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Bears defense produces three takeaways but struggles stopping run

Bears linebacker Nicholas Morrow
Bears linebacker Nicholas Morrow

For the second straight week, an opportunistic Bears defense generated three takeaways against one of the NFL's most explosive offenses, but it wasn't enough in a 35-13 loss to the Bills Saturday at Soldier Field.

Rookie cornerback Kyler Gordon and linebacker Nicholas Morrow intercepted Josh Allen passes, and linebacker Matt Adams forced a fumble that rookie safety Elijah Hicks recovered.

But a depleted defense was gashed on the ground, allowing the Bills to rush for 254 yards and three touchdowns on 31 carries, an average of 8.2 yards per attempt. Devin Singletary ran for 106 yards and one TD on 12 carries, James Cook rushed for 99 yards and one TD on 11 attempts and Allen added 41 yards on six carries.

The Bears yielded TD runs of 33 yards by Singletary and 27 yards by Cook as well as gains of 26 and 24 yards by Singletary.

"We've just got to penetrate, and everybody's got to stay disciplined and stay in their gaps and dominate the line of scrimmage," Adams said. "We've just got to get to the ball and swarm the ball, seven-plus to the ball to stop the run."

The Bears were missing four key defenders Saturday in linebacker Jack Sanborn, safety Eddie Jackson and cornerbacks Jaylon Johnson and Kindle Vildor, all of whom are on injured reserve.

But just as they did last Sunday against the Eagles, the Bears generated three takeaways via two interceptions and a fumble.

"Guys are just putting their mind on it," said coach Matt Eberflus. "We put it in front of the players. We've got a goal we want to accomplish here these last four games, and I think the guys are really doing a good job in practice. It all starts in practice. The guys are really working hard at punch, hammer, rake and strip attempts during practice, and we're doing a good job of focusing and catching the ball."

Gordon picked off a pass for the second straight week, snaring a ball that Allen floated into double coverage near the goal line in the first quarter. It was the third interception of the season for the Washington product, who became the fourth Bears rookie since 2000 to pick off passes in back-to-back games, joining Charles Tillman (2003), Nathan Vasher (2004) and Kyle Fuller (2014).

"It was just cover three," Eberflus said. "The play got extended, [Gordon] did a nice job of high pointing the ball, and he had a choice to keep it in [the end zone] or take it out, and he took it out and had a nice return to the 35."

The Bears' second takeaway came when Adams punched the ball away from receiver Gabe Davis at the end of a 12-yard reception late in the third quarter. It was reminiscent of the fumbles that Tillman regularly created with his patented "Peanut Punch."

"When you hustle, great things happen," Adams said. "I saw an opportunity and I just gave a punch at it, and it came out. The key is getting to the ball first. If you don't get to the ball, there's no chance to get a punch on it. As a linebacker, you just want to get to the ball and hit the ball as much as you can."

On the Bills' next possession, Morrow intercepted an ill-advised Allen pass over the middle and returned it five yards to the Buffalo 18. But the offense mustered just one yard on three plays and the Bears settled for Cairo Santos' 35-yard field goal, cutting the deficit to 21-13.

The offense failed to capitalize on the first two takeaways, punting and turning the ball over on downs following Gordon's interception and Hicks' fumble recovery, respectively. The Bears had similar issues versus the Eagles, scoring one touchdown but punting twice following their three takeaways.

"It's frustrating and we've got to put it all together," said tight end Cole Kmet. "You go back 3-4 weeks ago, and we were putting up a lot of points and maybe the defense was struggling a little bit. Now they've been creating turnovers these past couple weeks and now we've got to hold our end and be able to capitalize and be able to get touchdowns in those scenarios."