While Mitch Trubisky’s final numbers weren’t pretty (12/20, 135 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, 76.0 passer rating), he didn’t try to force anything and made good decisions against a salty Bills defense. He converted a trio of third-and-longs in the first half, impressively finding Anthony Miller for 19 yards on third and 10, Taylor Gabriel for 22 yards on third and seven and Trey Burton for 26 yards on third and 15. That third-and-15 conversion allowed the Bears to get in the end zone for the first time in the game. All three of those throws represented progress for Trubisky.
He did make one bad decision on his first drive, when he tried to extend a play instead of throwing the ball away, leading to a fumble and a seven-yard loss that took the Bears out of field goal range. His interception came when he sailed a throw over the head to Burton in the second half, when the game was largely out of reach.
“I cannot begin to tell you how good this defense is,” coach Matt Nagy said. “They’re a really good defense and our guys knew that all week long. We talked about bringing a lunch pail all week. It was going to be a physical game. The one thing that, No. 1, we won, that is always the only thing that matters. No. 2, there (were) times in the game where I thought he led that team and he made plays where we needed to make plays, and that’s what’s most important in this process with Mitch. He’s putting us in great situations, so I’m really proud of him.
RUNNING BACKS: B-
Jordan Howard delivered his most physical run of the year when he plowed over Bills safety Jordan Hoyer for an 18-yard touchdown, and he started the Bears’ scoring with a one-yard plunge into the end zone, too. Howard still finished with only 47 yards on 14 carries, but didn’t get much help from his offense line. Tarik Cohen had a quiet day, only netting five yards on six carries while catching one of two targets for eight yards. Taquan MIzzell was targeted twice in his first action of 2018, catching one for five yards.
WIDE RECEIVERS: C-
Miller made a big impact early, taking a pitch for a nine-yard run on the first play of the game and making some impressive catches on his way to a five-reception, 49-yard game (his taunt of Bills coach Sean McDermott, who thought Miller bobbled a catch while going out of bounds, was amusing). Taylor Gabriel caught three of five targets for 45 yards but did draw a 47-yard pass interference flag on one of Trubisky’s only deep balls of the game. Josh Bellamy went 0-for-2 in targets and didn’t make an impact, while Javon Wims only played six snaps with Allen Robinson and Kevin White inactive. This group, though, clearly missed Robinson.
TIGHT ENDS: C+
Burton did well to identify the soft spot in the Bills’ defense to catch that 26-yarder to convert a third-and-15 and set the Bears up for a touchdown, and also he caught Trubisky’s garbage-time touchdown in the fourth quarter. He was flagged for a dodgy offensive pass interference penalty, though. Dion Sims left the game after being placed in the concussion protocol.
OFFENSIVE LINE: C
Trubisky was rarely under pressure, which was a positive, but too frequently did guards James Daniels, Eric Kush and Bryan Witzmann get blown back and give Howard very little room to run. Charles Leno committed false start penalties on back-to-back snaps on the Bears’ second drive, and was guilty of another one midway through the second quarter. Daniels was flagged for holding in the first half, too.
DEFENSIVE LINE: A+
Akiem Hicks and Eddie Goldman absolutely dominated the Bills’ offensive line and were critical in holding LeSean McCoy to a laughable 10 yards on 10 carries. Most of Chris Ivory’s 36 yards on seven carries came after the game as well over. If you want a starting point for the Bears’ defensive dominance against the Bills, start here. Jonathan Bullard played well against the run while Roy Robertson-Harris delivered a punishing sack late in the fourth quarter, and Nick Williams took advantage of his opportunity with Bilal Nichols out to notch a quarterback hit, too
OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS: A
Leonard Floyd had his most disruptive game of the season even though he didn’t hit home for a sack. He did take advantage of an excellent play by Kyle Fuller to turn that into a pick-six, his first interception and second touchdown of his NFL career. Isaiah Irving recorded his first sack of 2018, while Aaron Lynch notched a sack, too and was active in pass-rushing situations all game. the only blemish here was Lynch getting flagged for a Hingle McCringleberry-esque hip thrusting unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, which Nagy said he won’t allow to happen again.
INSIDE LINEBACKERS: A+
Roquan Smith and Danny Trevathan combined for 25 tackles and were absolutely everywhere against the run. Smith played a critical role in Eddie Jackson forcing a fumble he dashed back for a touchdown, coming from a blitz to the sideline to hit tight end Jason Croom and allow Jackson to rip the ball out. The Bills were occasionally able to get Smith or Trevathan in a matchup mis-match, but not frequently enough to make a real dent in the Bears’ defense. Sunday was this pair’s best game of the year.
DEFENSIVE BACKS: A+
Sunday was one of Kyle Fuller’s best games with the Bears, if not his best game. He had a hand, literally, in three interceptions — he dislodged/deflected passes that were picked off by Floyd and Adrian Amos, and then intercepted one of his own. The fact that Eddie Jackson — who forced, recovered and returned a fumble 65 yards for a touchdown — doesn’t get first mention here speaks to how good a game Fuller played. Jackson also tackled well in run defense and against the Bills’ short passing game. Amos, too, had an outstanding game, notching his first sack of the season, breaking up a pass intended for Kelvin Benjamin in the end zone and, like the rest of the back end, tackling well.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B
This unit pulled things together after a suspect start that saw Pat O’Donnell punt only 23 yards to the Bills’ 18, and had Sherrick McManis be flagged for a block in the back on a Tarik Cohen punt return. Josh Bellamy made a nice play to help down an O’Donnell punt at the Bills’ 11-yard line, and Cohen had a classic no-no-no-no-yes 38-yard punt return that helped get the Bears a 28-0 lead before halftime. Cody Parkey connected on field goals from 23 and 45 yards, too.
It seemed a little curious as to why Nagy left his first-team offense in with a 25-point lead midway through the fourth quarter, which he explained on Monday as going with his gut. Still, seeing Gabriel be tended to by trainers with about five minutes left in a blowout win was an unnecessary scare.
The Bears were heavily penalized — 14 times for 129 yards — which, yes, partly had to do with a nit-picky officiating crew. But the general lack of discipline was at least slightly concerning for a team that only committed 13 penalties in its last three games, and hadn’t been flagged more than seven times in a game this year.
All that being said, the Bears’ gameplan worked well. Vic Fangio’s defense smothered the Bills’ run game, and the Bears’ offense took what was there and capitalized when gifted good field position.