1 - Turnovers foil Bills again
For a team that has had trouble scoring points this season, the margin of error when it comes to ball security is pretty much zero. Unfortunately, the Bears defense was stealth-like in forcing turnovers and they proved to put the game away for Chicago early.
Down 7-0, the Bills offense was in the Bears territory. Facing a 3rd-and-9 at the Chicago 34, Nathan Peterman completed a pass to Jason Croom in the right flat. As he began to head upfield he was slowed by Bears safety Eddie Jackson. Before he could get Croom to the ground, LB Roquan Smith came flying in to make the tackle and popped the ball loose.
Jackson then scooped it up and went 65 yards the other way for a touchdown.
Two plays later, Peterman’s pass for Terrelle Pryor over the middle was bobbled by Pryor and went up in the air. Bears S Adrian Amos picked it out of the air and returned it to the Bills 38-yard line. Fortunately, Buffalo’s defense held forcing a punt.
On the ensuing Bills possession, Peterman on a 3rd-and-3 at the Buffalo 18 had Zay Jones targeted, but as he was about to pull in the pass he was hit by CB Kyle Fuller. The ball popped up in the air and DE Leonard Floyd ran under it and into the end zone for a 19-yard interception return for a touchdown.
In the span of six offensive plays for the Bills they committed three turnovers, which translated into 14 points for Chicago. It turned a 7-0 game into a 21-0 game late in the second quarter.
“We turned the ball over. You can’t turn the ball over,” said head coach Sean McDermott. “You can’t give them field position. We did both of those, two things we said we couldn’t do.”
Buffalo added a fourth turnover when Kyle Fuller dove in front of intended receiver Kelvin Benjamin for an interception at the Bills 28-yard line at the end of the third quarter.
All told, the Bills committed three turnovers in their own half of the field, and the Bears made them pay to the tune of 17 points.
“Turnovers are frustrating anytime it happens,” said Nate Peterman. “Regardless of how it happens, the end result is a turnover. It’s frustrating. We know we can’t do that as an offense. We’ve got to be better in that, especially with how our defense sets us up. They play so well. We’ve got to be better in that area.”
In Buffalo’s last four games they are a minus-10 in turnover differential, committing 14 turnovers to their opponent total of four over that span. The Bills are now a minus-nine in turnover differential this season, which ranks in the bottom quarter of the league.
“I’m very frustrated. Very frustrated with the fundamentals of what went on in the game in terms of turning the ball over and giving them field position,” McDermott said. “It’s tough to win a game when you do that.”
2 – Tarik causes trouble on teams
Part of the aforementioned field position problem came on special teams. Buffalo’s coverage units knew they’d have a tough time with punt returner Tarik Cohen. Seeing him operate in person was a bit of a different story.
Cohen didn’t do much on offense as Buffalo’s defense held him firmly in check, but he did enough as a punt returner to make a difference in the game.
On a second quarter punt return Cohen reversed his field and outflanked Buffalo’s coverage unit to the left sideline for a 38-yard return. It put Chicago’s offense in Bills territory at the 23-yard line.
Already up 21-0, the Bears offense quickly found the end zone on a two-play drive with Jordan Howard scoring on an 18-yard run to make it 28-0 with under a minute remaining in the half.
Even when Buffalo was able to corral Cohen on a punt return earlier in the half, they were flagged for a late hit out of bounds. It gave Chicago the ball at the Buffalo 37. Six plays later the Bears were in the end zone.
“Not giving yourself favorable field position… that happened on special teams as well,” said McDermott. “We’ve got to do a better job there.”
Half of Chicago’s 12 possessions began at midfield or in Buffalo territory on Sunday. They scored 24 points off those drive starts.
Stephen Hauschka was one of the few bright spots on the unit with a successful 41-yard field goal attempt. He also had a pair of touchbacks on kickoffs.
Photos from Week 9 of the 2018 season as the Buffalo Bills take on the Chicago Bears at New Era Field.
3 – Offensive staff begins platoon on O-line
The Bills offensive line again had a tough day establishing the line of scrimmage in the run game. It led to the platooning of some positions among the starting five up front.
“We’ve got to make sure we establish the line of scrimmage. That’s true in every game,” said McDermott. “We set that as one of our goals, establish the line of scrimmage. We didn’t get that done, especially early.”
Right tackle Jordan Mills was replaced in the lineup for a few series by Jeremiah Sirles. Meanwhile at left guard, veteran Vladimir Ducasse was replaced at times by rookie Wyatt Teller.
“We gave a couple of guys the chance to get in there and show us what they can do,” said McDermott. “We’ll look at the film on that.”
Buffalo’s fifth-round pick saw his first regular season action on Sunday, as he had been a regular inactive through the course of the season.
Late in the game Teller replaced John Miller at right guard, who limped off the field in the fourth quarter and did not return.
Coach McDermott gave indication that the platooning at the offensive line positions could continue.
“It’s always open in terms of trying to find the right combinations. I want the best 11 on the field, whether it’s offensive line, defensive line, we’re going to find the best 11.”