Week One Review: Bears Dominate Falcons, 30-12
The Bears started off the season just about as well as a team could start off a season with a 30-12 thumping of the Falcons, one of the media’s preseason’s NFC darlings. The media, who have been very eager to write the 2011 Bears off ever since the end of the lockout, have attributed the Bears’ dominance over the Falcons from everything to lucky bounces to early season jitters to playing on real grass. The fact remains, however, that the Bears would have been up 20-3 at halftime (not just 16-3) had Cutler not over thrown a WIDE-OPEN Kellen Davis on a third-and-goal; and the Falcons’ lone touchdown came on a returned interception late in the fourth quarter, when the game was essentially over. With all that being said, here are my THREE STARS for Week One:
1) Brian Urlacher, LB – Finished with 10 tackles, 1 interception, and a 12-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown. Was all over the field in the way that only Brian Urlacher can. Of all the players in the NFL, the lockout might have been most beneficial for him, as it let him rest up for the season—he looks faster than he has in 5 years.
2) Jay Cutler, QB – Completed 70 percent of his passes and averaged 15 yards per completion. Took 4 sacks, but showed improved maturity in throwing the ball away on a couple instances and took a couple sacks instead of throwing the ball into coverage. That being said, he did have a couple potential interceptions dropped and cost us a touchdown on that overthrow at the end of the first half. Overall, if Jay continues this pace and ends with 5,000 yards passing and 30+ TDs, we should be in excellent shape.
3) Henry Melton, DT – Alot of people would put Julius Peppers here, as he had 2 sacks and probably altered the Falcons’ game plan more than anyone else on our defense. However, in his first career start, Melton was UNBLOCKABLE as the “Tommie Harris” 3-technique tackle. He finished with 2 sacks, 2 other tackles for loss, and 7 quarterback hits. At this rate, teams will not be able to slide blockers over to Peppers—which should keep all opposing offensive coordinators up at night.
Now lets look at the keys to the game from Friday; and evaluate how we did:
1) Good Tackling. I said if the Bears tackle well, we should hold them to under 20 points. Our defense did even better than that, holding the Falcons’ offense to just 6 points. We had 4 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, and an interception. There were a couple of coverage lapses—one in particular on a 20-yard seam route to TE Tony Gonzalez—but a really good overall game by our defense.
2. Pass protection. The Falcons had 4 sacks, but overall the line protected Jay pretty good. On the Cutler interception, OT J’Marcus Webb has to do a better job of cutting that DE who batted the quick pass up in the air. I thought Chris Spencer did a great job filling in for Lance Louis—and I think he might keep the starting spot, even when Louis gets healthy.
3. Our WRs versus the jam. Overall, orur WRs did a good job getting open; Roy Williams had a good game before he injured his hamstring. One of the aspects of Williams’ game that wasn; treally talked about upon his signing this offseason was his ability to block—and he had a couple really good blocks—-one on a pass to Hester, one on a pass to Forte—that sprung them for long gains.
4. Punt Coverage. Really good job here—I am not sure why I ever doubted a Dave Toub-coached special teams unit. held Eric Weems, last year’s NFC Pro Bowl returner, to 3.3 yards per return.
5. Cutler’s decision making. I give Cutler a free pass on the interception-turned-touchdown. I am not sure why we were still passing at that point; or why Cutler was even in the game at that point. But he threw the ball away on a couple plays, where 2 years ago he might have tried to force a pass; and a couple of those sacks were the result of him just taking the play for what it was, not trying to be Superman, and living to fight another down.
FINAL PREDICTION: The name of the game in the current NFL is being able to create big plays. I think the Bears are more suited for this than the Falcons, and—especially being at home—-the Bears beat the Falcons in Week One, 28-17. The final score was 30-12. Pretty good, huh?