JC's Gameday Blog: Bears vs. Bills

In the first game of the '09 preseason, the Chicago Bears travel to Buffalo to take on former coach Dick Jauron and the Bills. For an insider's take on all the activity inside the Ralph Wilson Stadium press box, be sure to visit JC's Gameday Blog following every quarter for all the news and notes.

Fourth Quarter Recap: Bills 27, Bears 20

Saturday, 8:57 p.m.

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Brett Basanez has been getting second-team reps every other day in training camp and was supposedly challenging Caleb Hanie for the No. 2 job, but you can close the book on that idea after Saturday's exhibition game in Buffalo.

Basanez threw interceptions on his first two series of the game, both of them deep in his own territory and both winding up in the waiting hands of Ellis Lankster. The first INT was not his fault and bounced right off the hands of Johnny Knox, but the second was a poor decision on a corner route – the former Northwestern Wildcat simply doesn't have the arm strength to make that throw unless it's on time and on target. The Bills capitalized on both occasions, scoring a pair of TDs after taking over at the Chicago 4-yard line on back-to-back possessions.

To his credit, Basanez rebounded by putting together a nice touchdown drive of his own, eventually connecting with Juaquin Iglesias on a 10-yard play-action pass in the back of the end zone. But Basanez didn't get much of an opportunity to potentially tie up the game, as the Bills ran off all but the final 14 seconds with a sustained drive that started inside their own 20-yard line and extended across midfield. Trying to force the issue down the left sideline, Basanez completed a dubious hat trick with his third interception of the night.

The Bears come out on the losing end of the preseason opener 27-20, and while they did some good things on both sides of the ball, there are still plenty of questions yet to be answered.

Third Quarter Recap: Bears 13, Bills 13

Saturday, 8:12 p.m.

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The Midway Monsters were only 30th in the league defending the pass in 2008, and they don't look to have made too many improvements in the secondary through three quarters in Buffalo.

While Craig Steltz did come up with a gift of an interception after third-string passer Gibran Hamdan airmailed his intended receiver over the middle of the field, Trent Edwards and Ryan Fitzpatrick combined to complete 23 of 26 passes for 222 yards on the evening. Dominic Rhodes scored the first touchdown of the game with a 3-yard touchdown plunge, but the Bears answered back with a 14-yard pitch and catch from Caleb Hanie to Will Taufoou out of the backfield. Hanie extended the play by flushing to his right and buying himself an extra second.

Through three quarters, the Bears still can't get anything going on the ground with a combined 34 yards on 11 carries. The Bills have dominated time of possession and been able to run the ball 26 times, although they've only accumuluated 78 yards – just 3.0 yards per carry. Credit the Chicago front seven for being active and not allowing any holes to be opened.

So long as we're not subjected to overtime football in the preseason, be on the lookout for a somewhat sloppy final 15 minutes.

Second Quarter Recap: Bears 6, Bills 6

Saturday, 7:29 p.m.

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It ultimately won't count in the grand scheme of things since this is the preseason and all, but Robbie Gould can now say he's connected on a 50-yard field goal in the NFL.

Caleb Hanie won himself a job last year by having a terrific preseason as an undrafted rookie free agent, and he's off to another good start by completing 5 of 7 passes in the first half and setting Gould up for his 50-yard boot. Another preseason hero from a season ago, Kellen Davis, delivered two catches for 29 yards. The running attack, however, has not been overly productive, with Kevin Jones and Garrett Wolfe combining to rush for only 25 yards on nine carries – Matt Forte suited up but did not play.

The Chicago defensive backs were far from impressive in the first half, as Buffalo quarterbacks completed their first 11 passes of the ballgame – including a 10-of-10 performance from starter Trent Edwards. But then D.J. Moore was credited with a pass defensed by knocking down an attempt from backup Ryan Fitzpatrick, and then Craig Steltz stripped Roscoe Parrish after a short completion over the middle, with Woodny Turenne coming up with the recovery. Turenne later turned away a fade pattern in the end zone, holding the Bills to a field-goal attempt and a 6-6 tie at intermission in Buffalo.

It's going to be nothing but second and third teamers the rest of the way, so have your roster handy.

First Quarter Recap: Bears 3, Bills 0

Saturday, 6:44 p.m.

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While the Bears are certainly going to get a fair share of big plays in the passing game with Jay Cutler at the controls this season, he's also prone to some mistakes and will turn the football over from time to time.

After a quick three-and-out on his first possession, Cutler fired a strike on a curl route to Devin Hester on his second drive for a 20-yard gain and Chicago's inital first down of the game. But shortly thereafter, Cutler forced a ball deep down the left sideline to Hester even though he was tightly covered, as Leodis McKelvin recorded an easy interception. Then in his third time with the ball, Cutler should have been picked off again and was quite fortunate that Reggie Corner dropped what had the makings of an easy INT. Garrett Wolfe got the ball back for the Bears after making a recovery on a fumbled punt, and Cutler followed with a 30-yard hook-up to Desmond Clark down the seam. Robbie Gould got Chicago on the board with a chip-shot 24-yard field goal.

On the other side of the football, Buffalo native Corey Graham came on a blitz from his nickel back position twice in the early going, sacking Trent Edwards the second time to flip the field position. But Nathan Vasher hasn't been overly impressive in training camp, and he immediately surrendered a 36-yard completion from Edwards to Lee Evans on a double move. Just a few series later, Vasher gave up a 9-yard connection from Edwards to Evans on 3rd and 8.

Moving on to the start of the second quarter, Buffalo is facing 4th and 1 from the Chicago 34-yard line.

Pregame Notes: Cutler's Debut as a Bear

Saturday, 5:16 p.m.

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For the first time since this past December, when Lovie Smith and Co. came out on the losing end to the Texans in Week 17 and missed the playoffs as a result, the Monsters of the Midway are getting ready for a football game.

The Bears are in Buffalo for the preseason opener against former coach Dick Jauron and the Bills. While Chicago made perhaps the NFL's boldest move of the offseason by acquiring Jay Cutler from the Broncos, Buffalo rolled the dice adding Terrell Owens – and his traveling circus – to a receiving corps that needed an upgrade in talent opposite the constantly double-covered Lee Evans. Cutler puts on a Bears uniform for the first time Saturday, although Owens has been ruled out because of a sprained toe.

Even though Cutler could use as many live reps as possible in Ron Turner's offense, don't expect the Midway Monsters' shiny new toy to be under center for more then a series or two. On the other side of the ball, the secondary is going to be severely challenged with the likes of Charles Tillman and Zack Bowman out of action at corner, plus Danieal Manning's absence leaves a hole at both free safety and nickel back. Fourth-round draft pick D.J. Moore should see extended time at corner, as will sixth rounder Al Afalava at safety.

We're beginning the process of whittling the 80-man roster down to 53, so sit back, relax and let Bear Report tell you what's really going on at Ralph Wilson Stadium from inside the press box.

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John Crist is the Publisher of Bear Report and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.

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