Bills Present Multiple Tests

Whether or not the Bears are ready to face one of the best defenses in the game, the offense will get a stiff challenge from the Buffalo Bills.

In 2004, the Bills finished second in total yardage allowed (264.2), while ranking in the top ten in both rush and pass defense. The unit is not filled with big names, but a solid corps of talent has allowed the unit to succeed.

The Bills are coming off a 27-7 drubbing of the Packers, in which the defense held Green Bay to 183 yards of total offense. Through two preseason games, Buffalo is surrendering a league-low 224 yards per contest.

Chad Hutchinson struggled against an Indianapolis defense that was 29th in the league a year ago and was without the services of six starters. On a total of six possessions, he threw two interceptions and also fumbled once.

The Bears have pointed to Hutchinson improving with additional time with the first string offense, but pegging the contest against the Bills as a measuring stick of his progress may be a mistake.

"They were one of the best defenses in the league last season and preseason has carried over the same way," said head coach Lovie Smith. "They're an aggressive front, like to blitz quite a bit. They play hard. We preach that to our defense quite a bit about playing harder than other teams. This is a defense that plays hard every down."

Hutchinson will have the benefit of running back Thomas Jones and center Olin Kreutz being back in the lineup. Both players missed the game against the Colts.

Even in Jones' absence, the running game didn't suffer. The Bears rushed for 152 yards against the Colts and have averaged 128.3 yards on the ground through three games.

The Bears have out-rushed their opponents 385-150 - even without holdout first-round running back Cedric Benson.

A reliable ground attack in the regular season would make life easier for Hutchinson, as he attempts to fill the void left by Rex Grossman's injury.

"I talked to Chad about that the other day," offensive coordinator Ron Turner said. "I said, 'Your best friend is the running game -- if we can run the football.' It really makes everything else easier. The protections are much easier. The passing game, getting the ball down the field vertically, all that stuff is easier."

On the other side of the ball, the Chicago defense will face a different quarterback than that of a week ago. Unlike Peyton Manning, Buffalo QB J.P. Losman likes to get outside of the pocket and his use his athletic ability to create plays with his feet. He leads the Bills in rushing during the preseason with 53 yards.

Willis McGahee finished last season with 1,128 yards rushing. He's averaging just 3.7 yards per carry in the preseason, while the Bears have allowed just 2.3 yards per carry as a unit.

The front four has been at the center of the Bears' defensive success. The group has put consistent pressure on the opposing quarterback and is starting to come up with turnovers. Chicago is tops in rush defense in the preseason, giving up 50 yards per game, but defensive coordinator Ron Rivera is still looking for improvement.

"We're trying to eliminate our mistakes, we're trying to get to the point where we play a fundamentally sound football game and we haven't quite gotten there," Rivera said. "But that's the goal is to be good, to be very good."


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