It took overtime, but Buffalo gutted out a back and forth game with an inspired rushing effort that almost went for 200 yards and an opportunistic defense that recorded three takeaways in a 23-20 win at Chicago. It was just the fourth time in the last 22 season openers at Soldier Field where the visiting team emerged victorious.
The Bills overcame an early seven-point deficit in the first quarter scoring 17 straight points to close out the first half with a 10-point lead (17-7). But in a back and forth affair, Chicago erased the deficit and tied the score at 17 with four minutes left in the third quarter.
Buffalo re-took the lead capitalizing on the defense’s third takeaway of the game as Dan Carpenter put a 33-yard field goal up and through with four minutes remaining in regulation. Chicago answered with a field goal drive of their own to force overtime.
But C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson combined for 57 of the 69 yards gained on the game-winning drive before Dan Carpenter finished with a 27-yard field goal for the win.
How it went down:
--After the Bills offense went three and out on their first possession, Chicago made quick work of putting points on the board with a four-play 66-yard drive that culminated in a 12-yard touchdown pass from Jay Cutler to Martellus Bennett.
--Buffalo responded with a touchdown drive of their own. The possession covered 71 yards on nine plays, with EJ Manuel scoring on a two-yard read option keeper (7-7) halfway through the opening quarter.
--A forced fumble by Leodis McKelvin after a reception by Brandon Marshall was recovered by Preston Brown and returned into Chicago territory. Dan Carpenter hit a 50-yard field goal to get points off the turnover and the lead (10-7) midway through the second quarter.
--Corey Graham had the second takeaway of the game picking off a pass intended for Martellus Bennett and returning it to the Bears 19-yard line. A Chicago penalty gave Buffalo a 1st-and-goal at the seven and EJ Manuel hit C.J. Spiller for a seven-yard touchdown catch and run (17-7).
--Chicago cut Buffalo’s lead to a touchdown on their opening drive of the second half when Robbie Gould put a 41-yard attempt through the uprights with nine and a half minutes left in the third quarter (17-10).
--The Bears then tied the game following Chris Conte’s interception of a pass intended for Marquise Goodwin at the Chicago 39. Jay Cutler hit Brandon Marshall on a fade pass for an 11-yard touchdown with just over four minutes left in the third quarter.
--Kyle Williams made a big interception on a key 3rd-and-1 play at the Buffalo 33 to stem the tide of momentum. Buffalo’s offense then drove 37 yards and Dan Carpenter put a 33-yard field goal attempt through for a 20-17 lead with just over four minutes remaining.
--Chicago tied the game with under a minute left on a 37-yard field goal by Robbie Gould.
--Dan Carpenter won the game on a 27-yard field goal with 9:46 left in overtime.
--EJ Manuel had a productive first half as he was 10-12 passing for 97 yards with a touchdown and a rushing touchdown. By the game’s end he was 16-22 passing for 173 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
--Buffalo’s run game was productive all day averaging almost six yards a carry (5.8 avg.). The Bills’ backs finished the day with 193 yards rushing on 33 carries.
--Corey Graham had a heck of a debut in a Bills uniform. Starting in place of an injury Stephon Gilmore, Graham had three tackles, an interception and three pass breakups, including two on the final drive in regulation by Chicago to force a field goal.
--Robert Woods continued his consistent play from the preseason with a four-catch 78-yard effort in regulation.
--The Bills defense had three takeaways in the game including the first career interception by Kyle Williams on a key 3rd-and-1 play with the score tied 17-17.
--Keith Rivers left the game with a groin injury and did not return. Aaron Williams left the game late with concussion-like symptoms.
--Rookie Preston Brown recorded the first takeaway of his career with a fumble recovery in the first half that the Bills turned into a field goal. He was also calling the plays for the defense at times in the game.
--New punter Colton Schmidt had an excellent debut with the Bills. He had four punts downed inside the 20-yard line including a pair of fair catches and effectively flipped the field with a 54-yard effort.
CB Stephon Gilmore, RB Bryce Brown, S Jonathan Meeks, DE Jacquies Smith, G Cyril Richardson, OT Cyrus Kouandjio, TE Lee Smith.
The Bills will open their home schedule against division rival Miami on Sunday Sept. 14 at 1 pm.