The Bears won their second straight game and maintained their first-place lead in the NFC North with a 41-9 demolition of the Bills Sunday in Buffalo. Here are three things that stood out in the victory:
(1) The Bears defense played its best game of the season, generating four takeaways, two touchdowns and four sacks.
The Bears took control of Sunday's game by outscoring the Bills 28-0 in the second quarter, sparked by a defense that produced takeaways on three straight Buffalo possessions and returned two of them for touchdowns.
First, Eddie Jackson stripped tight end Jason Croom after a 1-yard reception, scooped up the ball and returned it 65 yards for a TD. On the Bills' next two drives, Kyle Fuller broke up passes that resulted in deflected interceptions by Adrian Amos and Leonard Floyd, who returned his pick 19 yards for a touchdown to give the Bears a 21-0 lead. Fuller later generated the Bears' fourth takeaway and matched a career high with his fourth interception of the season—all of which have come in the last four games.
"Defensively, I thought it was great to see the takeaways and the touchdowns," said coach Matt Nagy. "Opportunistic football; guys flying around, tipping balls in the air, extra-effort plays. It wasn't one or two individuals that stood out in the game defensively. It was everybody. It was all 11 on that side of the ball."
The Bears rank second in the NFL with 21 takeaways and a plus-10 turnover differential. They've forced at least two turnovers in seven of eight games and at least three in five of their last six contests. The only exception was eight days ago when they didn't produce any takeaways in a win over the Jets.
"We want to go in with a goal to get three or more turnovers," Jackson said. "Unfortunately, last week we didn't get [any]. So we emphasized that. We needed turnovers this week and we came out here and we got them."
The defense also registered four sacks after mustering only two in its previous three games and held Bills running backs Chris Ivory (7 carries for 36 yards and LeSean McCoy (10-10) to a combined 46 yards on 17 attempts.
Nagy was pleased with the group effort on defense. On Monday, after watching tape of the game, he praised nose tackle Eddie Goldman, the entire secondary and inside linebackers Roquan Smith and Danny Trevathan, who finished 1-2 on the Bears with 13 and 12 tackles, respectively. "Between the two of them, with Danny and Roquan, I thought it was probably their best game of the year, flying around and making tackles," Nagy said.
(2) The Bears offense didn't put up big numbers but did what it needed to do against a strong Bills defense.
The Bears ran just 46 plays Sunday—20 fewer than their season average—and were held to season lows with 190 yards and 11 first downs. But the offense scored three touchdowns and committed its only turnover while leading the game 31-3 midway through the third quarter. The TDs came on Jordan Howard runs of 1 and 18 yards and Mitchell Trubisky's 2-yard pass to Trey Burton. "The defense that we played is solid," Nagy said. "They play fast, they're aggressive. It's a top-five defense that we played."
After passing for 354, 316, 330 and 220 yards in his previous four games, Trubisky connected on 12 of 20 passes for 135 yards—season lows in all three categories. "I'll tell you this and I said this to him on the bench," Nagy said. "He's a competitive kid. I could see, you get that feeling, 46 plays and we never got in a rhythm offensively. Some of that was by the game, how the game went. I just told him to look up at the scoreboard. That's the only thing that matters, 41 points. We won and that's all I care about. You have games where you don't always get in a rhythm. It was a weird game offensively for us, just for different reasons."
In the first half, Trubisky converted three third-down plays into first downs with completions of 19 yards to Anthony Miller on third-and-10, 22 yards to Taylor Gabriel on third-and-seven and 26 yards to Burton on third-and-15. Nagy called the pass to Burton Trubisky's "best throw of the game." Said Nagy: He had some guys in his face. That was an all-arm throw. He just completely used his arm and wrist and made a hell of an accurate throw. That's what he can do, and as we grow in this offense he'll make more and more of those throws."
The offense was effective at times but was its own worst enemy at others. The unit drew five penalties—all in the first half—with three false starts on left tackle Charles Leno, Jr., a holding call against rookie left guard James Daniels and an offensive pass interference foul on Burton. "We knew going into it, third down, we had to be efficient," Nagy said. "We were to start, and then we ended up going 3-for-11, which isn't good enough. Too many penalties as well. We had several false starts, which sometimes happens on the road. That's the benefit of having a loud crowd. But we've got to eliminate that."
(3) After making costly mistakes in its two previous games, the Bears special teams units performed well across the board in Sunday's win.
Cody Parkey, who missed a 53-yard field goal attempt in overtime in Miami and a 40-yard try last Sunday against the Jets, was perfect in Buffalo. The Bears kicker converted field goals of 23 and 45 yards without a miss, made all five of his extra point attempts and drove all eight of his kickoffs out of the end zone for touchbacks.
Pat O'Donnell averaged 40.0 yards on five punts with a long of 61 yards. He placed four punts inside-the-20, forcing the Bills to start those possessions at their own 18-, 11-, 11- and 13-yard lines. On one of those punts, Joshua Bellamy kept the ball from bouncing into the end zone by alertly batting it back into the field of play.
Tarik Cohen's nifty 36-yard punt return to the Buffalo 23 late in the first half set up Howard's 18-yard touchdown run that gave the Bears a 28-0 lead.
Bears photographer Jacob Funk selected his best photos from the Bears game against the Buffalo Bills at New Era Field.