ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. – The Bears didn’t need much offense Sunday because their defense scored 14 points and smothered the Bills most of the afternoon in a 41-9 victory that kept the visitors atop the NFC North at 5-3 and dropped the Bills to 2-7.
Good thing, since the Bears’ offense wasn’t much better than the Bills, who are at the bottom of the NFL in several categories and have now scored just 46 points in their last five games. The Bears totaled 190 yards of offense, 74 fewer than the Bills. It was by far the Bears’ lowest output of the season, and their 4.1-yard average per play was also their worst of 2018.
But it hardly mattered. By the time the Bills scored with 5:41 left, less than one-third of the 68,749 in attendance at New Era Field remained to witness it.
The Bears’ defense has gotten downright stingy since being embarrassed by the Dolphins in a Week Six, 31-28 overtime loss in which they allowed 541 yards and then losing 38-31 to the Patriots the following week. The inferior quality of their last two opponents has helped.
After permitting just 207 yards in last week’s 24-10 victory over the Jets, the Bears’ defense throttled a Bills offense forced to start interception-prone Nathan Peterman at quarterback because Josh Allen (elbow) and Derek Anderson (concussion) were unavailable. Peterman threw three more picks, although two should be blamed on his receivers. He has 12 career interceptions on just 130 passes and three touchdowns. The Bears finished with four takeaways and four sacks.
“Our mindset is to dominate every week, and last week we didn’t get any turnovers,” S Eddie Jackson said. “So that was a big emphasis for us to come out here and get some turnovers.”
Mission accomplished. And Jackson was at the center of the storm.
After a scoreless first quarter, the Bears put up 28 points in the next 15 minutes. Jordan Howard TD runs of 1 and 18 yards bracketed the two defensive scores. The 28 points were the most the Bears have scored in a second quarter since 1993, when they also scored 28 against the Buccaneers in a 47-17 victory.
The Bears entered Sunday’s game leading the NFL in interception percentage and quickly added to the total. After S Adrian Amos became the ninth Bears player this season with a pick, OLB Leonard Floyd became the 10th on the next Buffalo possession.
Peterman’s pass intended for Zay Jones got to him about the same time as CB Kyle Fuller, who blew up the Bills’ wide receiver. The ball deflected into the arms of Floyd, who went 19 yards for a touchdown to become the third Bear with a pick-6 this season, joining Khalil Mack and Prince Amukamara.
“Basically I did my job,” said Floyd, who gave the Bears a 21-0 lead. “The call was for me to drop, and I was just running to the ball. I saw the ball pop up in the air, I caught it and everything else just happened. You feel good all over that you made a play for your team, scored a touchdown for your team and put them in a better position to win the game.”
On the final play of the third quarter, Fuller snagged his team-best fourth interception, matching his career-best season total in 2014 when he was a rookie.
The interceptions were preceded by S Eddie Jackson’s 65-yard fumble return for a touchdown. After Peterman completed a short pass to TE Jason Croom, Jackson made the initial hit, then yanked the ball out, picked it up and cruised into the end zone.
“He was trying to fight me a little bit, and I just reached for the ball,” Jackson said. “Roquan (Smith) came in and made a great hit, the ball came out and I just scooped it.”
It was one of Smith’s game-high 13 tackles, which tied the rookie’s career high, as the Bears held an opponent to 276 total yards or fewer for the fourth time – not coincidentally, all victories.
“Yeah, they’re awesome,” Bears QB Mitch Trubisky said of his defense. “It makes it real easy on the offense when the defense is scoring for you as well.”
Trubisky’s 76.0 passer rating was buoyed by a garbage-time, two-yard TD pass to TE Trey Burton with 4:36 remaining in the game.
But an average performance by Trubisky and the offense was easy to rationalize, considering the Bills’ defense may be the best the Bears have faced this season – and because the Bears’ defense is even better.