ORCHARD PARK, N.Y.—If this had been a street football game, Drew Bledsoe would have told his top receiver to run 15 yards beyond the parked car in Mr. Smith's driveway, spin around the lamp post and look over his right shoulder for the football.
This was no street football game Sunday, although at times it resembled one of those count-to-10-before-rushing-the-quarterback contests as Buffalo outlasted the Bears 33-27 in overtime.
"Drew saw that we were covered one-on-one on the outside," said Bills leading receiver Eric Moulds, who caught eight passes for 119 yards and a TD. "Coach (Gregg Williams) let him call what he wanted and he decided to call 'go' routes and we just made plays."
Bledsoe picked on every nickel and dime defender the Bears trotted out on the field. It was his 10th career four-touchdown game.
"Bledsoe has such a quick release," Bears cornerback Todd McMillon said. "He's a big (6 feet 5 inches, 240 pounds) quarterback, so he's able to see over the front line. It's all based on timing with him. I tried my best out there today and we didn't win."
The Bears lost starting cornerback R.W. McQuarters to a knee injury in the season opener against Minnesota, and then rookie safety Bobby Gray had season-ending surgery last Monday to repair a dislocated wrist.
"They came in with a fairly conservative game plan defensively," Bledsoe said. "They didn't want to allow us to have the big offensive play. I've said it often and I'll continue to say it: When my receivers are one-on-one in pass coverage, I feel like they're going to win every time, and today they did."
The Bears gave up 233 yards in the air the previous week in a 29-23 loss to New Orleans. The Bills entered Sunday's game as the second-ranked passing offense in the league.
When Bears linebacker Warrick Holdman left the game with a knee injury, backup Mike Caldwell was summoned.
"That's why we pay guys to be on the team," Bears linebacker Rosevelt Colvin said. "We pay Mike enough money that he can come out there and play too. He did it in Philly last year and he has done it all of his career."
The middle of the Bears' secondarywhere the linebackers roamappeared especially vulnerable. Bills tight ends Jay Riemersma (four catches for 46 yards) and David Moore (three for 38 yards and one TD) feasted.
Moore was proud of the fact that Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher was virtually neutralized Sunday.
"I think running straight ahead helps to contain him," Moore said. "His biggest asset is his speed, and by running right at him you can minimize that with blocking. We made him rely more on his ability to be physical rather than his speed. I think it was very effective in the run game."
Running back Travis Henry kept the Bears' defense honest by running for 68 yards on 12 carries. He also caught three passes for 41 yards, including the 26-yard reception to win the game in overtime.
"[Bledsoe] is back there patting the ball, moving the ball around, and we can't get to the quarterback," Colvin said. "[The receivers] slide one way or the other and they get open. We just have to make sure we're working as a unit. The defensive line has to help the secondary out and the secondary has to help the defensive line out."
On one play Colvin got to Bledsoe a split second late and was whistled for a late hit.
"I don't think it was a late hit, I don't think it was a cheap shot and I don't think it was a roughing-the-passer [penalty]," Colvin said. "He got rid of the ball ... I didn't even take one step. I was already leaving [the ground] to hit him. I didn't take him down. I just hit him. It's not my fault that someone was in front of him and he fell over. That's on him."
The Bears fell behind 17-7 late in the second quarter before a TD pass from Jim Miller to David Terrell made it 17-14 at halftime.
"We all knew that we played horrible in the first half," safety Mike Brown said. "We played all right in the second half. You can't do that in this league. You lose. You have to put two halves together. I don't think we've done that all year yet."