Sal's Sticks: Bills at Bears

Who was ahead and who was behind the sticks?

Sal Capaccio
August 31, 2018 - 3:39 am

Photo: Mike DiNovo - USA TODAY Sports

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Chicago, Illinois (WGR 550) - Well, that was the craziest way to ever end a preseason, wasn’t it? Down 27-3 in the fourth quarter, the Buffalo Bills found a way to come back and win in Chicago. A great way to cap the exhibition season.

Let's start with the positives from this one:
 

AHEAD OF THE STICKS

  • The Comeback

How can I not start out with what might have been the greatest comeback in Buffalo Bills preseason history? (I still haven't been able to verify whether it was or wasn't as of writing this).

Down 27-3 in the fourth quarter of the fourth preseason game, you probably turned it off to watched reruns of Seinfeld or something. I wouldn’t blame you if you did, but that means you missed one heck of a final 15 minutes.

Plenty of teams and players would simply be checking out in that situation, just wanting to get out healthy and on with final cuts and the first regular-season week. So, for Sean McDermott‘s team to do what they did says a lot about that group that was on the field for the last quarter. A lot of guys were trying to make a play to earn a roster spot. However, talking with them in the locker room, they really just wanted to win for their teammates. It’s a tight group. The reaction by the starters on the sidelines watching their backups, and the reaction the players on the field had to one another really brought that out.
 

  • WR/PR/KR Ray-Ray McCloud III

I think McCloud was already safe going into the game, but some believed he was on the bubble, and if that’s the case, he needed to make some plays too show why he’s deserving of a roster spot. He certainly did, especially on special teams as a punt and kick return man. The rookie sixth round draft pick returned one kick for 32 yards and averaged over 14 yards on three punt returns, and all the while did it in tight traffic, making oncoming tacklers miss.
 

  • QB A.J. McCarron’s 2nd half

The Bills quarterback didn’t have a great completion percentage in the second half (6-for-21; 28.5%), but he threw for 117 yards and accounted for four touchdowns - three passing and one running. He also engineered the 25-point fourth quarter comeback to win it.
 

  • TE Logan Thomas

Thomas finished with three catches for 44 yards, including a big 23-yard reception on 4th-and-8 in the fourth quarter to allow the comeback to continue. A great showing for a player fighting to keep a roster spot.
 

  • Second half defense

Down 20-0 at halftime, the Bills defense came out in the second half and basically shut the Bears down, allowing their own offense to get something going. Buffalo allowed only 104 total yards in the final 30 minutes of the game - 44 rushing and 60 passing.
 

  • S Siran Neal

The rookie made 10 total tackles, doubling the next highest man in the game for either team!
 

  • LB Tanner Vallejo

Vallejo was all over the field, collecting four total tackles, including being credited with a sack, two tackles for loss, a quarterback hurry, and a pass breakup.

 

BEHIND THE STICKS

  • QB A.J. McCarron’s first half

For a quarterback who could either be fighting for a starting spot to simply fighting for a job on the roster (who knows?) it was an awful start. He threw a pick-six early and finished the half 5-for-13 for 39 yards, was sacked twice, and had a passer rating of 7.1.
 

  • Pass protection

For the second week in a row, the Bills gave up five sacks. Last week, it was the first and second-team offensive line, combined with Josh Allen holding onto the ball too long. Thursday night, it was mostly third-teamers and A.J. McCarron sometimes doing the same.
 

  • Penalties

This has been a problem several times this preseason, and McDermott really needs to get it straightened out quickly. His team isn’t talented enough to overcome flags every week that continue to stall drives and give away field position. Thursday night they were called for 7 penalties for 72 yards.

 

THE BIG PICTURE

Let’s be honest. The only thing that truly matters in any preseason is getting out of it healthy. For the most part, the Bills did. McCloud did exit Thursday night’s game with a knee injury, but he walked to the locker room on his own, and hopefully that’s a sign that he’ll be fine. The starters and second-teamers got a chance to rest and watch their backups all night, but they also did it while staying healthy and available for Week 1 at the Ravens. All teams have to cut to 53 players by Saturday at 4 p.m., and the coaching staff has plenty of decisions to make, including at the most important position - quarterback. Beyond just naming a starter for the regular season, is McCarron’s roster spot safe? Wide receiver, tight end, offensive line, and even punter are still unsettled and spots we’ll all be watching. Once those cuts are made, some players still won’t be safe because they Bills may claim players from other teams off the waiver wire, forcing them to further make room on the roster.

Then it’s on to Baltimore.  

The 2018 regular season.  

It’s here. Finally.


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