ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. – After failing to produce multiple takeaways last weekend against the Jets for the first time all season, the Bears defense had one thing on its mind Sunday in Buffalo.
"Last week we realized we didn't quite get our goal, so we wanted to get back on track with that," said cornerback Kyle Fuller. "It's our focus every week, but we definitely put a little but more emphasis on it, and I feel like we did a good job with that."
Did they ever. One week after creating no turnovers in a 24-10 win over the Jets, the defense generated four takeaways and returned two for touchdowns Sunday, enabling the Bears to dismantle the Buffalo Bills 41-9 at New Era Field.
In improving to 5-3 with their second straight victory, the Bears matched their win total from last season and maintained their narrow margin atop the NFC North ahead of the Vikings (5-3-1), who beat the Lions 24-9 Sunday in Minnesota.
Facing a struggling Bills offense quarterbacked by Nathan Peterman, the Bears defense controlled the game from the outset. On Buffalo's first 12 possessions through the first three quarters, the Bears held the Bills to three points, 177 yards and 11 first downs. Buffalo did not make its only red-zone trip of the day until the fourth period.
The defense also recorded four sacks and allowed a season-low nine points.
"It all came from practice," said outside linebacker Leonard Floyd. "This past week we all made sure we came in every day and attacked the day, and today we just came out here and executed at a high level."
After a scoreless first quarter, the Bears dominated the Bills in the second period, outscoring them 28-0 with two touchdowns on offense and two TDs on defense.
The Bears drew first blood on their third possession of the game, taking a 7-0 lead on Jordan Howard's 1-yard touchdown run. The TD was set up by Mitchell Trubisky's 26-yard pass to Trey Burton on third-and-15.
The Bears defense followed by generating takeaways on three straight possessions, returning 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.
“When I wrapped him up, he was still up and trying to fight me, so I’m like, ‘I’m just going to go for the ball,’” Jackson said. “I went for the ball. Roquan [Smith] came and made a good hit and I was able to get it out and scoop and score.”
The defense produced its second takeaway on three plays as Adrian Amos Jr. intercepted a pass that receiver Terrelle Pryor juggled into the air while being hit by Fuller.
On Buffalo's next drive, Floyd picked off a deflected pass and returned it 19 yards for a TD, giving the Bears a 21-0 lead with 3:32 left in the first half.
Fuller again created the takeaway by hitting receiver Zay Jones before the pass arrived. The ball caromed off Jones' arm to Floyd, who had dropped into coverage. There was no pass interference called against Fuller because Jones was on the line of scrimmage.
"Plays like that happen when you run to the ball," Floyd said.
Tarik Cohen's dynamic 38-yard punt return then set up Howard's 18-yard touchdown run, giving the Bears a 28-0 lead with :44 remaining in the half. Howard bowled over safety Jordan Poyer on the play. On Cohen's punt return, he darted to his left, spun back to his right and then reversed field again to his left and raced up the sideline.
Stephen Hauschka's 41-yard field goal on the opening possession of the second half put the Bills on the board. But the Bears answered with Cody Parkey's 23-yard field goal, increasing their lead to 31-3 midway through the third quarter.
After Fuller helped create the Bears' first two interceptions, he picked off a pass of his own on the final play of the third quarter, setting up Parkey's 45-yard field goal.
The Bills finally got into the end zone with 5:41 left in the game, making the score 34-9 on Peterman's 1-yard sneak. But Trubisky's 2-yard TD pass to Burton widened the margin to 41-9 a little over a minute later.
The Bears offense ran just 46 plays in the game, compiling 190 yards and 11 first downs. Trubisky completed 12 of 20 passes for 135 yards with one TD, one interception and a 76.0 passer rating. But with an opportunistic big-play defense, it was more than enough to lead the Bears to their most lopsided road victory since Oct. 7, 2012 when they beat the Jaguars 41-3 in Jacksonville.
"They put in a great week of practice," Nagy said. "Mentally, I thought our guys were strong all week and it showed on the field. They came ready to play and that was great in so many ways."