If only we could depict this as a victory of good over evil. So much more satisfying, don’t you think? Such a better tale. Alas, there’s nothing evil about the Bills, so we’ll have to settle for a storyline of good kicking the living daylights out of bad.
The Bears went to Buffalo and did what dominant teams do to weak ones, beating the woeful Bills 41-9 on Sunday. The victory wasn’t all empty calories. The Bears believe they’re in the process of becoming one of the NFL’s top teams, and if that’s the case, then Sunday served a purpose beyond mere annihilation. It taught them about stamping their superiority over a surrendering army. OK, the Bills might be the surrendering-est army on the planet, but you get the idea.
The Bears scored 28 points in the second quarter, with one touchdown coming on a 65-yard fumble return by Eddie Jackson and another on a 19-yard interception return by the previously imperceptible Leonard Floyd.
The defense played so well that no one had to ask players if they had raised their game to make up for the absence of injured superstar Khalil Mack (ankle). The week before, that had been a touchy subject after the Bears, without Mack, beat the Jets. Defensive players wanted everyone to know that they had been good before Mack arrived in early September and were good without him. So there.
The Bears’ excellence Sunday wasn’t even a result of hapless quarterback Nathan Peterman, who was the pregame favorite to get the blame for everything that could go wrong for the Bills. Both of the interceptions he threw in the first half were the result of the ball bouncing off of receivers and into the hands of Bears defenders.
With a 28-0 lead, Bears coach Matt Nagy said his halftime message was simple: “We’re not done. We need to be able to stay aggressive. We need to have the finish mentality. We’ve been in this [position] before. Don’t take the foot off the pedal.’’
He was probably overthinking the situation. One thing was clear almost from the beginning of the game: Barring an act of God, there was no way the Bills were going to mount much in the way of offense. They had come into the game without a touchdown in their previous 26 possessions. And that was mostly with Josh Allen and Derek Anderson, not the third-string Peterman, playing quarterback.
Which would come first: Halley’s Comet or a Buffalo touchdown? As it turned out, the Bills would need 12 more drives before they found the end zone.
It’d be wise to avoid making any grand pronouncements off this game. The temptation is to look at what the Bears’ defense did to the Bills and project it on the second half of the season. It was great to see so many contributions made by younger defenders, including Jackson, Floyd, Roquan Smith, Kyle Fuller and Adrian Amos. But the Bills are so bad (that word again) that it levels out all the heights the Bears reached over and over.
Still, this is what good teams do to inferior teams. They don’t get bored. They don’t play with their food. They impose their will. If the most the Bears can take away from a laugher like this is confidence, it’s no small thing for such a young team.
“We won,’’ Nagy said. “That always is the only thing that matters.’’
Mitch Trubisky was average, and it didn’t matter. There will be no public outcry over it, no gnashing of teeth. He didn’t need to be anything more than pedestrian, and with 135 passing yards, he wasn’t. The Bears’ defense almost made the Bears’ offense unnecessary.
“It makes it real easy,’’ Trubisky said.
Nagy was able to rest Mack and wide receiver Allen Robinson (groin injury) for the second week in a row. That should pay off for a team with three division games in a span of 11 days, starting with the Lions at home next Sunday.
Anything less than victories over the Jets and the Bills would have been a major disappointment. That’s a reflection of the strides the Bears have made and, OK, fine, also how bad those two teams are. But they did it, they’re 5-3 and they’re in first place in the NFC North.
Now it gets a lot harder. No more Kansas-Emporia State exhibition games.
But after all the losing the last four years, what a fun place to be.
Good beat bad Sunday.
And it was very good.