Buffalo Bills 35, Chicago Bears 13: Rapid recap and notes

For two quarters, the Buffalo Bills stepped on enough rakes against the Chicago Bears that it looked like there might be an upset to worry about. After three quarters, they only held a one-score lead. But although they trailed 10-6 at halftime, the Bills outscored the Bears 25-7 in the second half, coasted to victory, and won their 12th game of the season. For one more week, the Bills maintain their position as the top seed in the AFC.

The Bears ran out the gate with confidence, buoyed by their close game with the league-leading Philadelphia Eagles last weekend. They averaged eight yards per play on their opening drive, and quarterback Justin Fields finished it off with a touchdown pass to wide-open wide receiver Dante Pettis. Buffalo overcame a pair of penalties, aided by running back James Cook’s 24-yard run, and quarterback Josh Allen hit wide receiver Gabe Davis (also wide open) for a 19-yard touchdown. Kicker Tyler Bass, however, missed the extra point, and the Bears led 7-6 as a result.

A 40-yard kickoff return gave the Bears impressive starting field position, and after a first down conversion, they were in Buffalo territory. The Bills were able to hold them back, though, and while Chicago tried for a fourth-down conversion instead of a long field goal, Ed Oliver tipped the pass and ended the drive.

As the Bills took over possession and the first quarter rolled to a close, they strode to Chicago’s 19-yard line. But another offensive penalty pushed them backwards, and when Allen tried going for a deep touchdown, Chicago’s defense was prepared — rookie cornerback Kyler Gordon dropped deep and intercepted the pass. Although the Bills were able to force a punt, Nyheim Hines made a poor choice to let the ball roll, and the result was a 63-yard kick that ended at the two-yard line. Buffalo couldn’t get out of their own way on that possession, gained two yards, and punted, and with a good return, the Bears were already in field goal range. The Bills held them out of the end zone, but kicker Cairo Santos scored a 37-yard field goal and the Bears led 10-6.

Buffalo’s patented two-minute drill sure seemed promising to start — four consecutive carries gained a whopping 46 yards and brought the Bills to the Chicago 20 with more than a minute remaining. But then they misfired on three consecutive passes, and Tyler Bass’s 38-yard attempt flew wide right. The half ended with the Bears leading in place, and head coach Sean McDermott surely laid into his players at halftime.

Something clicked for the Bills after halftime, because they scored two touchdowns on their first two drives, while the defense forced a fumble, then two three-and-outs. With three minutes left in the third quarter, the Bills led 21-10 and had possession at Chicago’s 44-yard line. They were set to put the game away, but Gabe Davis fumbled away the ball on his next catch. One play later, Justin Fields made a beautiful 44-yard throw to wide receiver Velus Jones Jr. and it looked like the Bears wouldn’t go away without a fight. The Bills played a superb red zone sequence, forcing a 4th & 3 at their 16-yard line. The Bears seemed to move the chains with a short pass, but after a coach’s challenge, it was confirmed that Tre’Davious White made the tackle just shy of the yardage to gain.

Still, the Bills couldn’t close out the game. It took two plays for Allen to overthrow James Cook and make another interception. Buffalo held Chicago to a total gain of one yard on that possession, but the field position enabled a field goal that brought the situation back to a one-score game.

Both teams traded three-and-outs in the fourth quarter, and then Allen and his running backs put the game away for good. An eight-play, 56-yard drive, with 55 of those yards gained by running backs, ended with a touchdown and a 28-13 score. After the Bears failed a desperate fourth-down attempt on their next possession, the Bills had great field position for one more touchdown. On four plays, gaining 20 yards, the team wrapped a bow on their win when tight end Dawson Knox leaked free for a 13-yard touchdown catch on fourth down.

The game ended with a vintage Nathan Peterman appearance, featuring a game-ending interception — his first in favor of the Buffalo Bills; Happy Holidays, Bills fans!

Injury report

  • Dawson Knox landed hard on his shoulder after a leaping catch on Buffalo’s opening drive. He stayed down for a while and temporarily came out of the game, but it seemed like he was mostly just sore from landing on the frozen turf.
  • Ryan Bates came out of the game for a handful of plays in the second quarter, but returned to action at the start of the third quarter.

Quick hits

  • The commentator’s curse is undefeated in the kicking game. Right as Greg Gumbel was finishing his narration about Tyler Bass’ field goal streak, Bass botched a 38-yard attempt.
  • When running back Devin Singletary broke free for a 33-yard touchdown run today, it gave him a new longest play for the 2022 season. His previous long was a 30-yard carry against the Green Bay Packers.
  • Singletary ended up breaking the century mark in this game. It was the first time the Bills had a 100-yard rusher in 15 games, and only the third occurrence in Singletary’s 59-game career.
  • James Cook came so close to a hundred yards, but finished with 11 carries for 99 yards. That’s a new career high for the rookie.
  • Overall, the Bills pounded Chicago into submission with their running game. They had 31 carries for 254 yards and three rushing TDs today.
  • Some of that gameplan came at the expense of wide receiver Stefon Diggs, who was only targeted twice today. He caught two passes for 26 yards, which brought him above 100 catches on the season.
  • On Chicago’s first drive, David Montgomery had a 28-yard run. The rest of the game, the Bears carried 28 times for 52 yards — an average gain of 1.86 yards per carry.
  • Justin Fields, the thousand-yard rusher, gained 11 yards on seven carries.
  • Ed Oliver had a tremendous day today, with a sack, two TFLs, four tackles, and two passes defended.
  • Defensive end Kingsley Jonathan, cut earlier this year by the Bears, was promoted for his first Bills game today, and he ended up pretty useful for his new (old team). He had a TFL and played well in containing Justin Fields on the edge when he had the chance.
  • Reggie Bush watch: Running back Nyheim Hines gained two rushing yards today, which now has him tied with Bush at -3 rushing yards on the season.

Next week

Monday Night Football against the red-hot Cincinnati Bengals who defeated the New England Patriots today, winning their seventh straight and nine of their last ten games. The loser of that game is out of contention for the top seed in the AFC. No pressure!

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