Week 1: Bears defeat Falcons 30-12 in opener
BY SEAN JENSEN firstname.lastname@example.org September 11, 2011 12:08PM
A 100-yard American Flag was presented during the National Anthem as the Chicago Bears host the Atlanta Falcons in the season opener September 11, 2011 at Soldier Field. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times
Updated: September 19, 2011 4:15PM
After all the dramas and questions generated during the preseason, the Bears displayed its veteran savvy in the season-opener against a 2010 playoff team and declared that they have no intention of giving up the NFC North title.
The Bears handled business at home, and they handled the Atlanta Falcons in a 30-12 drubbing.
And in one game, the Bears addressed several of the issues from a season ago.
In 2010, the Bears were 27th in the NFL on third downs, and they especially struggled when only one yard was needed. Against the Falcons, when the game mattered, the Bears were efficient converting six of 12 third downs.
Early in the second quarter, Cutler completed an 11-yard pass to a wide-open Kellen Davis. Then, with about a minute remaining in the first half, Cutler rolled right then tossed the ball across the field to the left. Davis was once again wide open, for what would have been a walk-in touchdown, but the pass was way over his head.
But the Bears also converted the long ones, too.
Roy Williams had a tumultuous preseason, sullied by a handful of drops and questions about his fitness. But Williams, while wide open, hauled in a 23-yard catch on third-and six on the Bears opening drive, helping set up a 41-yard field goal by Robbie Gould.
Just after the two-minute warning, on third and six, Cutler threaded a pass to Williams, who snatched it out of the air with cornerback Dunta Robinson just a step behind him.
That gained another 15 yards and helped set up a 26-yard field goal by Gould.
The Bears also showed off some explosiveness, with four different players notching plays of 20 plus yards, the most impressive a 56-yard touchdown catch by Matt Forte. He caught a screen, and he bounced off linebacker Sean Weatherspoon at the 36-yard line then sprinted into the end zone for the touchdown.
And Cutler was putting together one of his finest performances of his Bears’ tenure, until throwing an interception that was returned for a touchdown in the fourth quarter. His pass attempt was tipped by Falcons Pro Bowl defensive end John Abraham, and defensive end Kroy Biermann brought the ball in, and he rumbled 50 yards for the touchdown.
Cutler was 22 of 31 for 312 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. And while he was sacked three times, Cutler appeared to hold the ball too long in a couple of instances. Overall, the Bears offensive line played a solid game, even after starting right guard Lance Louis left the game in the second quarter with an ankle injury. Chris Spencer stepped in and did a solid job.
But one of the most encouraging aspects of Sunday’s season-opening win was the Bears defense.
Ranked ninth a season ago, they appear poised to jump up even higher in the NFL rankings.
They forced three turnovers, including a fumble forced by Julius Peppers that was returned 12 yards for a touchdown by linebacker Brian Urlacher.
Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan was 28 of 40 for 286 yards with no touchdowns and one interception.