The Bills handled business on the road in their preseason finale, beating the Bears 24-21 and coming away with momentum on both sides of the ball heading into the regular season.
Josh Allen engineered a scoring drive on the team's opening possession and the Bills didn't relinquish the lead the rest of the way.
Here's the top three things we learned in the final tuneup before Week 1:
1 — Starting units shine in Chi-Town
Following a tough outing in Pittsburgh last week, the Bills first team offense and defense dominated from the opening kick on Saturday against the Bears. Sean McDermott said leading up to the game that Josh Allen would play, but did not detail for how long.
Turns out, all he needed to see was the opening drive as Allen marched down the field in 12 plays for a touchdown in a business-like manner. Allen diced through the Bears defense, which started a rotation of first and second-teamers, going 5 of 7 passing for 49 yards. He connected twice with WRs Stefon Diggs and Deonte Harty and once with Gabe Davis.
"I think just in terms of energy and juice we had this game compared to last game," Allen said of the fast start. "Guys were ready to go and you can notice a difference."
James Cook added 18 rushing yards on the drive before giving way to Damien Harris once Buffalo got inside the five. Harris had a two-yard TD run on the RB's first preseason carry and showed exactly why he was brought to Buffalo as he fought his way through contact and bulldozed into the end zone.
"You could feel him," Bills head coach Sean McDermott said. "He lowered his pads and he ran big."
As for the defense, they took control against Justin Fields and dictated the style of play. Even in preseason, Buffalo's defense got after Fields, getting pressure on multiple plays in the first quarter. Facing a 3rd down play after the touchdown drive, edge rusher Greg Rousseau beat his man and had a free look at the QB. Fields had to evade the pressure and scramble out of bounds to end the series.
The Bills forced three-and-outs on back-to-back drives to open the game.
"Third down defensively in some of those passing situations we did a pretty good job," McDermott said.
Christian Benford got the start at CB2 across from Tre'Davious White and was up to the task covering the Bears newly-acquired perimeter WR D.J. Moore from Carolina. Benford had great positioning on Moore during the opening series and covered up the WR on a deep pass play.
"I thought the defense came out, getting that first three-and-out was big," McDermott added.
In a switch up from weeks one and two of the preseason, McDermott handed defensive play-calling duties to secondary's coach and passing game coordinator John Butler. It was a strategic move by the Bills head coach in order to more closely evaluate the roster, particularly the starting unit ahead of Week 1. McDermott will resume defensive play-calling duties against the Jets.
"I wanted to be able to have my eyes available to see certain things in our team," he said. "For the most part, I saw that early at least. Then we started getting some guys out."
Josh Allen was replaced by Kyle Allen after the first series, and Buffalo's defensive starters played through most of the first quarter.
2 — Kyle Allen up and down in extended action
With fellow backup QB Matt Barkley out with an injury this week, Kyle Allen was under center for 66 of the team's 78 offensive snaps. The results were mostly positive as the Houston product led three scoring drives but also had two turnovers.
Allen rebounded after throwing an early interception and led a touchdown drive in the second quarter where he connected with TE Quintin Morris on a beautifully thrown seam route for 29 yards. That put the Bills up 14-3.
The second turnover came on a sack fumble nearing halftime. The Bears had a chance to take the lead but CB Ja'Marcus Ingram intercepted QB Tyson Bagent and returned it 36-yards into Chicago territory.
Allen shook off the turnover once again and completed five short passes to move the ball into chip-shot field goal range and Tyler Bass booted it through to put Buffalo up 17-10 at the break.
"I thought Kyle did a really good job today, making decisions and putting the team in good positions to score on offense," Josh Allen shared.
It won't go down as a scoring drive but perhaps Allen's most important series of the game came on the heels of the Bears bringing it to a 24-21 game with two minutes to go. Chicago had all three timeouts still so Buffalo couldn't just run the ball to end the game, they needed a first down.
On 3rd & 5, Allen found WR Marcell Ateman for the first down to seal the win.
"We're confident in Kyle. I liked how he executed in that four-minute situation. I thought that was a key third-down conversion right there," McDermott said.
McDermott added that the competition for the primary backup job is still ongoing between Kyle Allen and Matt Barkley.
3 — How GM Brandon Beane will approach roster cutdowns
By Tuesday at 4 p.m., the Bills need to get their roster from 90 players all the way down to 53. It's the first year the NFL has only one cutdown day.
Beane joined the WIVB broadcast during the third quarter to share how he's approaching the next several days.
"We'll probably do it in a couple of ways here, just to start settling down. It's going to be some tight calls here for those last three or four spots," Beane told Andrew Catalon and Steve Tasker in the booth.
As with any year, Beane said he intends to sit down with McDermott over the next couple days to evaluate the roster needs and then meet with players one-on-one.
"We sit down with each one of them and we explain where they're at and how we see them," Beane said.
Depending on the player and the Bills' needs, Beane and McDermott will indicate the next steps for guys on the bubble, whether it be practice squad or trying to find a home on another roster.
"We try to shoot it straight and there's very honest conversations with them," he shared.
Two players that Beane said are both "trending up" are LB Von Miller and LB Terrell Bernard. Miller is still on PUP and needs to be on the active roster by the end of Tuesday in order to have a chance to play Week 1. If Miller stays on PUP, he won't be eligible to return until Week 5.
"He's trending up. He's doing well. This week, he was out there, he put his uniform on. He's still on PUP but he's getting closer," Beane explained. "We got a big decision to make this week."
Bernard, who has missed all of preseason with a hamstring injury, is also close to a return. The second-year pro has been battling for the starting MLB spot.
"I think we'll get him back hopefully this week in some capacity, start trending up," Beane said.
Check out the best game photos from the Bills' preseason finale in Chicago. This gallery is presented by Gabe's Collision.