Haugh: Opportunistic Bears D Leads In Laugher

November 04, 2018 - 4:40 pm
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(670 The Score) All you need to know about the ease of the Bears’ 41-9 flattening of the Bills on Sunday in Orchard Park, N.Y., came on a single snap in the third quarter.

Safety Eddie Jackson lined up in the offensive backfield, went in motion and faked catching a pitch. Jackson’s cameo appearance on offense meant nothing and everything for the Bears. On one hand, Jackson never touched the ball and fooled nobody on the Bills defense, so he was practically invisible. On the other, deploying a defensive player as a running back gave upcoming NFC North opponents something to consider and underscored how the Bills were so overmatched that the Bears used the second half preparing for a playoff run with a smirk on their face.

These weren't the kind of Bills anybody dreaded to see pop up.

What fun the Bears had in Buffalo, turning a so-called trap game into a mockery by halftime. Offensive teammates posed for a group photo as part of a touchdown celebration. Defensive teammates celebrated scoring two touchdowns themselves during a 28-point second-quarter explosion, the first time the Bears had outscored an opponent that badly in the second quarter since 1985. The entire team smiled at various times throughout a second straight easy victory without two of the Bears' best players, as pass rusher Khalil Mack and receiver Allen Robinson sat out with injuries.

"A great team win for us," coach Matt Nagy told reporters at New Era Stadium.

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Late in the fourth quarter, Nagy and the Bears even could have been accused of running up the score by throwing deep with a 25-point lead and making everybody wonder why starting quarterback Mitchell Trubisky was still being exposed to pass rushers. Nagy addressed the elephant in the room postgame.

"In this league, anything can happen," Nagy said. "We wanted to continue to stay aggressive."

Those are nits to pick another day. On this one, the focus centered around how complete the Bears can become once Mack and Robinson return from injuries – as early as next Sunday against the Lions that begins a stretch of three NFC North games in 12 days. And Nagy’s Bears look ready for anything. Now 5-3 at midseason, the Bears asserted themselves as a legitimate playoff contender and one of the NFL's biggest surprises by reminding the league how opportunistic their defense is.

Jackson – from his safety spot – scooped up a fumble by Bills tight end Jason Croom that he ripped out of Croom's arms and raced 66 yards for one touchdown. Outside linebacker Leonard Floyd plucked a pass deflected by Kyle Fuller out of midair and alertly sprinted 19 yards into the end zone for another. The Bears defense posed as big of a threat to score in the first half as their offense, especially with turnover machine Nathan Peterman at quarterback for the Bills.

Buffalo had a cornerback quit at halftime of a game earlier this season, Vontae Davis, but never before had so many players failed to show up for work. In one six-play sequence in the first half, the Bills turned the ball over three times. Over four quarters, the Bears defense outscored the Bills offense 14-9.

Floyd flashed as much as he had all season. Adrian Amos and Fuller added interceptions. Linebackers Danny Trevathan and Roquan Smith flew around with abandon. The pass rush depth showed with four sacks, spread among lesser-known role players such as Roy Robertson-Harris and Isaiah Irving. The intimidation factor of the Bears defense returned, important regardless of the opponent.

Nothing screamed desperation for the Bills more than going to the Wildcat formation and snapping the ball to a player signed last Tuesday – receiver and former quarterback Terrelle Pryor. The Bills' most egregious example of ineptitude came on the final untimed down of the first half when Peterman, rather than heave the ball into the end zone and hope for a miraculous catch or a penalty, tried beating Bears defenders to the end zone – the rare "Hail Mary" run. Suffice to say, he fell short. One of most statistically awful quarterbacks in NFL history, Peterman probably scared the Bears less than members of the Bills mafia raising a ruckus on their home turf. Three more interceptions increased Peterman’s career total to 12 in 130 pass attempts.

Trubisky regretted a few throws himself, but the Bears defense relieved the pressure on him. How nice that the Bears played well enough overall that Trubisky’s modest numbers – 12-of-20 for 135 yards with a touchdown and interception for a passer rating of 76.0 – reflected the game more than created concern. The videotape will show Trubisky enough inaccurate throws to keep anyone at Halas Hall from getting complacent yet illustrate ample evidence of the his playmaking ability too, such as the 26-yard strike to tight end Trey Burton on third-and-15. The growing chemistry with rookie receiver Anthony Miller, who caught a game-high five passes for 49 yards, continues to imply progress.

The Bears only ran 46 plays and amassed 190 total yards – outgained but hardly overwhelmed.

"One of those funky games you go up early," Trubisky said. "For me it’s not about numbers. We dominated all three phases."

The only negatives offensively involved penalties and isolated line breakdowns early, when it appeared the Bears really missed injured right guard Kyle Long. Rookie left guard James Daniels received a holding call. Fill-in guard Bryan Witzmann got engulfed on one play. The Bears were flagged 14 times for 129 yards – including three false starts by left tackle Charles Leno Jr. – but none more embarrassing than outside linebacker Aaron Lynch's unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for thrusting his hips after a sack. The reconfigured offensive line gradually will improve the more it plays together without Long, but the discipline and attention to detail needs to return before next Sunday at Soldier Field against the Lions.

That’s when it gets serious again for the Bears. This game simply provided laughter good for a Bears fan's soul.

David Haugh is the co-host of the Mully & Haugh Show on 670 The Score weekdays from 5-9 a.m. Listen to the show here. You can follow him on Twitter @DavidHaugh and email him at davi[email protected].​​​​​