The Buffalo Bills ended the 2023 preseason on a high note, defeating the Chicago Bears 24-21 at Soldier Field. Josh Allen and the rest of the Bills' starters played for the second consecutive week following last weekend’s loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The game could not have started better for the Bills. After electing to kick, the Buffalo defense stifled Justin Fields and the Bears offense, forcing a quick three-and-out without allowing a single yard.
Josh Allen then strung together a 12-play, 72-yard touchdown drive, converting three third downs in the process. The offense, which committed four penalties in Allen's three drives last week, played disciplined football, drawing zero flags with Allen behind center.
Allen found Stefon Diggs on two third down plays, each for 10-yard gains. James Cook was effective running up the middle, rushing four times for 18 yards in the offenses' first drive of the game. Running back Damien Harris, who made his first preseason appearance after recovering from a hamstring injury, scored the games' first touchdown.
The highlight of the drive, other than Harris' touchdown, came in the red zone. Facing third-and-8, Allen scrambled to the left before throwing across his body to Gabe Davis for a pickup of 15 yards.
The efficient drive was enough to convince Head Coach Sean McDermott to pull Allen, Diggs and center Mitch Morse.
Kyle Allen took over and led the offense on what looked like a promising drive, but Chicago's Tyrique Stevenson intercepted a deep ball intended for Davis for the first turnover of the game.
Allen later rebounded by commanding a 50-yard touchdown drive, set up by a 10-yard punt return from Deonte Harty. Allen found receiver Justin Shorter for a 19-yard gain before throwing a 29-yard dart to tight end Quintin Morris for the score.
Allen's up-and-down day continued late in the first half, with the 27-year-old fumbling at the Bills' 28-yard line. Two plays later cornerback Ja'Marcus Ingram intercepted Bagent and returned it 36 yards to set the Bills up for a 37-yard field goal to end the half.
Darrynton Evans and Ty Johnson led the Bills' backfield. Evans, who had nine carries for 65 yards, rushed for a 35-yard touchdown, breaking multiple tackles and spinning his way into the end zone. Johnson ran between the tackles effectively, taking 11 carries for 51 yards.
The Bears pulled within three points late in the game after Sam Martin had a punt blocked deep in Bills territory. Running back Robert Burns scored both the touchdown and two-point conversion to put pressure on Buffalo with less than two minutes remaining in the game. The special teams unit also allowed a 56-yard kickoff return in the second quarter.
On the defensive side of the ball, A.J. Epenesa made a nice play to force a punt, sacking Bears quarterback Tyson Bagent for a loss of four yards. Boogie Basham also finished the game with a sack. In the secondary, Cam Lewis led the team with 6 total tackles and Siran Neal had two pass deflections.
Linebackers Terrel Bernard, Dorian Williams, wide receiver Khalil Shakir, quarterback Matt Barkley and offensive guard Connor McGovern did not play in Saturday's game due to injuries. Baylon Spector sustained a hamstring injury during the game.
The Bills now look to the regular season. They face off against the New York Jets on Monday Night Football Sept. 11 at MetLife Stadium.
Key Stats and Facts:
- Darrynton Evans scored his first touchdown of the preseason Saturday. The 25-year-old spent last season with Chicago after two seasons with the Tennessee Titans.
- Saturday marked the first time the Bills and Bears have met since former Buffalo linebacker Tremaine Edmunds signed with Chicago in the offseason. Edmunds saw his first action of the preseason on Saturday.
- Bills quarterback Matt Barkley, who did not play Saturday with a right elbow injury, made a career-high seven starts for the Bears in 2016, throwing eight touchdown passes. Barkley played in Buffalo from 2018-20 and rejoined the Bills in the 2022 offseason.
- Head Coach Sean McDermott and Bears Defensive Coordinator Alan Williams both served on the William & Mary coaching staff in 1998.
- The Bills returned to Soldier Field after beating the Bears 35-13 last season on a frigid, below-zero temperature Christmas Eve. Fortunately for all parties involved, it was 73 degrees during Saturday's matchup.
- A.J. Klein, who had 4 tackles, and Kingsley Jonathan, who had 2, both spent part of the 2022 season on the Bears' roster.
- Josh Allen finished the preseason throwing 12-for-17 for 113 yards. Stefon Diggs had 4 catches for 42 yards between his two games.
7:22 1Q | BUF 7 CHI 0 | Damien Harris run short right for 2 yards, TOUCHDOWN
13:00 2Q | BUF 7 CHI 3 | Cairo Santos 34-yard field goal is GOOD
5:43 2Q | BUF 14 CHI 3 | Kyle Allen pass deep right to Quintin Morris for 29 yards, TOUCHDOWN
1:53 2Q | BUF 14 CHI 10 | Tyson Bagent scramble left end for 8 yards, TOUCHDOWN
0:03 2Q | BUF 17 CHI 10 | Tyler Bass 37-yard field goal is GOOD
4:14 3Q | BUF 17 CHI 13 | Cairo Santos 51-yard field goal is GOOD
14:51 4Q | BUF 24 CHI 13 | Darrynton Evans run for 35 yards, TOUCHDOWN
1:58 4Q | BUF 24 CHI 21 | P.J. Walker pass short right to Robert Burns for 5 yards, TOUCHDOWN. Robert Burns runs short left for TWO-POINT CONVERSION
Check out the best game photos from the Bills' preseason finale in Chicago. This gallery is presented by Gabe's Collision.