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Top 3 things we learned from Bills-Bears

Quarterback AJ McCarron reaches across the goal line on his touchdown run.
Quarterback AJ McCarron reaches across the goal line on his touchdown run.

1 - The Bills will battle

The atmosphere on the sideline was evident. As the Bills began staging what wound up being a barrage of 25 unanswered points to win 28-27 in the game's dying seconds, all the starters and some second teamers who were not going to play were bouncing on the sidelines cheering their younger teammates on.

"I just love the way the guys fought overall," said head coach Sean McDermott. "They battled and you don't always find that in the fourth preseason game. I can't tell you how much I appreciate that when they battle all the way down to the wire. It says a lot about the men in this locker room."

McDermott high-fived every player coming off the field at the close of the game. A boisterous Bills locker room could be heard through the walls in the postgame press conference room after the comeback win.

Sure it was just preseason, but for this Bills team it was a night for the vets to support the young upstarts who put in just as much time and effort through the spring and training camp as they did.

"It was all about grit man," said Keith Towbridge, who had the game-winning touchdown catch with 13 seconds left in regulation. "We've got a lot of vet guys who come out and give it their all every day, so why not us young guys come out and do the same? It just shows how coach McDermott preaches to us all the time to have heart and be relentless.

"It goes to show how competitive we all are to win even though it's a preseason game. We're all happy for each other. We're a team and that's really what it's about."

2 - McCarron goes wire to wire

It was AJ McCarron who got the start at quarterback in the fourth and final preseason game for the Bills. Having missed the previous preseason game with a throwing shoulder injury, McCarron had seen the least amount of time in the preseason among the three quarterbacks.

What may have come as a bit of a surprise was McCarron played the entire game. Neither Nate Peterman nor Josh Allen entered the game. Knowing head coach Sean McDermott sat just about all his projected starters in the preseason finale, it was telling that Peterman and Allen did not see any action.

But McDermott maintained that McCarron going the distance on Thursday night had no bearing on his status on the quarterback depth chart.

"I don't know if it says anything other than he was out there competing at a high level," said McDermott. "I thought he brought our football team back and showed great leadership. He led one heck of a comeback out there. He did a great job."

For McCarron, the evening did not start well at all. Under duress a good portion of the night, McCarron was sacked five times and threw a pair of interceptions. The first came in the first quarter when Bears CB Doran Grant jumped a short out route by Travaris Cadet and returned his interception 33 yards for a touchdown.

The second came just a quarter later when McCarron's pass intended for Cadet was tipped at the line and intercepted by Chicago LB John Timu.

Playing largely with second and third-string players, the quarterback was 13-34 passing for 156 yards, but he turned the night around with three touchdowns including a game-winning six-yard scoring pass to TE Keith Towbridge with 13 seconds remaining.

"I told them in the huddle that I thought they were going to bring cover zero (all-out blitz) because we had been moving the ball," McCarron said. "They needed something since we had no timeouts and 17 seconds on the four-yard line. So I thought they'd bring cover zero and I told him to get across his face as quick and Tow did an awesome job."

McCarron was responsible for the team's first touchdown of the game, when after finding no one open on a 2nd-and-goal from the five-yard line he scrambled for a five-yard touchdown run.

But the Bills were still down 27-9 early in the fourth quarter.

McCarron's best throw of the night came on the next scoring drive on a 24-yard touchdown pass to Robert Foster in the right rear corner of the end zone. He later made a six-yard touchdown pass with under four minutes to play when he found Malachi Dupre after scrambling to buy time, and then the game winner to Towbridge.

"It was awesome," said McCarron of the 25 unanswered points to close out the game. "First half being a little rusty from being out a week and not practicing, I couldn't get things to go our way. We just had some unlucky bounces, but the ending was awesome."  

Whether the Bills keep three quarterbacks will be known come Saturday when the team has to reduce the roster to 53 players by 4 pm ET.

3 - Tight race at tight end

Much like the quarterbacks who sat for the Bears game, it was very telling that in addition to Charles Clay it was Jason Croom who sat out the final preseason contest. It could mean that Croom has earned a spot on the 53-man roster after his impressive performance against Cincinnati.

The rest of the candidates at tight end were active for the game. Nick O'Leary and Logan Thomas saw action first on offense as the team came out in a two-tight end set for almost the entire first series of the game. Both O'Leary and Thomas got opportunities to block and run routes as passing targets. 

Logan Thomas had three receptions for 40 yards to lead the team in receiving yards. O'Leary did have a reception, but it was wiped out by an offensive penalty.

"The knock on me was I wasn't physical enough so I tried to show that in every game," Thomas said. "Last game I got a couple of catches late. This game I got a couple of catches. I just try to show that I'm multiple and do whatever you ask me to do. Do I have a lot of progress to make? I do. I feel like I've made strides every week, every day of practice, but we'll see how it goes. If it's not here, hopefully it's somewhere else."

Khari Lee was the next tight end to see time on the field. Known as a solid blocker, Lee was given the chance to run a couple of pass patterns in his time on the field. He was targeted once, but the pass was off the mark.

"You definitely want to put your best foot forward, but you can't think about the end result," Lee said. "As long as you go out there and play hard, you can't worry about the other stuff."

Keith Towbridge was the last tight end to enter the game and saved the best for last making what proved to be the game-winning touchdown with 13 seconds remaining.

"Basically it was just another opportunity for me especially being the last game of the preseason," Towbridge said. "The eye in the sky don't lie, so I just tried to get good film out there and put it in God's hands. I just had to do my job to be a part of this team."