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Top 3 Things We Learned

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Top 3 things we learned from Bills at Bears | Preseason Week 2


1. Ready for the regular season

Head coach Sean McDermott said he wanted to see his players take another step in their second preseason appearance this summer. Buffalo proved to do much more than that.

The Bills dominated from the opening kickoff and kept a heavy foot on the accelerator throughout the first half as the Bears were overwhelmed in all three phases of the game.

"It felt good to come back and play well," said Mitchell Trubisky, who got the start for the second straight week in his return to Chicago. "And I owe a lot of that to my teammates. Run after catch, great plays on defense, great plays on special teams. We dominated the field position and turnover battle in the first half and we did our job on offense and scored points. I just thought we were efficient."

Buffalo's offense finished each of their first four possessions with touchdowns as Trubisky looked sharp in his second preseason start. But their execution went much further than just the offensive side of the ball.

The Bills defense stymied Chicago's run game in the first half, allowing just 1.6 yards per carry. It was instrumental in forcing the Bears offense three-and-out on each of their first four drives, including a forced fumble by Darryl Johnson and a fumble recovery by Damar Hamlin.

Even on special teams, Buffalo proved to be the superior side as they had a 36-yard punt return to set up the Bills' fourth touchdown drive of the half.

Boogie Basham blocked a Bears extra point attempt and Marquez Stevenson returned a punt 79 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter.

And Buffalo's kickoff team kept Chicago from returning any of their kicks through the first three quarters.

"I thought it was great effort," said McDermott. "The guys were ready to play and to continue with that effort in the second half after having the first half like they did. I think says a lot about the mentality of those players that were out there. We got off to a good start I think we play well, most of the game and all three phases good complimentary football, which is what we try and do every week."

A perfect capper to the team's three-phase domination of the Bears came at the end of the first half.

Undrafted rookie Nick McCloud picked off an Andy Dalton pass, returning it 20 yards to the Chicago 39 and leaving 10 seconds on the game clock.

Trubisky then fired a sideline pass to Jake Kumerow, who expertly toe tapped both feet before going out of bounds for a 16-yard pickup to stop the clock with two seconds remaining.

Tyler Bass then came on and put a 41-yard field goal attempt up and through as the half expired. It was a microcosm of almost airtight execution by Buffalo through the first 30 minutes and beyond.

Suffice to say the Bills, even without a good number of their starters having ever seen the preseason field, look ready for the regular season right now.

"It seems like the team is coming together so well," said Dion Dawkins, who saw his first preseason action. "You can feel it and you can see it and it's organic, and I think that that's what's special about this Buffalo Bills team. The coaches and the organization they get the right guys here, and it's just a great mesh of a ballers."

2. Isaiah McKenzie makes his case

In a game where many of Buffalo's offensive starters were held out for a second straight week, Isaiah McKenzie took full advantage.

Lined up inside for a good portion of his time on offense, McKenzie was Mitchell Trubisky's most popular target in the first half. The diminutive receiver made six receptions on seven targets for 65 yards on the team's first two scoring drives.

"He threw me the ball and I caught it for him," said McKenzie. "When we found out some guys weren't playing I knew it was my time to step up. We had a good game."

McKenzie proved more than capable in gaining early separation in the down much the way primary slot receiver and veteran Cole Beasley has the past two seasons for Buffalo.

On the second drive in particular Trubisky went to McKenzie on three consecutive plays, gaining nine, eight and 14 yards. He also converted a 3rd-and-10 in the red zone to keep the drive alive with a 12-yard catch.

"We know what Isaiah can do because he makes those type of plays in practice," said Trubisky. "Super shifty guy. Great run after the catch and he made huge plays for us especially on a couple of third downs, I believe, just creating separation, getting open and making plays. He definitely made our offense go so we see what he can do in practice and when he got his opportunity he made it happen."

McKenzie also chipped in a 36-yard punt return to the Chicago 34-yard line to set up the team's fourth touchdown of the game. He also had punt returns of 12 and 16 yards.

Marquez Stevenson's 79-yard punt return touchdown aside, special teams coordinator Heath Farwell has said McKenzie is in the driver's seat for the primary return role.

On offense however, McKenzie, who finished with seven receptions for 72 yards, has steadily seen his role increase in his three years with the Bills. His play this preseason could lead to even more time on the field on offense in 2021.

3. Pass rush flashes again

The debut performance of Buffalo's revamped pass rush last week in Detroit showed promise. Against the Bears, their ability to generate pressure continued.

Top draft pick Greg Rousseau logged his second sack in as many games, winning on an inside stab move, and added a quarterback pressure in the same series. He finished with a sack and two QB hits.

Darryl Johnson chipped in a sack and two quarterback hits with an array of rushes and also had a batted pass for an incompletion.

AJ Epenesa had a quarterback hit when Chicago decided to go for it on 4th-and-8 with Johnson in close pursuit from the opposite side.

"We just put a huge emphasis on pass rush this week because last week we did good, but we wanted to do better," said Epenesa. "So we put an emphasis on that and then we were just studying them, watching their sets and then just working on our reactions."

Boogie Basham logged his first sack of the preseason at the end of the first half with a rush up the middle to take down Bears QB Andy Dalton.

And DT Brandin Bryant got a good inside push on a sack of Justin Fields late in the fourth quarter.

Coach McDermott was encouraged by the production of his young pass rushers overall.

"The young guys need to play in order to get experience and improve and the more they can see the better, the better they'll be," he said. "So yeah, it was a good step for some of those guys up front."

More importantly it reflected that the Bills should be able to come at quarterbacks in waves, especially when their opponent is behind on the scoreboard as was the case Saturday in Chicago.

"It just shows the depth that we have and the versatility of all our guys," Epenesa said. "We have ends rushing from the three technique. We have three techniques rushing from end. It just shows that the group as a whole has taken a step forward and we're ready to keep progressing getting better every week."

All told, Buffalo tallied three sacks and 12 quarterback hits.

Scroll to see the top photos from Buffalo's preseason game against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field.

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