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Bears vs. Falcons: Notes from a heartbreaking loss

The Bears were neck-and-neck with the defending NFC champions, but a last-second sack sealed the deal for the Monsters of the Midway.

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Chicago Bears
Mike Glennon was decent on Sunday, but he ultimately couldn’t get the job done.
Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

Say what you want about the Chicago Bears, but after Sunday’s performance against the Atlanta Falcons, one thing’s for sure.

This is not the same 3-13 team from last year.

There were plenty of negative things to be taken away from the team’s 23-17 loss. But with those, however, came a lot of optimism. Both the offense and defense look better than they did last year. The play-calling, for the most part, was pretty good, as well.

Let’s knock out a few bullet points from what I noticed from yesterday’s game.

  • Kudos to Dowell Loggains for making a lot of smart play calls out there. He did a fantastic job utilizing Tarik Cohen in the offense in a Darren Sproles-like role. And, up until the fourth quarter, ran a very balanced offense. The box score says that the Bears ran 40 passing plays and 20 running plays, but a whopping 27 of those passing plays came in the fourth quarter. Their ground game was effective today, and Loggains took advantage of that, for the most part.
  • Speaking of Tarik Cohen, my oh my, was he impressive. He was fantastic in training camp and in the preseason, and it appears that he is carrying that momentum into the regular season. He was a threat both on the ground and through the air: he had 113 total yards from scrimmage. Despite not having that big of a role in the passing game at North Carolina A&T, he proved to be a reliable weapon out of the backfield. He led the team in receptions and receiving yards with eight and 47, respectively. He even managed to score a touchdown on a receiving play. Given how involved he was in the offense yesterday, he will likely play a big role for the team this season.
  • Bobby Massie was bad. Very bad. In addition to the final sack of the game that he allowed, he fell victim to getting dominated by Vic Beasley. He simply isn’t athletic enough to keep up with fast edge rushers. This was the case last year, as well. Unfortunately for the Bears, though, they don’t really have any reliable replacements on the roster. Bradley Sowell and Tom Compton aren’t much better than Massie, if at all. If Massie doesn’t show signs of improvement throughout the year, though, I’d suggest thinking about cutting ties with the offensive tackle.
  • For much of the offseason, I believed in the narrative that the Bears should not rush Mitch Trubisky’s development, and that they should start Mike Glennon as long as he can be a decent quarterback. After watching both quarterbacks this preseason and seeing Glennon play this week, though, it’s clear that this offense would be better off with the rookie manning the helm. Sure, Glennon had a handful of solid throws, and his final drive was pretty impressive, for the most part. However, he displayed a lack of pocket awareness and mobility which ultimately led to his being sacked four times. Sure, the offensive line play wasn’t great, but Glennon showed little to no ability to evade defenders in and out of the pocket. As we saw in the preseason, Trubisky is a much better athlete who can extend the play with his feet. Plus, Glennon’s stats were padded by the fact that they almost never threw the ball downfield. And when they did, the results typically weren’t all that impressive. The Bears played the defending NFC champions down to the final play of the game. If they had started Trubisky, though, they arguably could’ve pulled away with a win.
  • Chicago did a good job of getting their running backs and tight ends involved in their passing game. As previously mentioned, Tarik Cohen led the team with eight catches and 47 yards. Jordan Howard, who, with 13 carries, 52 yards and a touchdown, had a good performance on the ground in his own right, was solid through the air. He ended up with three catches and 14 yards. Zach Miller ended up with four catches and 39 yards, while Dion Sims finished with two receptions and 31 yards. With Cameron Meredith and Kevin White both out for the year, the Bears are going to need to have these players continue to play at a high level.
  • Quintin Demps was not all that impressive in his debut with the Bears. This play basically sums up how the veteran safety did yesterday.
  • Granted, Jerrell Freeman did play a role in Austin Hooper’s big gain by leaving him alone to cover Julio Jones, but that’s a tackle that Demps has to make. As Hub Arkush pointed out, Demps’ performance brought back signs of when Antrel Rolle lined up in the secondary for the Bears. While he still has lots of time to make an impact for this defense, it’s clear that he didn’t start off on the right foot.
  • Jerrell Freeman screwed up on the play shown above, but he had an overall great performance besides that. He led the team with 10 total tackles, one of them being for a loss. The defensive captain could be in for another big year this season.
  • Akiem Hicks proved on Sunday that he was worth every penny of the big extension he was signed to on Saturday. He ended the game with three tackles and two sacks, causing a total loss of 13 yards on said sacks. He was the only player on the team to sack Matt Ryan. Although he had a roughing the passer call which led to a Falcons field goal drive, he looked impressive in the pass rush and stopping the run. If he keeps up this level of play, then he could potentially be headed towards a Pro Bowl season.
  • Although Kyle Fuller vs. Julio Jones seems like a lopsided matchup on paper, Fuller actually held his own against the Falcons’ top target. Jones only had four receptions for 66 yards, which is much lower than what most had predicted for him. I stated on The Falcoholic’s Facebook Live show that it wouldn’t be surprising to see him top 150 receiving yards, so Fuller definitely shocked me with his play yesterday. A lot of people wrote Fuller off this offseason, but the first-round pick displayed determination and fire in his play on Sunday.

That’s about all I have in the way of notes for this week. The Bears didn’t get the results they wanted, but they did show notable improvements over the 3-13 ways of last year. And when you’re a rebuilding team like they are, you can’t really ask for more.