and Nall was able to identify the hole and picked up a big gain.
  • Daniel Brown made a fantastic grab on an in route to make a leaping catch for a 19-yard gain to put the Bears in first-and-goal territory. He and Ben Braunecker will both be fighting for a roster spot, and since Brown has the advantage from a receiving standout, impressive catches are a good way for him to stake his claim to the 53-man roster.
  • Grant made another great play on the ball when he deflected a McCarron throw intended for Corey Coleman. Although he faces tough odds to make the 53-man roster, Grant’s performance against the Bills will do nothing but help his case.
  • Nall had a 16-yard run with about four minutes left in the second quarter in which he showcased the ability to jump outside of the tackles. As a player whose skill set is best suited when running downhill, outside runs like that one are encouraging to see from the Oregon State rookie.
  • If Taquan Mizzell and Ryan Nall could combine to form one running back, then that running back would probably make this roster. One’s strengths generally coincide with the other’s weaknesses.
  • Speaking of Nall, the rookie ran a sweep to the outside for 32 yards for a touchdown.
  • He started his first half on a high note with 79 yards and a touchdown on just four rushes. If he doesn’t make the 53-man roster, then the Bears would be foolish to not try and secure him for their practice squad.
  • Chicago’s pass-rushing unit, as thin as it may be on paper, had a good first half. They were able to consistently put pressure on McCarron, causing him to throw two interceptions and complete just 38.5 percent of his passes. They also managed to bring Andy Dalton’s former backup down twice in the first two quarters. Although part of that may have to do with Buffalo’s lack of offensive line talent, it’s encouraging to see them doing well.
  • John Timu has never been a stellar athlete, but he has been an instinctive linebacker who has shown good awareness throughout his tenure with the Bears. He put that intelligence on display by tracking down a pass deflected by Abdullah Anderson and bringing in an interception.
  • Cody Parkey missed a last-second 39-yard field goal to close out the first half, a sour note to end a half that was all Bears. The offense looked sharp, Tyler Bray looked comfortable in the pocket, and the defense was able to consistently pressure the quarterback. It was an overall entertaining first half that featured big plays from a handful of players on the roster bubble.
  • Shameless plug for my Twitter account here, but this tweet of mine shows how great Chicago’s defense was early on. Travaris Cadet’s 44-yard gain in the third quarter was a slight blemish on an otherwise great game.
  • Despite pressure from Buffalo’s defensive line, Bray was able to hit Daniel Brown on a corner route in a tight window for a 27-yard gain. Both players ended up having very good games as they aim to sneak onto the active roster.
  • Chicago’s offensive line had its fair share of great plays last night. They were able to open up holes throughout the game, as Ryan Nall, Taquan Mizzell and Knile Davis all broke out for runs that topped 10 yards.
  • It’s the preseason, sure, but seeing the Bears holding huge leads for the majority of a game is a feeling that fans haven’t felt very often over the past five years. 2018 might not be a playoff year for the Bears, but the overall optimism surrounding the team is higher than it has been in quite some time.
  • What happened to A.J. McCarron? He was so highly touted as a backup with the Cincinnati Bengals but looked poor against Chicago’s roster bubble players. He finds himself on the edge of not making Buffalo’s roster after being projected as the starting quarterback to start the offseason. Bears fans know better than anybody that backup quarterbacks for average-at-best starters don’t typically make smart big-money additions.
  • Kasim Edebali, who has had a solid preseason, went down with an injury and went out on a cart in the fourth quarter. Although his roster spot was far from guaranteed heading into the game, it’s unfortunate to see him go down at this stage of the preseason.
  • Speaking of injuries, Daniel Brown also suffered a shoulder injury in last night’s game. Although his injury appeared to be less serious than Edebali’s, seeing Brown go down with an injury is unfortunate to watch.
  • The Bears had a hefty lead entering the fourth quarter, but they seemed to take their foot off of the gas pedal on both sides of the ball. The Bills managed to move the ball fairly efficiently late in the game, and they also held their own against a Chicago offense that had pounded the ball down their throats in the first three quarters. Although likely not an indication of how the Bears will manage big leads in the regular season, it would have been a little bit more encouraging to see them refuse to let the Bills catch up.
  • As bad as McCarron’s night was last night, he threw a beautiful touchdown pass to Robert Foster on a go route. The rookie beat undrafted cornerback Michael Joseph with straight-line speed, and McCarron threw a perfectly-placed dime.
  • Abdullah Anderson took advantage of his ample playing time this week. In addition to his deflected pass, he ended the game with three tackles and a sack. An undrafted rookie, he could be an intriguing option for the practice squad.
  • Kylie Fitts managed to pick up an unblocked sack. He has had his fair share of good plays throughout the preseason, which, despite his inconsistencies, should secure his roster spot.
  • Right after Fitts brought McCarron down, Bilal Nichols picked up a sack, finishing up with 1.5 on the night.
  • Chicago’s defense was just tired on Buffalo’s final offensive drive. The secondary allowed separation throughout the drive, and McCarron was able to run around would-be tacklers with ease.
  • Two roughing the passer calls prolonged the Bills’ two-minute drill. The game likely would have been finished much earlier had the Bears not hit McCarron after the ball was thrown.
  • The Bears looked completely abysmal to end the game. They were dominating the Bills for three quarters, but they played rather uninspired football late and allowed 25 points in the fourth quarter. Preseason or not, that’s simply unacceptable.
  • Chicago ends the preseason with a 2-3 record. Overall, it was a solid preseason that saw a handful of players put together impressive campaigns. Although it was great to have football back, it’s relieving to know that the regular season is just around the corner.

The Bears kick off their regular season on Sunday, September 9 when they take on the Green Bay Packers on the road on Sunday Night Football.

Jacob Infante is a Chicago Bears and NFL Draft writer at SB Nation’s Windy City Gridiron. He also covers the NFL Draft for USA Today SMG’s Draft Wire. He can be reached through Twitter @jacobinfante24 or e-mailed at jacobinfante1208@gmail.com.