ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Bears cornerback Kyle Fuller had the Bills beat before quarterback Nathan Peterman even threw his short pass to receiver Zay Jones late in the second quarter.
“Just third-and-short, possibly trying to get it out quick,” Fuller said. “[I] had a good position on an inside route.”
It included having what Fuller described as “a good feeling” for tight end Jason Croom, who tried to impede Fuller’s coverage with his route.
“Then once the play [starts],” Fuller said, “you just naturally do what you feel, and I was able to slip inside and able to make a play.”
It was a big one, too.
The resultant pass breakup by Fuller turned into an interception for outside linebacker Leonard Floyd, who returned it 19 yards for a touchdown.
At that point, the rout was fully on. The Bears took a 21-point lead on Floyd’s score, which eventually turned into a 41-9 romp at New Era Field on Sunday.
“You have to be alert [around Fuller],” Floyd said. “You always should be alert. You always should be running to the ball. Plays like that happen when you run to the ball.”
Plays like that happened around Fuller on Sunday. With the three pass breakups, including his own diving interception, Fuller was arguably the Bears’ best player during a dominant day against an inferior opponent with a turnover-prone quarterback in -Nathan Peterman.
On the Bills’ possession before Floyd’s touchdown, Fuller broke up a pass over the middle to receiver Terrelle Pryor. It led to another free ball in the air, which safety Adrian Amos dived for and intercepted.
“Kyle is playing like Kyle,” Amos said.
Or “Kurt,” according to Fox play-by-play broadcaster Chris Myers, who called Fuller by the wrong name. Jokes aside, Fuller should be in the Pro Bowl conversation if his strong play continues.
Over the last four games, Fuller has four interceptions and eight pass breakups. His four interceptions tied his career high from his rookie season in 2014.
“I don’t think any of us are surprised,” cornerback Prince Amukamara said. “Kyle is very ball-aware. That’s why they signed him to what they did, and I think they got a steal. But [it’s] great for him, and he’s definitely a leader for our team and for years to come.”
Amukamara is right. The Bears’ decision to match the Packers’ four-year, $56 million offer sheet for Fuller is proving to be prudent. On the field, he’s producing. Off of it, he has transformed from a soft-spoken first-round pick into an assertive veteran.
“He’s vocal, but he’s not loud vocal,” Floyd said. “He’ll pull you aside and tell you face-to-face instead of in front of everybody.”
It’s been a remarkable turnaround for a player whose toughness and willingness to play were openly questioned by defensive coordinator Vic Fangio during the 2016 season, which Fuller missed entirely after undergoing minor knee surgery during training camp.
Fuller has become a core player for one of the best defenses in the NFL.
“When he speaks, people listen,” Amos said. “He goes out there and does his job, and he doesn’t worry about little stuff, other than the details. He’s about business.”
And Fuller’s business was booming against the Bills.
In the final seconds of the third quarter, Fuller cut in front of an underthrown pass to receiver Kelvin Benjamin to make a diving interception.
“Inside, deeper route, at the sticks,” Fuller said. “[I was] kind of underneath, compared to over the top on a couple of the earlier ones, [and] I was able to make a good play on the ball.”
Fuller did that all game.
Just ask Floyd and Amos.
“We just had a good feel of the routes and being in good positions,” said Fuller, whose jam on Pryor broke up Peterman’s pass on a two-point conversion attempt in the fourth quarter.
“Today was a good showing of good things happen when you run to the ball. Guys were there to capitalize on some of the plays.”