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Top 3 Things We Learned

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Top 3 things we learned from Bills vs. Bears | Week 16

Defensive tackle Tim Settle recovered a fumble in Buffalo Bills vs Chicago Bears, Week 16, December 24, 2022 at Soldier Field.
Defensive tackle Tim Settle recovered a fumble in Buffalo Bills vs Chicago Bears, Week 16, December 24, 2022 at Soldier Field.

1 – D-line shuts down Fields

Buffalo's defensive front's top priority was containing Bears' QB Justin Fields, who came into the game with 1,000 yards rushing on the season. Fields had just 11 yards on seven carries, his lowest single-game rushing output of the season, as the defensive line played a major role in preventing him from escaping to the edges.

"Those guys have been playing like that all season long and the job they did to be able to contain a guy like Justin Fields, I mean it was awesome," said Jordan Poyer. "Fun game to be a part of."

Fields was sacked twice by Ed Oliver and AJ Epenesa. He was also tackled behind the line of scrimmage on another carry by Ed Oliver that probably should've been scored a sack as well. Oliver also had a pair of batted passes that fell for incompletions with Matt Milano chipping in a third. Milano additionally had a great open field tackle on Fields on third down in the fourth quarter to force a Chicago punt.

"He runs around a lot, but we caught him in the pocket a couple of times while he was just sitting there holding the ball, and that's what you got to do to him," said Ed Oliver of Fields. "You can't let him get out. Collapse on the outside and just keep him in the pocket. If you try to chase him down, he's liable to do anything, but if you can keep him in the pocket and kind of contain him, you can get him down."

Buffalo's defense also had 11 tackles for loss in the game, with Shaq Lawson chipping in a pair, including a key third down stop. Tre'Davious White followed with a stop short of the first down marker on Bears TE Ryan Griffin on a 4th-and-3 to force a turnover on downs.

"It was a great display of disciplined football," said head coach Sean McDermott. "I thought we tackled better than we did last week and just fundamentally play better football. Getting the takeaway was big, but it takes discipline to play to play good football and particularly good defensive football."

On a day when the offense turned the ball over three times, Buffalo's defense was there to pick them up giving up just a field goal to Chicago off those giveaways.

"It's just handling sudden change," said Oliver. "We know the (offense) has got our back and vice versa and when adversity hits that's what makes a good team good. Some teams might have just rolled over and just said, 'Okay, well they got good field position. We're just going to go ahead and let them score.' But not this group of guys. It's not even a question. These guys are going to fight for every inch."

2 – Third quarter surge

The Bills' offense has scored almost twice as many points in the second quarter this season (147) than any of the others, but on Christmas Eve in Chicago they went scoreless, and it was a struggle. A Josh Allen interception at the Bears' one-yard line followed by a punt and a missed field goal found Buffalo down 10-6 at halftime.

But things shifted in the third quarter. Buffalo took the opening possession of the second half and ran the football with authority. Motor Singletary capped the drive with a 33-yard touchdown run after right tackle Spencer Brown sprung him with a kick out block just past the line of scrimmage.

"Credit to the offensive line and Motor (Singletary) and James (Cook) they did a great job," said McDermott. "James had a long one there, made a great cut at the end to put it in the end zone and I think that one-two punch with the run game combined with the pass game, it's just better complementary football that way."

A two-point conversion from Allen to Gabe Davis followed pushing Buffalo ahead on the scoreboard for the first time in the game (14-10).

Buffalo's defense then forced a turnover when Dane Jackson jarred the ball loose from Bears RB David Montgomery as he lunged forward for extra yardage and DT Tim Settle recovered at the Chicago 35.

"It really all started by the offense coming out and getting into a rhythm," said McDermott. "Executing at a higher level than we were in the first half and then that takeaway, I think it was Dane Jackson that got the takeaway and maybe Tim (Settle) recovered. So good to see that."

Three plays later, James Cook darted through the line and made two quick cuts to shake a pair of Bears' defenders before sprinting to the end zone for a 27-yard touchdown run to put the Bills up 21-10 with their second touchdown of the quarter in just over two minutes of game clock.

"Just executing, getting to stuff that we know," said Allen of the two quick scoring drives that took control of the game. "We found a way to get it done. They're not all pretty and we could say that we didn't play great, but at the end of the day we had over 400 yards of offense. I thought our run game did well. Devin was over 100, Jimbo (Cook) was right there."

The Bills offense was fortunate to have the scoring spurt as their first two quarters of play had a healthy number of miscues. Three turnovers, including two in Chicago territory, holding penalties and some special teams coverage issues all made life more difficult for Buffalo.

"We've got to do a better job with the football on the offensive side of the ball and I thought, some areas special teams wise, coverage wise, at halftime they were close to their 40 in terms of starting field position, and we were where we were so just it's hard to live like that when you're turning the ball over or your starting field position is so uneven like that. And then you're beating yourself with penalties, so we got to get that cleaned up."

3 – Race for AFC top seed stays tight

In addition to earning their third consecutive division title, Buffalo remained the top seed in the AFC improving to 12-3 on the season with their 35-13 victory in Chicago.

Hot on their heels, however, continue to be Kansas City and Cincinnati. The Chiefs were successful dispatching of Seattle 24-10, while the Bengals hung on to beat the Patriots in New England 22-18.

Kansas City is also 12-3 on the season, but Buffalo has the head-to-head tiebreaker on the Chiefs due to their victory at Arrowhead in Week 5.

The Bengals' victory kept them a game behind the Bills at 11-4, with a rather significant Monday night game looming on January 2nd in Cincinnati.

"It's the next progression in our goal," said Josh Allen of the top seed in the conference. "Obviously, playoffs, division title, and we know what the next one is. So we've got a couple more games to put our best foot forward and just try to go execute it to the best of our ability."

If Cincinnati can find a way to beat Buffalo in Week 17, they would seize the top spot in the conference via head-to-head tiebreaker wins over the Bills and the Chiefs, provided Kansas City somehow loses to Denver. Otherwise, a Kansas City win and a Cincinnati victory over the Bills would give the Chiefs the top seed with a week left in the regular season.

Buffalo's veteran players who have been through the playoff losses on the road the last few seasons now have the top seed in the conference as the main priority with the division title locked up.

"That's the goal," said Jordan Poyer. "We want teams to come to Buffalo in the playoffs in front of our fans. We've got to take one game at a time and go 1-and-0 next week. We're going to enjoy this one, especially being stuck here in Chicago on Christmas Eve. We're going to enjoy this victory, get back to our family (Sunday). Enjoy the next couple of days, then we'll come back Wednesday, start preparing for Cincinnati. That's a good football team that we're going to go see and it's going to be a Monday night game primetime. Everybody will be watching."

Check out the best locker room celebration reactions as the Bills produced their third consecutive AFC East title after a victory in Chicago.

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