The Atlanta Falcons were expected to come into Soldier Field and walk over a Bears team that many assumed would be poor. Well early on the Bears defense showed their teeth and stymied whatever rhythm the Falcons tried to get into.
On the ground they were spectacular, with the entire front playing well, moving with the Falcons outside zone and playing tough against the run all day. They held the duo of Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman to just 2.65 yards a carry, a long way from the dominant 4.63 yards a carry they managed last year.
With that foundation, the Bears slowed the entire Falcons offensive machinery to a far greater extent than anyone thought they would be able to. Akiem Hicks was a monster in the middle of the defensive front, and Leonard Floyd was an explosive presence on the edge to help corral what was expected to be a strong running game.
… Defensive frailty
However, it was far from a perfect show from the Bears defense. They weren’t the only team to suffer from some poor tackling this week, but you won’t see a bigger blown coverage this season than the one that led to Austin Hooper’s 88-yard touchdown reception.
The Bears defense started strong but it did wear down, and soon the lack of depth showed. Starters were gassed by the late third quarter, and without good depth players the likes of Hicks and Marcus Cooper were simply unable to maintain their level of performance, and the cracks started to show.
Tarik Cohen introduces himself to the world
Last year, a fifth-round rookie in Jordan Howard was the star of the backfield in Chicago, this year it looks like it will be a fourth-round rookie called Tarik Cohen.
A somewhat flat Bears offense was brought to life by the diminutive back as he slashed and dashed his way to 113 yards from scrimmage on just 13 touches.
It started with a run to the left where he saw a wall of defenders, reversed field, beat Brooks Reed and accelerated down field for 46 yards. It continued basically every time he touched the ball, as the 5’6” running back, who looked like Darren Sproles reborn, barrelled over Desmond Trufant for a touchdown and worried any defender who came close to him.
When Cameron Meredith went down with a torn ACL there was a worry that the Bears would be thin on the outside, and that worry soon became a reality.
The Bears offense was predicated on first-down runs, swing passes, and tight ends for big chunks of the game. Wide receivers caught just nine passes (for 82 yards), with most of those coming on the final, manic drive down to the goal line.
The biggest problem for the Bears is that once again Kevin White looked lost on an NFL field and managed to get hurt, with a suspected broken collarbone that could see him miss the rest of the season.
The Bears’ near-win covered a few issues with Mike Glennon’s performance, from his inability to drive the ball consistently to the outside, and specifically to his complete immobility in the pocket. More than once he was caught by the Falcons pass rush standing completely still at the back of the pocket, failing to step up into space as he made his reads.
Glennon was sacked four times and hit ten by a rush that did little to cover itself in glory or dominate the game.
Of course, the Bears have a much more mobile option on the bench in Mitchell Trubisky, but whether that would translate to better movement in the pocket is something of an unknown. Still, The Bears can’t be happy with losing nearly 40 yards in sacks together with just 5.3 yards an attempt.
The result may stave off discussions of a swap for now, but that storm is coming, and Sunday’s performance doesn’t bode well for Glennon’s long-term prospects.
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