CHICAGO – There are Sunday nights and Mondays when watching the Bears play the same game against the same team five, six or seven times to analyze their performance can get a little tedious.
Surprisingly, even though the Bears' 41-9 beatdown of the Bills on Sunday was marred by 24 penalties for 292 yards, this was not one of those times.
Actually, the Bears' offense wasn’t very good in Buffalo in part because the Bills' defense is, and in part because they were sloppy and inefficient.
Their 190 yards of total offense, 3-for-11 third-down efficiency, 126 passing yards and 25:57 time of possession were all season lows, and even Mitch Trubisky’s newfound jets were missing, as he ran only once for 6 yards.
Trubisky looked out of sync all day – in part because of all the penalties, 14 for 129 yards on the Bears – as the Bills' defense committed to keeping everything in front of them and giving the Bears underneath throws but refusing to let them get downfield.
The numbers are a bit skewed by the fact that when the Bears did try to go down the field on their first possession of the third quarter, Bills cornerback Philip Gaines interfered with Taylor Gabriel for a 47-yard penalty, and Gaines foiled a fourth-quarter bomb to Anthony Miller with a 43-yard pass interference penalty.
But the Bears' offense also was its own worst enemy, with Charles Leno picking up three false-start flags, including back-to-back calls on the Bears' second possession, Trey Burton earning an offensive pass interference call and rookie James Daniels getting his first holding flag.
Miller and Gabriel had some good moments, and Jordan Howard ran the ball as hard as he has all year, including a vintage 18-yard touchdown to make it 28-0 before halftime.
But the offensive line had its weakest performance of the year, the short-yardage ground game was nonexistent because the line couldn’t move anyone off the ball, and the Bears' offense never found a rhythm.
Give the offense a C+ as a group but the O-line a C-.
So what was good about watching that mess?
The defense played its best game in years.
Akiem Hicks and Eddie Goldman dominated the line of scrimmage all afternoon, and Danny Trevathan and Roquan Smith were as active and in sync as we’ve seen them to date, with Smith playing his best game as a pro, showing up around the ball on almost every play.
LeSean “Shady” McCoy isn’t what he used to be, but hold that man to 10 yards on 10 carries and you’ve had yourself a day. And he only got past Hicks and Goldman to get to Smith and Trevathan two or three times.
Leonard Floyd didn’t have a sack again, and if he doesn’t start getting home soon, the Bears are going to have a problem.
But he was as active as any player on the field, extremely aggressive against the run early, disruptive in the backfield all afternoon and in the right place at the right time for the Kyle Fuller deflection he intercepted and took 19 yards to the house.
Aaron Lynch had an excellent day, minus an unfortunate brain cramp that netted him a stupid taunting penalty, and Isaiah Irving needs to be on the field more after notching one sack, narrowly running by a second one and adding another tackle for loss.
But the two best players on the field all day were Eddie Jackson and Kyle Fuller.
Jackson had looked a bit off against the Patriots and Jets, but in Buffalo he was around the ball all afternoon, and his 65-yard fumble return for a touchdown to make it a 14-0 game set the tone for the rest of the day.
Fuller is playing as physically, aggressively and confidently as any corner in the league right now and dictated the Bills' options to them all day long.
The only reason for the minus after the A the defense earned in Buffalo is the dumb roughing and unsportsmanlike penalties. And yes the Bills' offense stinks, but when the Bears' defense plays like it did Sunday, it can play with anyone.