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Week 1 Overreaction: Bears vs. Falcons

With one game that actually counts in the books, it’s time for Windy City Gridiron to once more capture the ups and downs of being a fan of the Chicago Bears.

Atlanta Falcons v Chicago Bears Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The Chicago Bears’ season has started and the first game against the Atlanta Falcons in a 23-17 loss gave us plenty of ups and downs. To help with that, those of us here at Windy City Gridiron are once again going to overreact for you. In this case, Robert is going to focus on the positive and Josh is going to be a more typical Chicago fan be a bit more negative. We’ll bring you the highs and lows of being a Bears fan in an easy Week 1 discussion. Ready? Here we go…

Robert: How can one have any complaints after that spirited effort against the Falcons? If you were to tell me before the game that the Bears would have four plays to get six yards to beat the defending NFC champion and one of the most complete teams in the league, I would’ve been ecstatic. A mostly stellar effort defensively carried the day, buoyed by big money man Akiem Hicks’ two sacks, and put the Bears in position to win. Tarik Cohen is clearly the next coming of Marshall Faulk and we should start getting his gold jacket in Canton already prepared. I’m fairly certain he’s still shifting the field with his electric runs. And Mike Glennon showed real grit and determination by having the Bears in position with the game on the line. A lot of quality leadership there. These are the first steps of a real contender, in all honesty.

Josh: That’s great, yes. Except for the fact that all of those players lost the football game. Glennon’s grit and determination managed to go 0-1, like all the rest of the Bears. Speaking of Glennon, I’ve figured out the secret of how Glennon inflates his passer rating (and yes, for his style of play, an 86.8 is an inflated passer rating). He gets sacked and sets up downs that need a dozen yards or more. That way when he swings it out wide or hangs his receivers out to dry in the middle and they pick up eight yards, it looks like he did a good job even though he managed only to recover the yards he lost on the sack in the first place.

Glennon did a better job than I was expecting, but when getting sacked four times and failing at four consecutive efforts to put it in the endzone is “better”, that says more about the past precedent that the present performance. I do want to be fair, however, because Glennon could not have been that bad at the end had he not been aided by some truly terrible play by all receiving weapons over 5-foot-7.

That failed drive had all the hallmarks of the Bears’ offense - drops, sacks, and missed opportunities.

Robert: I think the fact that he responded once the Bears opened up the playbook a little bit (and once Atlanta sat back), can’t be overlooked though. It should be noted that it seemed like the Bears’ coaching staff elected to keep the training wheels on Glennon throughout most of the game, as if to protect the offense. I’m not sure how much opening up the playbook will ultimately mean for a guy that admittedly is a little limited such as Glennon, but it can only help moving forward as evidenced by that sterling fourth quarter where he was 18 of 27 for 163 yards and a touchdown. Yards per attempt be damned, he had the team right there to beat the Falcons, even if there’s a lot to improve upon.

You kind of alluded to his size, so how about that debut for Cohen? It almost feels like an understatement when you note he broke a Bears’ all-purpose yardage record for a debut with 154 - because he was the best player on the field for both teams on Sunday. Cohen touched the ball 20 times and routinely made Falcons defenders look silly. From a 46-yard run where he reversed field completely to a WildCat formation as the man taking the snap to set up the Bears’ first touchdown, he did it all.

There was reasonable concern in the preseason as to whether Cohen, “Big Daddy” or “The Human Joystick”, could translate his play once the games became real. Boy, did he answer those questions. I don’t think it’s unfair to say he’s the Bears’ best and most versatile offensive weapon at the moment considering Jordan Howard is a lesser receiver in comparison. Now, I’m really curious as to how the Bears will deploy Cohen moving forward because the secret is out, but it would be a shame if he went to waste. It might be time for radio play-by-play man Joniak to bring Devin Hester’s “you are ridiculous!” out of retirement for this sparkplug.

Josh: Cohen at least did play well, when the team let him. I loved (no, wait, wrong word - felt crushed mentally) when I found myself wondering why the quarterback was targeting a wide receiver who was the No. 7 pick in the 2015 draft on plays instead of the rookie running back who was taken more than a hundred spots later. The Bears needed a long drive or two and found themselves turning to Kevin White, only to find him with a 50 percent catch rate and a total of six yards on four targets. Six yards! That’s barely 3.25 Tarik Cohens!

On a related note, with White likely out for the season, can we finally just admit that drafting him was a mistake by Pace? Can Bears fans get behind this? If we really want to find a tall receiver for the quarterback to fixate on, maybe Glennon can swing out wide again. The guy is at least a halfway decent blocker.

Robert: I don’t think it’s unfair to say taking a wide receiver in the top 10 was a mistake by Pace. Unless the prospect is truly as good as Julio Jones, that was probably a little misguided. But it’s not fair to evaluate this now mistake based on injury misfortune for both Pace and White. If this sentiment was going to be fully proven, I would’ve preferred it happen on the field, not have it all snatched away with a third consecutive season-ending injury. My heart breaks for White because he hasn’t even had the shot to go down fighting while the screams of “bust” get louder and louder.

It’s not White’s fault and it’s not a character flaw for someone to get injured. It’s out of their control. He didn’t actively look to get hurt. You just hope he eventually gains traction in another NFL city at this rate.

Josh: With his luck, he is more likely to be in traction than he is to gain traction, but I can agree with the sentiment. It was nice to see at least one off-season investment pay off. Hicks came to play. Cooper and Demps? Not so much. In fact, Leonard Floyd got his hands on more passes than Demps, and that’s good because Floyd certainly didn’t get his hands on the quarterback.

Now, I’m not going to say (yet) that his offseason program has sapped him of speed without giving him enough strength to compensate. However, I will say that something is wrong with a defensive play design that drops the team’s young, fiery pass rusher into coverage more often than it has him - you know - rushing the passer.

Robert: Everyone knows how I feel about Floyd, and while he was ineffective as an edge rusher against the Falcons, I think that speaks more to how the Bears wanted to use him.

He dropped back a fair amount instead of going head on against two very good tackles in Jake Matthews and Ryan Schraeder. That’s defensive coordinator Vic Fangio wanting to limit Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman’s receiving ability out of the backfield (six total receptions for 44 yards). And when he did drop back, he looked fairly natural and comfortable (even a pass breakup!). That’s a far cry from the shy Bambi he was in coverage in early 2016. Given how the defensive game really only broke on a few huge plays from tight end Austin Hooper, I’d say that game plan to take away Coleman and Freeman was sound. It was unconventional, but for the most part, it worked.

Still, Floyd will have to be better individually moving forward, yes. I know he doesn’t have the best complements of pass rusher with an aging Willie Young or ailing Pernell McPhee next to him, but if he’s a superstar pass rusher he’s going to have get home more often than not. That’s his job, regardless of other circumstances. Based on how next week’s opponent in the Buccaneers run their offense with deep shots down the field in comparison to Atlanta’s efficiency, expect Floyd to be able to pin his ears back on the edge and use that trademark athleticism to it’s best. It’s time to become a household name.

Robert Zeglinski is the Bears beat writer for the Rock River Times and is an editor for Windy City Gridiron. Josh Sunderbruch is a writer and the numbers man for Windy City Gridiron. You can follow Robert on Twitter @RobertZeglinski.