After two weeks of scrambling and trying to make plays on the run, Rob Johnson got a break from the Buffalo Bills' offensive line.
Johnson made the most of the best protection he's had in the preseason, throwing for two touchdowns Friday as the Bills beat the Chicago Bears 17-9. It was Buffalo's first victory over the Bears in 12 exhibition games, and its first victory ever at Soldier Field.
"Rob had an outstanding game," Buffalo coach Wade Phillips said. "Better protection made him feel more comfortable. He's going to run around and make big plays. I thought he did a good job of making the right decisions."
Johnson was 10-of-13 for 62 yards and also rushed for 26 yards. Jonathon Linton, who gained 41 yards on four straight carries to set up Buffalo's final field goal late in the fourth quarter, led the Bills in rushing with 55 yards on seven carries.
Even Doug Flutie, the ex-CFL refugee and former Chicago Bear, had a good night. Flutie, who struggled in his first two games, was 6-of-7 for 49 yards.
"It was a nice, warm feeling. I was uncertain of the kind of reaction I'd receive," said Flutie, who was greeted with a loud cheer when he took the field in the third quarter.
While Flutie was hearing cheers, the Bears were getting booed by the home crowd. The Bears, one of the weakest teams in the NFL last year, gained just 93 yards rushing, and their defense was pushed around all night.
The No. 1 offense finally scored a touchdown on Bam Morris' 2-yard run early in the fourth quarter that cut Buffalo's lead to 14-9. Chicago's first group had managd just three field goals in the preseason previously.
"We had opportunities early in the game to get points. We didn't get that done," coach Dave Wannstedt said. "We need to get the ball in the end zone when we have opportunities because they don't come along very often."
Erik Kramer was 13-of-22 for 179 yards. Morris led the Bears in rushing with 35 yards on 12 carries.
Curtis Enis, who finally ended his acrimonious 25-day holdout Monday, was greeted with loud boos when he finally came into the game with 3:33 left. The fifth overall pick got his first carry two plays later and gained five yards, but the fans still booed him. He finished with nine yards on two carries.
"Enis was fine. He had a couple of nice runs, as did Bam Morris and Edgar Bennett," Wannstedt said. "We're all frustrated about the whole situation. When we start winning games, then the fans will become positive and that will take care of some problems."
The Bears looked good at first. Starting the game with the ball, they marched to Buffalo's 23. Then they stalled. Kramer's pass to Curtis Conway in the end zone was incomplete, and another pass two plays later didn't go anywhere, either.
The Bears settled for Jeff Jaeger's 38-yard field goal, giving them a 3-0 lead with 8:32 left in the first quarter.
"I'd like to see us improve our execution level. That's the one thing that stands out," Kramer said. "We've got to finish drives off."
Trying to adjust to a new, more conservative scheme, the Bill's offensive line struggled in its first two games. But after an intense week of practice -- and some help from a weak Bears defense -- Buffalo looked sharp from the start.
Besides solid protection for Johnson, the line opened huge holes for the running game. Johnson scrambled for 22 yards on the Bills' first drive -- 8 yards more than the entire Bears offense managed in the first quarter -- and then connected with wide-open Eric Moulds on a 3-yard touchdown pass to make it 7-3 with 24 seconds left in the first quarter.
"Most of our drives are old-school, pound-it-out," Johnson said. "But as long as we win, that's what counts."
Buffalo's next score was set up by Undre Williams' return. Catching the ball at his 29, Williams shook off three tackles before Fabian Bownes finally brought him down at the Chicago 43. Johnson hit Quinn Early with a 2-yard touchdown pass -- right in front of Bears cornerback Tom Carter -- to make it 14-3 with 17 seconds left in the first half.
The Bears were booed off the field at halftime after Kramer was sacked with about five seconds left and he fumbled the ball.
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