CHICAGO — AJ McCarron made a shaky case for a roster spot, leading a surge in the fourth quarter after struggling for most of the game, and the Buffalo Bills closed the preseason with a 28-27 victory over the Chicago Bears on Thursday night.
With both teams holding out their starters and few key reserves playing, the focus was on McCarron.
He ran for a touchdown and threw for three more in the fourth — including a 6-yarder to Keith Towbridge in the closing minute. That capped an 84-yard drive that was aided by two roughing-the-passer calls, including one against Isaiah Irving on a fourth down at the Buffalo 3.
McCarron was 13 of 34 for 156 yards and had an interception returned for a touchdown in the early going. He could be the odd man out if the Bills decide to go with two quarterbacks rather than three.
Tyler Bray made a case for the Bears to keep three quarterbacks. With Mitchell Trubisky and backup Chase Daniel not playing, Bray was 19 of 29 for 180 yards and an interception. Ryan Nall ran for 79 yards, including a 32-yard touchdown.
Signed to a two-year deal in free agency after spending the past four seasons as Andy Dalton's backup in Cincinnati, McCarron was considered the initial front-runner for the Bills' starting job because he had more experience than first-round pick Josh Allen and returning backup Nathan Peterman.
But he missed a little over a week after he bruised his right shoulder while being hit several times at Cleveland on Aug. 17. That injury along with his performance seemed to knock him out of the running for the starting job. It also raised questions about whether he will make the opening roster.
McCarron got off to a brutal start, throwing for just 39 yards and getting picked off twice in the first half.
His troubles really began after Cody Parkey kicked a 47-yard field goal on Chicago's first possession.
Moments later, McCarron threw a pass right to the Bears' Doran Grant along the sideline, resulting in a 33-yard touchdown return. And just like that, it was 10-0.
Parkey added a 23-yard field goal midway through the second quarter. Nall made it 20-0 with just under two minutes left in the half with his 32-yard TD run up the right sideline, though the Bears missed another opportunity in the closing seconds after McCarron got picked off again.
Chicago's Abdullah Anderson tipped a pass at the line, leading to an interception for John Timu. But Parkey's 39-yard attempt hit the right upright.
There were no protests by either team during the anthem.
Bills: RT Conor McDermott walked gingerly toward the sideline after a 10-yard scramble by McCarron in the third. He returned later in the quarter at left tackle.
Bears: TE Daniel Brown suffered a shoulder injury on a 27-yard catch in the third and left the game. ... LB Kasim Edebali was helped off the field and taken from the sideline on a cart with an apparent leg injury after a run by Buffalo on the first play of the fourth quarter.
Bills: Open season at Baltimore on Sept. 9.
Bears: Open season at Green Bay on Sept. 9.