CHICAGO — The Bears were the NFL’s only club last season to surrender more than five yards a carry, and one of two that couldn’t muster more than 31 sacks.
Five new starters, including three newcomers up front, debuted in Week One, but the results were alarmingly similar in the Bears’ 23-20 defeat to the Bills Sunday.
The defense hemorrhaged 5.8 yards a carry. It tallied just one sack, when EJ Manuel basically surrendered in the pocket. The Bears stiffened in the second half, but their biggest breakdown came in overtime, on Fred Jackson’s 38-yard jaunt to ice the game.
“We need to play disciplined football; know our job, do our job,” said Lamarr Houston. “You go to work. You play good run teams, you got to play disciplined football.”
Houston and Jared Allen are supposed to strengthen the pass rush, but neither came close to Manuel. Willie Young was perhaps the lone bright spot among defensive newcomers, setting a strong edge and securing Chicago’s lone sack.
Rookies Ego Ferguson and Will Sutton received plenty of snaps in a rotation with Jeremiah Ratliff and Stephen Paea, but neither player provided the rugged presence up front the Bears talked all offseason about needing.
Ryan Mundy started opposite Chris Conte and led the Bears in tackles (seven), but he echoed Houston’s thoughts on the myriad issues with containing Buffalo’s play action and read zone scheme.
“We can’t use that as an excuse, particularly when all of the new faces are veteran guys who have played a lot of football at a high level,” said Mundy of all of the new faces on defense. “… We’ve been working together for quite some time now. And we just got to go out there and execute better.”
Offensive debuts less offensive: Rookie Michael Ola and former Saint Brian de la Puente impressed after being thrown into the fire to replace Matt Slauson and Roberto Garza, who was guilty of a pair of penalties and struggled against Kyle Williams, respectively. Against one of the league’s better tackle pairings, they helped keep Cutler’s pocket clean and each made nice downfield blocks to spring Forte for first downs.
Santonio Holmes’ two catches for 21 yards doesn’t scream success, but both went for first downs. Micheal Spurlock struggled, dropping a pair of Cutler passes, albeit a bit high, that he had his hands on.
New and improved Jay?: Cutler threw for 349 yards and made some impressive completions, but his two interceptions led to 10 Buffalo points. The first occurred on what appeared to be a miscommunication between Martellus Bennett, who was open running down the seam, and Cutler, who threw short, apparently expecting Bennett to break off of his route. Cutler’s second pick, in which he committed the cardinal sin of throwing back across his body – on one foot, no less – came in the fourth quarter with his team looking to take a two-possession lead.
Injury update: Slauson (ankle) went out early in the second quarter and didn’t return. Garza (ankle) and Alshon Jeffery (hamstring) didn’t return after halftime. Shaun Draughn left early with a neck injury.
Odds and ends: Matt Forte, Charles Tillman and Robbie Gould were game captains. … Chris Conte made an impressive interception, but he struggled with angles and tackling on Buffalo’s two longest runs. … Jordan Mills was tossed aside on a Mario Williams sack before receiving more help in pass protection.