coleryan Posts:21705 Followers:24
On 09/01/2014 11:57 AM in NFL

Buffalo at Chicago Game Day Central

The Monsters of the midway welcome the Buffalo Bills to town in week one. The Bills offense will attempt to get into gear against a Bears defense looking to return to their glory days.

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coleryan Posts:21705 Followers:24
09/02/2014 04:31 PM

Finally, the Chicago Bears' rebuilt defense gets a chance to show what it can do.

The Bears open the season at home against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday in what they hope is the start of a run to the playoffs after coming up short six of the past seven seasons.

A big reason for that optimism is an overhaul that added five-time Pro Bowl player Jared Allen and fellow end Lamarr Houston among others.

The defense didn't show much during the preseason, with the starters seeing limited time and not exactly dominating when they did play. Injuries were a factor, too.

But the Bears insist there's no reason to worry about their defense.

"I don't feel that trepidation," coach Marc Trestman said. "The whole defense wasn't together at one time during it. We're going to have to come together. It's going to be a process working together, getting to know each other, how each other works. But the talent level's there."

The Bears are counting on improved play from an overhauled defense after that group ranked among the worst in the league and in franchise history a year ago. They strengthened the line and added depth. But they didn't show much during the preseason, and that has at least some fans antsy.

The starters had trouble stopping rollout plays in the second preseason game against Jacksonville and wasn't particularly effective against the run. A week later, Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks had their way with the Bears in a 34-6 pounding that sent some chills through Chicago.

The Bears gave up more yards per game in the preseason than all but three teams and were third worst in scoring defense.

Then again, Allen missed the first preseason game because his wife had a baby, and sat out against Seattle because of a bruised shoulder.

Safety Chris Conte missed the start of training camp while recovering from shoulder surgery and sat out the first two preseason games. Then he suffered a concussion against Seattle and did not play the following week against Cleveland.

Rookie cornerback Kyle Fuller hurt his ankle during the Jacksonville game and sat out the remaining two preseason matches.

The Bears also changed defensive schemes after sticking with the cover-2 last season, Mel Tucker's first as defensive coordinator. They're still running a 4-3 set. The language and responsibilities are different, and they weren't about to tip their hands with the play calls in the preseason.

That changes now.

"We're hungry," cornerback Tim Jennings said. "We've got attitude from last year. The coaches feel the same way as well as the players do. The attitude we have is setting the tone. We have to go out there and get into a fast start. We've still got the same mentality: The more takeaways we get, give our offense back the ball, we can put more points on the board. So we still have that mentality, but we really still have a bad taste in our mouth from last season."

The Bears ranked 30th overall and last against the run while tying Jacksonville with a league-low 31 sacks. They gave up 2,583 yards rushing and 5.3 per carry — both club records — so it would be hard for them not to improve.

Still, there are concerns.

It's not clear who the starting safeties will be with Conte, Danny McCray and Ryan Mundy in the mix for two spots. "I think we're going to still wait and see," Trestman said.

There is also that curiosity: How will this defense look?

"All the additions that we brought to this defense, I'm excited about it and I just can't wait to get us all together and get us come Sunday, and see where we're at," Jennings said.

coleryan Posts:21705 Followers:24
09/03/2014 03:13 PM

Here are the Bills' five keys to victory Sunday against the Chicago Bears:

(1) Run defense. The defense will carry the Bills this season and if the preseason is any indication, the run defense is much improved. That will be put to the test Sunday against the Bears and running back Matt Forte, who rushed for 1,339 yards last season.

(2) Get Jackson and Spiller involved early and often. If there's one part of the offense that won't change, it's the ability of Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller to make plays.

The Bills need to get both involved in every game this season. In the past, the team has had a habit of leaning on one more than the other. Get the ball to Jackson and Spiller and let them pick up yardage. That will be key, especially if the Bills want to win on Sunday.

(3) E.J. Manuel. Let's face it, Manuel had a rough preseason. He had his moments, but he needs to be more consistent if the Bills are going to succeed in the regular season. He has plenty of weapons to choose from, whether it's rookie wide receiver Sammy Watkins, new addition Mike Williams, second-year wide receiver Robert Woods and a loaded running back corps.

