The Chicago Bears started the 2011 season in style, starting fast and coasting to a 30-12 win over the Atlanta Falcons. It was a day highlighted by a stirring 9/11 tribute, a stout defense and a highlight reel offense. The Bears went into the game as home underdogs and left with a lopsided victory, humbling last season’s top seed in the NFC. Thanks to the fine folks at Marconi Foods, I was there to soak in the atmosphere and enjoy a terrific day. Check out my observations from Section 432 after the jump.
The 9/11 tribute and the National Anthem performed by Blackhawks anthem singer Jim Cornelison to start the game was amazing. If you didn’t get chills, you have no soul. I was a little surprised that there was no flyover, but I guess those brave men and women were probably busy protecting our country rather than buzzing around in fighter jets for our amusement.
The Bears offense moved the ball with relative ease until they reached the red zone. They still stalled when they got in close. If the Bears want to compete with the Saints and Packers of the world the next couple of weeks, those early field goals need to get converted into touchdowns. Jay Cutler acknowledged as much after the game:
“We left some out there, we started off pretty good but we just have to get better in the red zone, we just have to hammer out some of these details because we left points on the board.”
The Mike Martz offense mixed it up well, spreading the ball around to 8 different receivers while Jay Cutler went 22 out of 32 for 312 yards and 2 TD’s. Matt Forte had an incredible run after the catch on a short pass to go 56 yards to the house. Don’t take my word for it, see for yourself.
Another long TD came up inches short as Jay Cutler connected with Devin Hester on a short slip screen and Hester did the rest, creating magic in the open field and just missing getting inside the pylon for a 54 yard touchdown. After a blown challenge by Lovie Smith, Cutler connected with new tight end Matt Spaeth for a 1-yard TD pass to open up the Bears lead.
Across the sidelines, the Falcons offense started a quick, uptempo attack with a no-huddle offense that appeared to have the Bears back on their heels. On a hot, steamy day in Soldier Field, it was an interesting strategy to keep the Bears base defense personnel on the field. The defense was able to stiffen when it mattered most and keep the high powered offense out of the end zone.
Highlighting the Bears defensive effort was Brian Urlacher. ‘Lach must have found the fountain of youth during the offseason because he was flying around the field like a rookie. He had an unbelievable interception to stop a Falcons drive deep in Bears territory, setting up Matt Forte’s long touchdown scamper. Urlacher capped the day by recovering a Matt Ryan fumble and rumbling into the end zone for a game-changing touchdown. In between, he was all over the field with about 10 tackles. He was his usual humble self when discussing his performance after the game:
“Well, we won the game, that’s all I care about. Stats, this and that, you can have all that. There were a lot of questions about our team coming into the season. We are starting 1-0. We just need to keep going.”
Despite the great effort and the total team win, there were still some areas for improvement. Let’s go bullets to close it out:
- Jay Cutler was sacked 5 times, including 2 by John Abraham. I thought he saved a few sacks by being pretty shifty in pocket and moving well. Offensive line still has some work to do.
- Speaking of Cutler, I thought he was still pretty careless with the ball at times. I don’t know how he manages to throw interceptions to defensive linemen and fluky tipped pass or not, that play can’t happen. There were another couple of sure interceptions that the Falcons dropped.
- The rushing attack still left a lot to be desired. They ended the day with 88 yards rushing, but with a lead to protect, they ran a lot late to pad those numbers. When the game was still on the line, the offense had about 22 yards rushing at the half.
- Red zone offense was only 1/3, which needs to improve.
What did I miss from the cheap seats? What were your observations? Has your impression of the team changed after their Week 1 performance against the Falcons?