Bears Fall To Bills In Home Opener
By Benjy Lipsman in News on Sep 8, 2014 4:45PM
Did we really just predict an 11-5 season for the Bears? Because the team that played Sunday did not look like a playoff team, at least after the first five minutes of action. Despite scoring easily on their first possession, the Bears fell behind, then tied the game before falling in overtime 23-20 at Soldier Field.
In the game's opening minutes, the Bears looked great. The defense held Buffalo to a three-and-out on the game's first possession, then the offense marched downfield in four plays for a touchdown when Jay Cutler found Martellus Bennett from 12 yards out less than four minutes into the game.
That would be the highlight of the Bears offense for the afternoon.
The defense also didn't look as sharp as they did on the first possession. For all the hype surrounding their retooled unit, the Bears "D" looked a lot like last year's edition. The Bills tied the game on their next possession and used turnovers to take a 17-7 halftime lead. A Brandon Marshall fumble set up a Dan Carpenter 50-yard field goal. Then Jay Cutler's first interception of the afternoon was picked off by former Bears
Corey Graham and returned 45 yards to set up a quick Buffalo TD.
In the third quarter, the Bears capped the first drive of the half with a Robbie Gould 41-yard kick, narrowing Buffalo's lead to a touchdown. A Chris Conte pick set up the tying score when Cutler found Marshall from 11 yards out to even the game at 17-17. Buffalo regained the lead with a fourth quarter field goal, set up by Jay Cutler's second interception of the day. Throwing off his back foot, Cutler's pass was snatched from the air by defensive tackle Kyle Williams. The Bears kicked a field goal in the game's final minute to force overtime.
After the Bears punted on the opening possession of overtime, the Bills' Fred Jackson ran 38-yards, and stiff-armed Conte twice in the process, to set up the winning field goal.
The Bears lost on Sunday due to miscues on both offense and defense. Cutler failed to live up to his lofty new contract. While he did complete 34 of 49 passes for 349 yards and two touchdowns, his two interceptions were mistakes a quarterback earning $22 million shouldn't make.
Matt Forte was solid running and catching the ball, gaining 82 yards on the ground on 17 carries while also catching a eight passes for a team-high 87 yards. Marshall caught eight passes for 71 yards and a TD, Alshon Jeffery gained 71 on five catches, and Martellus Bennett caught eight for 70 yards and a touchdown. Both Marshall and Jeffrey missed much of the game with injuries, Marshall to his knee and Jeffrey suffered a hamstring injuries. Given that the receivers were hobbled, perhaps Marc Trestman made the wrong call on offensive a number of times, having Cutler throw on third-and-short situations that came up empty.
The Bears revamped defensive line also did not live up to the hype on Sunday. Buffalo ran for 193 yards against the Bears, with high profile free agents Jared Allen and Lamarr Houston each recording just a single tackle. Chris Conte had the Bears' one turnover of the day, but also was ineffective at tackling all day long, including Fred Jackson's 38-yard run in OT.
The loss to lowly Buffalo opens a lot of questions for the Bears, whose schedule doesn't get any easier. They head to San Francisco to face the 49ers next week, followed by a Monday Night game against the Jets and their first match-up with Green Bay to finish the first quarter of the season.
On top of the tough schedule coming up, the Bears need to assess their injury situation. In addition to the Bears' top two receivers getting banged up, offensive linemen Roberto Garza and Matt Slauson both departed the game with ankle sprains. A healthy line is a critical component to the Bears' offensive attack, which will be important to the team's fate if the defense continues to struggle.