Strange game. From the moment Eddie Jackson returned a Roquan Smith-forced fumble for a touchdown with 7:07 remaining in the first half, the entire building knew the game was over. Here are six specific, in-building thoughts from Bears 41, Bills 9.
(1) That was one of the loudest stadiums I’ve ever heard to start the game. The crowd noise was absolutely deafening when the Bears had the ball for the first quarter plus. The false starts upfront were completely understandable. Offensive line miscommunication should have been expected. (I could barely hear a friend two seats away from me.) There is no chance a Soldier Field crowd, with the team at 2-6 and starting a dead weight quarterback, would be anywhere near that enthused at kickoff. Impressive showing from Bills fans, in and around the ballpark.
(2) Good to see Jordan Howard running with some anger. Again, don’t look at the overall numbers. They’re mostly meaningless in a game like this. But Matt Nagy is finally starting to understand how to use Howard, especially down in the red zone. The Andy Reid offense like to throw to score. The Bears are built to ride Howard into the end zone.
(3) Two defenders stood out to me: Roquan Smith and Eddie Jackson. Smith is going to be a star in the league for a long, long time but that is expected from a top draft pick. Jackson is an incredible player. He closes on the football as good as any Bears safety since Mike Brown. He’s the rare back end guy comfortable with the football in the air and tackling in the open field. He’s got great, natural instincts.
(4) The Bears were clearly uncomfortable with the amount of running Mitch Trubisky did against the Jets last week because there were times Sunday Trubisky had acres of space in front of him. If this WAS a coaching decision, I applaud it. Trubisky knows he can run. That’ll be there as long as his legs are. But this season has to be more about processing information, stepping into the pocket and delivering the football. And in a game like Sunday’s there’s no reason for the young quarterback to take any unnecessary punishment.
I always like the Chicago Bears…
…and they are simply the better team, again. Yes, the game is on the road. Yes, it’s very hard to win on the road in the NFL. But the Bills are scoring 10.9 points per game. And that’s with scoring 27 in a dominant victory over the Vikings – the season’s most absurd outcome. (If you take that game out, the Bills are only averaging 8.5 points in their other 7 games. In this NFL that’s borderline impossible.)
(i) The Bills have a very good defense. They are sixth in yards-per-game while operating with one of the worst offenses in the history of professional football. In case you missed it earlier, the BILLS ARE SCORING 10.9 POINTS PER GAME. Expect Sean McDermott – a disciple of the great Eagles DC Jim Johnson – to attack Mitch Trubisky early and often because he knows creating mistakes is his team’s best chance to win.
(ii) So the Bears need to be patient on offense. Run the ball. Be conservative in the passing attack. Don’t take unnecessary risks. Field goals are fine because the Bills simply don’t score touchdowns. Field position is huge because the Bills aren’t going 80 yards on anyone.
(iii) The Bills are starting Nathan Peterman most likely. And Peterman is one of the worst starting quarterbacks in the history of the NFL. Career: 45.7%, 360 yards in three starts, 3 touchdowns, 9 interceptions, 31.4 passer rating. (The backup? #BarkleyTime.)
(iv) The Bills have slow, lumbering wide receivers. Zay Jones can move a bit but Benjamin, Holmes, Croom and Clay (tight end) get almost no separation and are not what you’d called big YAC guys. (Whether Terrelle Pryor is able to get healthy enough/up to speed for this weekend remains to be seen. Doubtful.)
(v) The Bills can run the ball a bit but their offensive line – loaded with Bears castoffs like Jordan Mills and Vlad Ducasse – is not good enough to control the line of scrimmage for an extended period of time. It also shouldn’t be good enough to beat Hicks, Goldman & Company at all. Still, expect LeSean McCoy and Chris Ivory to have a few moments Sunday. They’re good players.
(vi) This means the Bills will need sustained, multi-play drives to score points. And without a successful running attack they’ll need to convert on third-and-longs to achieve that. But they’re starting one of the most inaccurate quarterbacks in league history and fielding a crop of receivers who fail to gain separation. This is not a winning formula for Buffalo.
(vii) The Bears knew the Jets couldn’t beat them. So they didn’t beat themselves. Expect the same Sunday.
(viii) Score 14 points. Probably win.