Preseason is different. Let's see what Manuel can do with an actual game plan going into Chicago.

(4) Special teams. Dan Carpenter was one of the best kickers in the NFL last season and he will likely get plenty of opportunities to match or better his field goal output from last season.

Carpenter aside, there are plenty of question marks on special teams. Colton Schmidt will handle the punting duties and if his preseason performance is any indication, he could be an improvement over Brian Moorman. Kick coverage will also be an area to watch. Marcus Easley is a standout on special teams for the Bills, but he can't be the only good coverage guy. The Bills had a few problems covering kicks last season. That needs to change this season.

(5) Containing Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. If Jeffery and Marshall rack up big yards, it's going to be a long day for the Bills. The Bills secondary will face one of their biggest tests of the season against this duo.

Marshall and Jeffery both registered 1,000 receiving yards last season. The Bills will have their hands full with both.

coleryan Posts:21705 Followers:24
09/04/2014 05:22 PM

OPENING LINE — Bears by 6

RECORD VS. SPREAD — Buffalo 8-8, Chicago 4-10-2

SERIES RECORD — Bears lead 7-4

LAST MEETING — Bears beat Bills 22-19, Nov. 7, 2010

AP PRO32 RANKING — Bills No. 29, Bears No. 12





STREAKS, STATS AND NOTES — Buffalo entering new era with franchise for sale after founder and Hall of Fame owner Ralph Wilson died in March. ... Bills defense absorbed major blow when LB Kiko Alonso suffered likely season-ending injury two months ago. Led Buffalo with 159 tackles, two fumble recoveries and tied for team lead with four interceptions as rookie last season. ... QB EJ Manuel looking to build on an inconsistent rookie season in which he was slowed by three knee injuries. Went 4-6, throwing for 11 touchdowns, nine interceptions and getting sacked 28 times. ... Bears’ 54 season-opening victories lead NFL. ... QB Jay Cutler tops in Bears history in passer rating (83.1), yards passing (14,913), completions (1,258), attempts (2,090). ... RB Matt Forte second in Bears history in yards from scrimmage (9,585), yards rushing (6,666), fifth in rushing touchdowns (35). Third in franchise history in catches (341). ... Game marks Bears debut for five-time Pro Bowl DE Jared Allen, one of several new players on rebuilt defense. Has seven straight double-digit sack seasons, tied for third-longest streak in NFL history. ... K Robbie Gould with 234 field goals needs nine to tie Kevin Butler’s club record. .. CB Charles Tillman third in franchise history with 36 interceptions behind Gary Fencik (38), Richie Petitbon (37).

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09/04/2014 06:51 PM

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09/04/2014 08:43 PM

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coleryan Posts:21705 Followers:24
09/05/2014 12:14 PM

Although the Chicago Bears possess all the makings of an elite offense, turning around their defensive incompetence appears to be a necessity if they're going to make a run at the playoffs.

After making several moves to fix those holes, the Bears hope to see major improvement on that side of the ball as they look to win their sixth straight home opener Sunday against the Buffalo Bills, who haven't been to the playoffs in 15 years.

Chicago opened 3-0 under first-year coach Marc Trestman but was inconsistent after that greatly due to a suspect defense, though the team needed to win just one of its final two games to reach the postseason for the first time since 2010. Instead, the Bears missed the playoffs despite an outstanding offensive season after allowing a combined 87 points and 987 yards in consecutive losses to Philadelphia and Green Bay.

"We're hungry," Pro Bowl cornerback Tim Jennings said of the defense. "We've got attitude from last year. The coaches feel the same way as well as the players do. ... We really still have a bad taste in our mouth from last season."

Trestman's focus was on offense and he made his mark. Chicago improved from 29th to fifth in passing and 28th to No. 8 in total offense, even with Josh McCown appearing in eight games and starting five due to Jay Cutler's groin and ankle injuries.

