Those expecting Cutler to immediately transform the Bears into anything resembling a pass-happy offense had better be patient. As Cutler was inconsistent in his Bears preseason debut, the Bills' passing game was nearly unstoppable and got plenty of help from an opportunistic defense in a 27-20 victory Saturday night.
"I'm extremely encouraged because it's pressing the defense," Edwards said of the no-huddle attack the Bills have used exclusively since opening the preseason with a 21-18 loss to Tennessee in the Hall of Fame game last weekend. "We improved from last week's game. And now we have to take another step next week."
Except for settling for field goals in the first half, the Bills offense can't get much more efficient, even without Terrell Owens, who's nursing a sprained toe.
Edwards went 10 of 10 for 79 yards to key an efficient outing for the entire Bills quarterback corps, which went a combined 29 of 34 for 265 yards and a touchdown. Third-stringer Gibran Hamdan's 3-yard pass to Shawn Nelson put the Bills up for good 20-13 a minute into the third quarter.
"Efficiency is certainly a good word to describe it," right tackle Brad Butler said. "I would certainly say we're cautiously optimistic."
The defense did its part, too. Aside from limiting Cutler to 3 points and two first downs in four series, Buffalo (1-1) forced five turnovers, including two interceptions by rookie Ellis Lankster on consecutive drives. Both interceptions were thrown by third-stringer Brett Basanez, and led to Buffalo scoring twice in 34-second span.
Many eyes, though, were on Cutler, who failed to meet the much-anticipated offseason buzz he's generated since Chicago acquired him in a blockbuster offseason trade with Denver.
He went 5 of 10 for 64 yards and an interception on a poorly underthrown pass up the left sideline that was picked off by Leodis McKelvin. Cutler nearly threw another interception, but cornerback Reggie Corner dropped the ball that hit him squarely in the chest.
"It's too early to start to panic. It's preseason," Cutler said. "I feel fine about it."
"We're just calling base stuff and seeing what happens out there right now," Cutler said at the half. "As soon as we start getting into the game plan, really nailing stuff down, that's when it's really going to count."
Cutler keyed mostly on Devin Hester, who caught only two of six passes thrown his way for 22 yards. Cutler's best throw came when he hit Desmond Clark in stride up the right hash mark for a 30-yard completion that set up Robbie Gould's opening 23-yard field goal.
"It's a lot of new guys on the field," Hester said, referring to the rough start. "The preseason games are going to help us see where we're at, so that by when the season starts we'll know what we're working with."
Cutler couldn't take advantage against Buffalo's second-string defense and facing a short field after the drive began at the Bills 43 after Dominic Rhodes muffed a punt.
Rhodes made up for that miscue by scoring on a 3-yard run. Bruce Hall also scored on a 4-yard plunge, one play after Lankster's second interception.
The Bills' defense was encouraged by its strong start after giving up two touchdowns on Tennessee's first two possessions last week.
"It's really a big point of emphasis to start fast and finish fast, because I think our team feeds off it, I think we feed off it," linebacker Kawika Mitchell said. "All in all, I think we just played them tough and that was a part of our success."
The Bills defeated Chicago for only the second time in 14 preseason meetings (2-11-1).
Bears backup Caleb Hanie went 8 of 11 for 87 yards, including a 14-yard touchdown pass to Will Ta'ufo'ou. Basanez bounced back, hitting Juaquin Iglesias for a 10-yard touchdown. Gould hit two field goals, including a 50-yarder.
- Bears LB Nick Roach was hurt in the second half and did not return. Coach Lovie Smith said the injury was not serious.
- Bills starting SS Bryan Scott and reserve CB Drayton Florence both sustained knee injuries. Without going into detail, coach Dick Jauron referred to the injuries as sprains, and added Scott's sprain was "milder" than Florence's.