Oh, in the home
Where the Buffalo Bills roam
Lived a man called Gerard McTeer
Ran a chipper in Trim
And the town adored him
When he left, there were many-a-tear
Now in Western New York
They call for the stork
For his cooking makes everyone randy
Not fancy, these things
These Buff-a-lo wings
As sweet and delicious as candy
Did the Buffalo Bills hold Tyrod Taylor back or was it the other way around? That’s the question I kept asking myself as I watched him play.
There were times where Taylor was Russell Wilson.
There were other times where I wondered if the Bills called conservative games because Taylor was their quarterback.
This same debate is prevalent among Buffalo media, who are radically divided on Taylor’s tenure with the Bills.
Buffalo GM Doug Whaley doesn’t like Taylor. Taylor was Rex Ryan’s guy and even though new Buffalo offensive coordinator Rick Dennison is said to be a fan of Taylor’s, Whaley isn’t like to care. Most signs point to the Bills opting out of Taylor’s lucrative contract and the 27-year-old hitting the open market.
He’ll get paidt for his play the last two seasons, with passer ratings of 99.4 and 89.6, but nobody really knows what they’re getting. He could be a quality player on the ascent or he could be a player destined for mediocrity.
Rumor is I made a few picks last week. I have no recollection of this but it has been brought to my attention by several associates. (I was not disappointed in the Rams pick. That game could have gone either way. But I just didn’t think the Packers would lose back-to-back games or that the Bears defense could hold the Charger offense to 12 points.) This week, a rebound…and a theme! Road dogs!
Here’s why I like the Bills to win outright tonight:
St. Louis will be in the 20s. The Bears should be in the 20s. Points just seem too many for a team quarterbacked by Nick Foles.
This has all the makings of a back door cover, especially against a defense that just allowed the Broncos and Panthers – two struggling offenses – 29 and 37 respectively. I’ll take the points.
Season Record: 13-12-2
Steelers +7 over Patriots
Line just feels too high for a week one match-up between two fairly decent teams. Patriots 24, Steelers 21.
Bills +3 over Colts
My favorite mismatch of the first week is the Bills defensive line against the Colts offensive line. Andrew Luck is in the conversation for best player in the sport but I continue to argue that his coach is mediocre and the roster construction around him is poor. Bills win outright. Bills 16, Colts 14.
Cowboys -6 over Giants
Historically, nobody has been wronger about a team as I have about the New York Giants. So my instincts you should me to ignore my instincts entirely and pick them to win the Super Bowl. But not with that defensive roster and not with the questions along their offensive front. Cowboys 27, Giants 20.
Season Record: 0-0
The other issue on Cutler’s second interception was Trestman’s play-call itself. Why not run on third-and-one? Matt Forte had gained 62 yards on 14 carries to that point, though he had been stopped for no gain on the previous play.
“Most of the time we do, but we have to have some balance to what we’re doing,” Trestman said. “And the fact that it was a two-down situation gave us an opportunity to get a big play, and we’re going to take an aggressive approach at times.”
Nothing is more tiring in the NFL than fans and media criticizing play calling after the fact. If Cutler throws the football away, nobody complains. If he gets the yard with his legs, the play is an absolute afterthought. If he completes the pass, HEAVEN PRAISED TRESTMAN IS GENIUS!
Play calling is the single most overrated element of football games. When runs don’t work, people want passes. When passes don’t work, people want runs. Now all of a sudden the Bears should run on short-yardage when the number one criticism of Matt Forte’s career has been his inability to get first downs in short yardage AND the Bears are without their starting center and left guard?
You know why offensive – and never defensive – play calling are often the most criticized elements of football games? Because it is the element of the game the casual fan and media member believe they can do. Spoiler alert: they can’t.
I prefer to exit the realm of the hypothetical and put the blame where it belongs: on the guy who threw the ball to a defensive lineman.
If the Bears had a rinky dink opponent on the schedule for Sunday (though I’m not sure those exist in the NFL any longer) there would be little they could do in Week Two to erase the disappointment of Week One. But they don’t. Instead they are traveling to Santa Clara, where they haven’t beaten the 49ers since the invention of the forward pass. They are opening a new stadium, in prime time, in front of one of the league’s rowdiest fan bases. They are playing the most difficult game, at least contextually speaking, on their schedule.
And if they win, week one is forgotten. If they win, the season is reborn. Hell, even if they play a terrific game and lose the conversation changes from the End is Nigh refrain currently singly somewhat proudly from the pages of the Chicago dailies to Bring on the Jets and the 2014 campaign!
No picture. Nothing fun. Let’s get right to the thoughts…