A defense that can’t stop the run and one Jay Cutler who can’t hold himself back from throwing interceptions; a known problem for the Chicago Bears, losing 23-20 at home in overtime to the Buffalo Bills, doing exactly what the books says to against teams without the ability to stop the ground game.
This was another display of just how bad the rush defense is for the Chicago Bears at this stage, despite the supposedly improved defensive line. They gave up 8.2 yards per carry between the tackles, including the 38-yard rush by Fred Jackson that set up the winning overtime field goal for the Bills. They gave up 3.3 yards after initial contact, which is terrible, and the Bills adjusted, using 20 zone read rushes in the win, averaging 7.1 yards per rush on those plays, which included EJ Manuel rushing for a touchdown.
The Bears did well when running the ball (86 yards on 18 carries, 82 of them to Matt Forte) but had no intention of overusing the run. Instead they dropped back to pass in a close game 25 times more than the Bills (they did fall behind by 10 points before the third quarter), rushing on only 26% of their plays, which is the second-lowest ratio since Mart Trestman became the head coach of the team.
The Bears kept passing even though both Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery were injured. Cutler didn’t find the same success with his top two receivers limited on the field, struggling to get the ball to Santonio Holmes, Josh Morgan and Michael Spurlock. He did connect with Brandon Marshall and Martellus Bennett for touchdown passes, but went back to his old habit of throwing interceptions, getting picked off twice.
The Bills were just the opposite. They know their quarterback situation isn’t exactly great, so they tried limiting what Manuel did with the ball. He did throw an interception, but also a touchdown pass to C.J. Spiller and rushed for a touchdown himself. The Bills gained 193 yards on 33 carries when running the ball, spreading the carries between Jackson (61 on 7), Anthony Dixon (60 on 5) and Spiller with 53 yards on five carries.
Despite the loss at home on the opener, Trestman didn’t sound worried. He feels that the defense did it’s job, even without an impressive debut for Jared Allen. They kept the Bills at 17-20 points for the game and he expects the offense to be able to beat that on most days, especially if they don’t turn the ball over three times like they did, which included a Brandon Marshall fumble. For the Bills, who seemed in shambles before the season began, it’s hard to know what to expect, but for now they’re riding the wave of believing this season might be special.