Cutler still posted a career-high 89.2 passer rating with his best completion percentage (63.1) since 2007 with Denver, throwing 19 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. His sack total dropped from 38 in 2012 to 19 behind a rebuilt offensive line.

Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall each had Pro Bowl seasons, giving Chicago one of the best receiving tandems in the NFL. They totaled 189 receptions for 2,716 yards and 19 touchdowns, and Jeffery ranked second in the league among receivers with 1,526 yards from scrimmage.

The Bears recently added former Jets and Steelers receiver Santonio Holmes to provide some depth.

"He's exciting," Cutler said. "We've just got to get him caught up with everything right now. It's hard coming in where we are offensively and just kind of throwing him into the mix."

Matt Forte further established himself as one of the NFL's top all-purpose backs, ranking second with a career-high 1,339 rushing yards and third with 1,933 from scrimmage.

Even if its high-powered offense continues to shine, Chicago will likely miss the postseason for the seventh time in eight years unless it can recover from one of the worst defensive performances in franchise history.

The Bears ranked 30th overall, allowing 394.6 yards per game, while tying Jacksonville with a league-low 31 sacks and giving up a league-high and club-record 2,583 rushing yards.

Chicago has brought in five-time Pro Bowler Jared Allen, versatile LaMarr Houston and Willie Young to improve the line, while Julius Peppers has gone on to Green Bay.

Allen, however, has battled a bruised shoulder, first-round pick Kyle Fuller is nursing an ankle injury and fellow defensive back Chris Conte missed most of the preseason recovering from shoulder surgery before suffering a concussion.

Though they surrendered more yards per game than all but three teams during the preseason and were third worst in scoring defense, the Bears aren't worried that things won't be better on that side of the ball.

"All the additions that we brought to this defense, I'm excited about it and I just can't wait to get us all together and get us come Sunday, and see where we're at," Jennings said.

The Bears could have an opportunity to gain some confidence versus Buffalo, which had difficulty moving the ball throughout the preseason. The starters went 18 straight possessions without a touchdown until EJ Manuel's TD pass in the second half against Tampa Bay on Aug. 23.

Manuel had been tabbed the quarterback of the future after Buffalo selected him 16th overall in 2013, but many are skeptical of whether he can fulfill that promise after enduring an inconsistent, injury-plagued rookie season.

"With EJ, obviously we're looking for him to progress and to keep coming along," Marrone said. "We're going to stick with him. I'm going to support him 110 percent. And we're going to get him better."

Buffalo, which finished 6-10 last season, has just one winning season since last qualifying for the playoffs in 1999.

The Bills finished 28th in the league with 193.9 passing yards per game, though they were second with 144.2 rushing yards. C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson combined for 1,823 yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground.

Sammy Watkins, taken fourth overall in the 2014 draft, was brought in to give Manuel a go-to playmaker in the passing game, but he's been slowed by bruised ribs. Watkins is expected to line up across from Mike Williams, acquired in an offseason trade with Tampa Bay.

Buffalo's defense should remain a strength under new coordinator Jim Schwartz after setting a franchise record with 57 sacks. The Bills added middle linebacker Brandon Spikes to a unit that gave up 150-plus yards rushing seven times.

"I don't want to get ahead of that stuff but, hey, the proof's in the pudding," Spikes said of Schwartz. "He wants us getting vertical, getting disruptive, causing havoc."

Spikes' addition should help the team recover from the loss of linebacker Kiko Alonso, who suffered an ACL injury that required surgery just after reporting to camp.

The Bills have dropped all five of their visits to Chicago by a 135-39 margin.

coleryan Posts:21705 Followers:24
09/06/2014 07:47 PM

The Bills should have wide receiver Sammy Watkins (ribs) and linebacker Brandon Spikes (knee), but running back Anthony Dixon (hamstring) and cornerback Stephon Gilmore (groin) are both questionable. The Bears ruled out third quarterback David Fales (shoulder), fullback Tony Fiammetta (hamstring) is questionable and the team expects safety Chris Conte (concussion) and center Brian de la Puente (knee) to be in the lineup.