The Chicago Bears scored on their first drive of the game, but thanks to a slew of injuries and poor decisions on both sides of the ball, they dropped their season opener by a score of 23-20 to the Buffalo Bills on Sunday afternoon.
Jay Cutler threw two interceptions in the game, and Brandon Marshall lost a fumble as the Bears dropped to 0-1 on the season. Matt Slauson, Alshon Jeffery, and Roberto Garza also left the game early thanks to injuries, putting an even darker hue on the loss.
The Bills went three and out on their first drive of the game thanks to some strong defense by the Bears’ defensive line, and the offense quickly went to work. After a first down pass to Brandon Marshall, Jay Cutler found Alshon Jeffery open deep downfield for a 44-yard gain. On the very next play, Martellus Bennett got a free release up the middle of the field, and Cutler tossed him an easy touchdown pass as the Bears took a 7-0 lead.
Unfortunately for the Bears, the good vibes didn’t last for long as the Bills marched back down the field and tied things up. Robert Woods had several good catches on the drive, including a jumping grab in a 1-on-1 battle with Tim Jennings, and EJ Manuel finished off the drive on a read option play that he ran easily into the end zone to tie things up at 7-7.
The Bears had a good drive going thanks to a couple more good Cutler passes, but things broke down after a failed flea flicker and a screen pass that the quarterback underthrew to Josh Morgan. On the third down play, Jordan Mills got blown up at the line by Bills defensive end Mario Williams, and after he sacked Cutler the Bears were forced to punt the ball away.
The response from the Bears’ defense was quick however, and they were able to stop the Bills in their tracks as the first quarter ended. Willie Young made a nice play to keep Manuel contained on a bootleg pattern out to the right side of the field, and then finished off the drive by sacking Manuel for a big loss to keep the game tied at 7-7.
As the second quarter got underway, the Bears got a couple of big runs from Matt Forte to get a drive going, but things went south quickly as Marshall coughed up a fumble that the Bills recovered and returned to midfield. The Bills were stopped in short order by another great play from Young and a nice tackle by Danny McCray, but Dan Carpenter booted in a long field goal to give Buffalo the lead at 10-7.
The Bears’ offense once again sputtered when they took the field on their next drive, with Matthew Mulligan negating a Bennett reception, and things got even worse when a pass intended for Bennett by Cutler was intercepted by former Bear Corey Graham. Graham returned the ball all the way inside the 20-yard line, and Spiller grabbed a touchdown reception on the first Bills play from scrimmage to give his team a 17-7 advantage.
Before the two minute warning, the Bears were forced to punt again after a Roberto Garza hands to the face penalty, but the Bills couldn’t convert despite some big runs from Anthony Dixon. The Bears ended up running out the clock instead of gunning for the points, and as the halftime horn sounded they still trailed by 10 points.
As the third quarter got underway, the Bears got some bad news on the injury front as Garza and Matt Slauson remained on the sidelines. Things then went from bad to worse as Jeffery was sidelined with a hamstring injury, but despite all of the ailments, they were still able to cut the deficit to just seven points when Robbie Gould booted through a 41-yard field goal to make it a 17-10 game.
The Bills came back on the field to try to extend their lead, but they were thwarted by a tremendous interception by Chris Conte. Reading the route perfectly, Conte undercut the receiver and intercepted the Manuel pass to give the Bears back the ball.
The Bears’ offense began to hum along even without several starters, with Santonio Holmes making a great play and drawing a 15-yard penalty to really kickstart the drive. With about four minutes remaining in the third quarter, Cutler rolled out and lofted a ball over the top of the defense, and Marshall went up and hauled in the touchdown catch to tie things up at 17-17.
On their next drive, the Bears got a bit of a scare as Marshall had his leg rolled up underneath him on a first down catch. The officials ruled the play an incomplete pass initially, but after a savvy challenge by Marc Trestman, the call was reversed, and the Bears got to continue their drive. It didn’t end up resulting in anything as Marshall remained out of commission, and the Bills got the ball back.
Later on in the fourth quarter, the Bears had the ball once again, but on a third and short Cutler threw a terrible interception to give the Bills the ball back. With his receivers all closely covered, Cutler tried to force in a pass to Bennett, but defensive lineman Kyle Williams snared it to give Buffalo a chance, and they ultimately converted on it to give themselves a 20-17 lead with about four minutes remaining in the game.
Fortunately for the Bears though, they were able to move the ball back down the field, and despite two straight incompletions to Marshall and Holmes, Gould booted a 37-yard field goal to tie things up at 20-20 with just 30 seconds left. When they got the ball back, the Bills took a knee, and the game headed to overtime.
After the Bears failed to move the ball down the field on their first drive of overtime, the Bills used a long pass to Mike Williams to get onto the Bears' side of the field. Fred Jackson then proved to be the hero for the team as he fond an open gap in the line and sprinted down to the 1-yard line to set up a chip shot field goal for Carpenter, who promptly won the game for Buffalo and sent Chicago to defeat.
The Bears won't have any easier time next week, as they battle the San Francisco 49'ers on Sunday Night Football on NBC. The game begins at 7:30pm CDT.