Ryan Bukowiecki covers the Bears for WARR
We saw the Chicago Bears lose to the Buffalo Bills 28-27 Thursday night in their preseason finale.
It was a game that saw the Bears dominate for three quarters, but losing in the way we are painfully aware of from the John Fox era, with bad execution late that saw Chicago fall behind by less than a touchdown almost inexplicably.
Buffalo went into the fourth quarter down 27-3 before the previously lackluster Bills quarterback AJ McCarron finally got hot and led the comeback. In building their lead, the Bears clearly looked like the better team, its lower half of the roster showing good energy and execution with good performances from QB Tyler Bray and offensive skill players Ryan Nall and Tanner Gentry.
Defensively, the Bears created a couple turnovers and got to the quarterback well. As you read this the Bears are in the middle of their cutting process, as NFL teams have to trim their rosters to 53 player by 3 pm Saturday.
The result of yesterday’s game was disheartening in a way because of how dominant the Bears looked for a majority of the game Bray looked like a man that really has command of the offense, which isn’t a surprise because he has spent years in this offense. Imagine when Mitchell Trubisky feels as comfortable as Bray, who basically did whatever he wanted for the majority of the game.
Where we could have seen more from Bray execution-wise was in the red zone, the Bears left enough points on the field for them to win despite Bray’s overall ability to move the ball up the field, he finished connecting on 19 of 29 passes for 180 yards with an interception and no touchdowns thrown.
Bray is expected to make the roster to continue to help Trubisky’s integration with coach Matt Nagy’s offense but there is the option of releasing Bray in case his spot is more needed at another position. It would be likely that Bray would stay available on the market in case an injury comes up with Trubisky or backup Chase Daniel.
Besides Bray, Ryan Nall was the story on offense yesterday, he showed off speed and quick feet to match his impressive frame in the backfield. Nall is a big back at 232 pounds but its impressive how well he moves his feet. Nall is also a decent pass catcher as well.
With Nall’s inclusion the running back position might be the strongest group on the entire team, so the chances of him making the team may not be high but he certainly did his part to make a tough a decision on the coaches. It is likely that the Bears will try to put him on the practice squad if he does not make the final 53.
The defensive had their share of highlights as well. Coordinator Vic Fangio might want to burn the fourth quarter tape with its 25 unanswered Buffalo points, which may have the guys running a little extra in the next practice, but the first three quarters looked great.
One guy in that time that added to his already solid preseason was cornerback Doran Grant. Grant made a sensational play for a pick six as he put himself in prime position to bait McCarron into a bad decision.
Grant has been a solid player all preseason and he is another guy the Bears will likely try to put on the practice squad. The whole defensive unit got to the quarterback with five sacks, highlighted by 1.5 QB takedowns by Bilal Nichols. Nichols has never really been in danger of not making the team seeing as how he was a 2018 draft pick, but Nichols has put together a good preseason that stands on its own, he is a potential starter in the future at the other defensive end but he should get plenty of playing time apart of the D-line rotation.
The preseason has finally come to an end, now it is all about the final cuts and the league-wide season starting next Thursday, followed by Chicago’s curtain-raising the following Sunday in Green Bay. It is hard to take anything from the preseason and apply it to the season in a normal occasion, with the Bears this season you have to add them resting their top players for a big majority of the preseason.
Just because Nall got 79 yards off just four carries last night doesn’t mean the Bears will be one of the best running football teams in the league, but there are things to feel good about. One thing is that the Bears have shown enough offensively to believe that it should be significantly improved from last year or the last few years.
There will be bumps in the road early on but it would be extremely surprising to see ineptitude from the Bears offense if guys stay healthy. On the other side, the defense should continue to build on last year especially if linebackers Leonard Floyd and Roquan Smith are ready to go Week 1. Special teams has been the most neglected unit in camp because of the attention given the install of the offense but ST coordinator Chris Tabor is a protege of Dave Toub so he should be able to put together solid coverage and return teams.
As long as the defense can continue its upward path and the offense takes care of the ball while progressively being able to put up points, then the Bears may just be one of those sleeper teams ready to come out of hibernation.
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