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Bears Slip By Bills 10-3 in Preseason Opener; Defense Strong, Offense Sluggish

After finishing the 2010 NFL season with the league’s 32nd ranked run defense, expectely the Buffalo Bills’ free agency and draft plans focused on defense.  If this past Friday night’s defensive effort provides even the slightest indication, the Bills’ defense might be on the rise.

Buffalo totaled nine sacks against Chicago’s leaky offensive line.  Led by linebacker Shawne Merriman, the Bills had six players record at least one sack.  Merriman, in just 10 plays in a quarter of action, recorded two sacks and helped cause another.  Fellow linebacker Danny Batten also recorded a pair of sacks.  Alex Carrington, rookie Marcell Dareus, Brad Jefferson, Spencer Johnson and Kellen Heard each registered one sack during the game.   Rookie cornerback Aaron Williams spoiled a Bears’ drive deep in Bills territory with an interception in the red zone. 

Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick finished 7-of-9 for 44 yards in two possession before his evening was done.   Rian Lindell’s 44-yard field goal with two minutes left in the first quarter would be the only points for Buffalo.  Chicago took the lead in the second quarter with just over eight minutes to go before halftime on a Caleb Hanie four-yard touchdown run.  Robbie Gould added a 45-yard field goal with just under six minutes to play in the fourth. 

Nothing much came as a surprise in Buffalo’s first preseason contest.  Happily, the Bills came away unharmed and did not sustain any injuries.  Overall, it’s what you would expect in the first game.  Players are still adapting and getting a feel for things.  There was some good and some bad but it’s a step in the right direction for Buffalo

Initial reactions from Bills/Bears preseason opener:

-Shawne Merriman looked pretty good and we were even treated to his trademark post-QB sack ‘Lights Out’ dance.  He looked good, played with a lot of energy and enthusiasm.  However, we shouldn’t get carried away just yet.  He was working primarily against J’Marcus Webb, who no one will ever mistake for Jake Long or Joe Thomas.  Merriman basically used and abused Webb, but let’s temper out expectations for right now until at least we see what Merriman is capable of against some real NFL tackle talent.

– The kids looked alright.  Marcell Dareus made a habit of getting penetration through the line and got his first sack.  Aaron Williams finished with three tackles and got a big interception that nullifed a potential scoring opportunity. 

– As mentioned before, the defense looked strong.  Aside from a Jay Cutler out-of-the-pocket 10 yard scramble and a draw play that chewed up almost 30 yards on a run by Bears RB Kahlil Bell, Chicago didn’t exert much damage on the night. 

– Special teams coverage has to improve.  The Bills were gashed for two big returns, a 70-yard kick off return by Johnny Knox that set up Chicago at the Buffalo 29 and Earl Bennett’s 33-yard punt return moments before halftime.

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