Wins Tough to Get in Modern-Day NFL

Having to come back in the fourth quarter to beat a winless Bills team may not sound overly impressive for the Chicago Bears, but Lovie Smith will certainly take it coming off two straight losses at home.

Sunday's victory against a winless Bills team may not have been a masterpiece, but the Bears weren't about to throw it back.

The Bears return home this Sunday to face the Vikings, who rallied for a 27-24 victory over the Cardinals in overtime to raise their record to 3-5.

"There's so much parity in the league, it's hard getting a win," coach Lovie Smith said. "That's why we feel so good about this."

But how good can the Bears feel about struggling to defeat an 0-8 team when the second-half schedule includes much tougher foes like the Patriots, Jets, Packers, Eagles and Dolphins, plus a pair against the Vikings, who are showing signs of life despite a losing record.

The Bears cannot really be encouraged when the running game, minus quarterback Jay Cutler's contributions, produced just 66 yards on 26 carries (a 2.5-yard average) against the worst run defense in the NFL. Counting Cutler's 39 yards, the Bears had 105 yards on the ground, 84 less than the Bills had been allowing this year on average.

And not when the defense gets just one sack on 52 pass plays and allows 294 passing yards.

The important thing is the Bears at least tried to run the football enough (31 times) to keep the opposing defense honest, a concept they had abandoned in their three losses in which they averaged just 15 runs per game. And there were some encouraging signs.

The Bears solved, at least for one week, the offensive problems they have had most of the season converting third-down and red-zone opportunities.

Through eight weeks, the Bears were far and away the NFL's worst third-down offense, converting just 17.9 percent of their attempts, including a ludicrous five of their last 53. Against the Bills, they had a season-best 58-percent success rate.

Even bigger was the red-zone success, as the Bears came away with three TDs on four trips inside the Bills' 20-yard line. And, for the first time this season, after botching 10 straight plays from a yard out, the Bears found pay dirt when Chester Taylor's 1-yard touchdown run gave them a 14-13 lead midway through the third quarter.

The Bears also did a decent job – finally – of protecting Cutler.

They entered the Rogers Centre having allowed 31 sacks, eight more than the next-worst team in the league, and Cutler had been sacked 19 times in his previous two and a half games. But the Bills got to him just once, as he completed 17 of 30 passes for 188 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions for a 97.6 passer rating, his best in seven weeks.

RB Chester Taylor
Rick Stewart/Getty

Cutler scrambled three times for 41 yards, although two kneel-downs dropped his total to 39 yards, and his passer rating of 97.6 was his best since Week 2. ... WR Earl Bennett led the Bears with four catches and 52 yards. He has caught at least three passes in six of seven games since returning from a hamstring injury. ... RB Matt Forte had 49 yards on 14 carries, only the third time this season he has had that many carries. ... DE Israel Idonije was credited with half a sack, giving him a team-best and career-high five. ... Taylor got double-digit carries for just the second time this year, but he managed only 13 yards on his 10 attempts.

The Bears ran the ball 31 times, double the number of runs they averaged in their three losses, all of which came in the four games prior to Sunday's victory over the Bills. The 31 attempts netted just 105 yards, but at least offensive coordinator Mike Martz finally made a commitment to the ground game.

Using the fifth different offensive line configuration, the Bears hope they've hit on the right combination. This one allowed just one sack, with Roberto Garza, who missed two games after arthroscopic surgery, back at right guard, where he started the previous four years after playing the first five games this year at left guard.

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