Defense Shines in Opener

The Chicago Bears defense performed very well in the team's season opener, surrendering nary a touchdown to the Atlanta Falcons' vaunted offensive unit and forcing three turnovers.

The Chicago Bears' defense did a pretty impressive number on the Falcons' offense that finished No. 5 in scoring last season, but it doesn't get any easier in Week 2 against the Saints in New Orleans.

Although the Falcons had 386 total yards, their offense never made it to the end zone.

That bodes well for a team that hopes to advance further than last season, when it lost in the NFC title game. For that to happen, the Bears' offense will have to be better than it was last season, but it will still be the defense that carries this team.

Their two fumble recoveries and one interception left the Bears plus-2 in the turnover department, something that has been a staple of defenses under coach Lovie Smith. Since he took over in 2004, the Bears have taken the ball away an NFL-best 235 times, 12 more than the next-best team.

"It's not a good defensive game for us unless we can take the ball away," Smith said. "Normally if you have a plus-2 on the turnover ratio, you're going to win 90 percent of your games. Our players understand that. We just have to keep that going. It's what we do every day in practice."


LB Brian Urlacher
Jonathan Daniel/Getty

Thirty-three-year-old middle linebacker Brian Urlacher, the oldest position player on a team that normally starts six players 30 or older, had a diving interception late in the first quarter that set up Matt Forte's 56-yard touchdown scamper with a screen pass.

Later, Urlacher capped the Bears' scoring when he scooped up a Matt Ryan fumble caused by pressure from 31-year-old defensive end Julius Peppers, who had two sacks, a forced fumble and a recovered fumble. The fumble that Peppers recovered was forced by 30-year-old cornerback Charles Tillman, who also broke up two passes and had a tackle for loss.

"How about that old guy? Huh?" Tillman said when asked about Urlacher's 19th career interception. "He's still making athletic plays, he still has it. Ray Lewis has still got it; I think 'Lack's' still got it, as we saw. He's a great player, not just on this team but in this league. He's an impact player.

"Age isn't a problem on this team," Tillman said. "As long as you can go out there and play, nothing else matters."

The Bears had five sacks of the mobile Matt Ryan, and all of them came from the linemen with little blitz help, which is the key to their system.

LINEUP WATCH

Wide receivers Roy Williams, Devin Hester and Johnny Knox and running back Matt Forte all had at least 55 yards and three receptions in a balanced attack. Knox, who was behind Williams on the depth chart, had three catches for 60 yards. Since Williams (four catches for 55 yards) left the game in the fourth quarter with a groin injury, Knox may get a few more chances this week in New Orleans.

UNDER THE RADAR

Undrafted rookie wide receiver Dane Sanzenbacher was second on the Bears in the preseason with 10 catches and 107 yards. He had just one catch for six yards in the season opener, but if Roy Williams' groin injury keeps him out Sunday against the Saints, the rookie could see more time.

PLAYER NOTES

--WR Roy Williams left with a groin injury in the fourth quarter and did not return.

--G Lance Louis left in the second quarter and did not return.

--C/G Chris Spencer replaced the injured Lance Louis in the second quarter.

--QB Jay Cutler posted a passer rating of 107.8, completing 22 of 32 passes for 312 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. His teams are now 23-0 when he has a passer rating of 100 or higher.

--RB Matt Forte had a combined 158 yards from scrimmage, rushing 16 times for 68 yards and catching five passes for 90 yards, including a 56-yard touchdown on a screen pass.


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