After an unforgettable 3-13 season in 2016, many didn’t expect much from the Chicago Bears in their Week 1 matchup against the defending NFC champion Atlanta Falcons. To the surprise of many, the Bears held their own against the Falcons, only to find themselves on the losing end of a 23-17 score. Offensively, Chicago looked more productive in the running game than they did in their passing attack. On the other side of the ball, they were a force early, only to unravel later in the contest.
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The Bears never led in this contest, but did do just enough to make this game interesting all the way down to the wire. It looks as if Chicago made some strides in the right direction since last year, but still have proven that there is much work to be done in order to be playoff contenders this season. Here’s a look at the Bears’ first weekly report card of 2017.
Mike Glennon’s regular-season debut in a Bears uniform wasn’t eye-popping, but it did give fans some assurance that he is able of being the No.1 quarterback for now. Glennon finished the game completing 26 of 40 pass attempts for 213 yards, one touchdown and zero interceptions. The five-year veteran didn’t take many shots downfield, displaying more of a conservative approach in the passing game with screens and short crossing patterns. Glennon did come up huge while blocking for ball carriers, which resulted in much-needed big gains to keep drives alive.
The big story for the Bears was definitely the play of rookie running back Tarik Cohen. The fourth-round draft pick led Chicago in both rushing and receiving, finishing with a total of 113 yards from scrimmage, which included a 19-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter that cut the Falcons’ lead to three points. Fellow running back Jordan Howard was a complementary change-of-pace to the quick Cohen, adding 52 yards on 13 carries and a rushing touchdown of his own. Unfortunately, Howard did drop a pass on the goal line on second-and-goal, which could have been the potential game-tying touchdown late in the game.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Chicago’s receiving corps was virtually not a part of the offense for majority of the game. It wasn’t until late in the game on their potential game-winning drive that the Bears’ receivers started to get really involved. Overall, they were not affective enough to change the outcome of this game. Tight end Zach Miller led this bunch with four catches for 39 yards. Wide receiver Josh Bellamy did come up with a couple of huge catches to keep the final drive alive, but did drop a pass in the end zone on first-and-goal. As for Chicago’s No. 1 receiver Kevin White, he finished with three receptions for 34 yards and had a drop as well. White also left the game in the fourth quarter with a shoulder injury.
Without Kyle Long in the starting lineup, Tom Compton stepped in at left guard. On the ground, the Bears’ offensive line did an average job controlling the line of scrimmage, which resulted in Chicago to rush for a total of 125 yards on 19 carries. As for the pass protection, the O-line surrendered three sacks, including the one on the Bears’ final offensive play that sealed the victory for the Falcons.
On their first series of the game, the defensive line did very little to control the line of scrimmage, and allowed the Falcons to march down the field to grab a 3-0 lead. After that, things started to look better. Defensive end Akiem Hicks recorded the Bears’ two sacks of the game, and was in the Falcons’ backfield disrupting the run.
Along with the defensive line, Chicago’s linebackers were in on a lot of tackles near the line of scrimmage against the run. Just like last season, Jerrell Freeman led all linebackers with 10 tackles, while Leonard Floyd chipped in with some occasional pressure on Atlanta’s quarterback. Floyd also showed his skills in pass coverage breaking up a pass.
The main focus for the Bears’ secondary was the containment of All-Pro wide receiver Julio Jones. Chicago had problems at first, allowing Jones to end the first half with four catches for 66 yards, but did prevent him from recording a reception in the second half. Unfortunately, they forgot to cover tight end Austin Hooper in the fourth quarter. A blown assignment by safety Quintin Demps left Hooper wide open in the middle of the field for an 88-yard touchdown. On the Falcons’ next offensive drive, Hooper gained 40 yards on a third down, thanks to missed tackles by cornerback Kyle Fuller and rookie safety Eddie Jackson. Overall, the secondary got burned for 321 yards in the air.
Kicker Connor Barth had only one opportunity to show off his leg strength, and took full advantage when he connected on a 54-yard field goal. Punter Pat O’Donnell pinned three of his five punts inside the 20-yard line. Cohen’s longest punt return was for 17 yards, while Benny Cunningham and Deonte Thompson averaged 23.0 yards per kick return.
The criticisms that stands out concerning the coaching staff points to the offensive side of the ball. First, offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains must find a way to get his wide receivers involved more in the game. Furthermore, the coaching staff must put the offense in position to throw the ball downfield more. The longest pass attempt was to Cohen (a running back). Second, Cohen should’ve been on the field more late in the game. Although Howard is the feature back, Cohen was hands down the Bears’ biggest playmaker against the Falcons, and should’ve been at least a decoy on that potential game-winning drive.