It wouldn't be too much of a stretch to say that almost no one expected the Bears to blow out the visiting Atlanta Falcons by 18 points in the season opener. Yet that's exactly what happened. On a beautiful day in Chicago, the Monsters of the Midway stormed out of the gate picking up a big home win against a quality opponent.
The near consensus amongst the national media was that the Bears, who hosted the NFC Championship game last year, would come out flat and get run over by the Falcons, who had the best record in the NFC last season. I guess that's why we play the games, as it was the Bears players that brought out the big stick and thoroughly overwhelmed their visitors from the NFC South.
Two injuries to report: WR Roy Williams left the game with a groin injury and G Lance Louis left with an ankle injury. Louis was wearing a protective boot on his right leg in the locker room after the game.
Chicago jumps to 1-0 on the season and will go on the road next week to face the New Orleans Saints.
DE Julius Peppers
-LB Brian Urlacher is my player of the game. He racked up 10 combined tackles, one for a loss, as well as an interception, a deflected pass and fumble recovery that he returned for a touchdown, the fourth of his career. The interception came on a 2nd down and 2 from the Chicago 35-yard line. Matt Ryan rolled right but had pressure in his face from a blitzing D.J. Moore. He let fly a deep ball that Urlacher tracked down and pulled in with a diving grab. Urlacher said after the game he didn't think Ryan was going to throw it but was happy when he did.
-Julius Peppers and Henry Melton also had outstanding afternoons. Both players were able to get consistent pressure, earning two sacks apiece. Melton was especially effective, racking up two tackles for a loss and seven quarterback hits. Peppers was the one who applied the pressure on Urlacher's touchdown, forcing Ryan out of the pocket. Ryan then lost control of the ball, allowing Urlacher to pick it up and run it in for the score.
-DE Corey Wootton (knee) was not healthy enough to play, so the team had to decided between Nick Reed and Mario Addison at the backup defensive end spot. The coaches went with experience over youth and gave Reed the nod. He didn't have an outstanding game, earning no tackles and just one pass defended, but just the fact he was chosen to play over Addison gives us a good idea of the confidence coordinator Rod Marinelli has in the third-year player.
-Speaking of defensive ends, Marinelli slid Melton outside on two occasions I can recall. Melton didn't get much pressure off the edge though.
-Falcons RB Michael Turner gashed the Bears for 100 yards on 10 carries. The team did a better job of corralling him in the second half though, forcing Ryan to air it out a whopping 47 times.
-DT Matt Toeaina started ahead of Anthony Adams, who played despite practicing on a limited basis all week. Toeaina earned just two tackles but was stout inside. Adams, on the other hand, was rusty and got pushed around more often than not in the run game. A full week of practice will do him well.
-Major Wright started the game and did not allow any big plays – a good sign for the first-year starter. Recent acquisition Brandon Meriweather played a limited number of snaps but was able to elicit a big personal foul penalty against Falcons receiver Harry Douglas. Contribute any way you can I guess.
-CB Corey Graham was outstanding on special teams, leading the team with three combined tackles.
-Lance Louis left the game in the first quarter. Chris Spencer filled in at right guard for him and performed well. He said he hadn't played guard for 4-5 years, and even then only for a few games. You wouldn't have known it though, as he was solid in both run and pass blocking.
-The Bears' offensive line gave up five sacks in the game. By my count, three of those were the fault of LT J'Marcus Webb, who just could not handle the Falcons' defensive end combo of Ray Edwards and John Abraham. He also had three holding penalties. To say it was a bad game for Webb would be an understatement and it fully explains why he was nowhere to be found in the post-game locker room.
RB Matt Forte
-The front five also had trouble opening up holes in the run game. Forte rushed 16 times for 68 yards but the majority of that was his own doing, making defenders miss. Kahlil Bell rushed 10 times for just 24 yards. Even RT Gabe Carimi, who was a beast this offseason when run blocking, couldn't consistently move defenders. Expect line coach Mike Tice to spend extra time with his guys on the blocking sled this week.
-RB Matt Forte carried the load this afternoon, racking up 158 total yards. He led the team in receiving with five catches for 90 yards, including an outstanding screen pass that he took 56 yards for a touchdown. He seemed to be running angry, possibly because of his contract situation. Either way, if he stays healthy, he's going to have a career year.
-QB Jay Cutler had an extremely efficient game, despite being sacked five times and hit another six times. He completed 22 of 32 passes for 312 yards and two touchdowns. His only interception came on a pass deflected at the line of scrimmage. He was on target for most of the day, finishing the game with a 107.8 passer rating.
-WR Roy Williams was targeted four times and hauled in all of them. He ended the day with 55 receiving yards. It was a solid performance that should give him confidence going forward, assuming his groin injury doesn't keep him out for too long.
-WR Earl Bennett had a very quiet day, catching just two passes for 11 yards.
-P Adam Podlesh averaged 48.0 yards per punt, which is very good. Yet the number is a bit misleading, as a few of his kicks were short ducks that took good bounces.
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Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.