By: David Schiele
The Chicago Bears won 3 games in 2016. The Falcons went to the Super Bowl. However, in week 1 of 2017, the Bears were 5 yards away from upsetting the Falcons.
On his final drive, quarterback Mike Glennon attacked the Falcons defense, marching Chicago into a goal-to-go situation. Glennon couldn’t connect on his next three passes but had one more chance to give the Bears a signature win. Falcons linebacker Brooks Reed literally sacked that chance by clobbering Glennon before he could attempt a pass.
Atlanta barely won.
You should be prepared to say that phrase multiple times this season. Why? The Falcons have a huge target on their back.
The 30 NFL teams that spectated Super Bowl 51 know Atlanta could’ve (should’ve) won. And the 12 remaining teams scheduled to play the Falcons will give them their absolute best shot.
Chicago just did so.
Their defense was stiff for most of the day. The Bears held Atlanta’s dynamic rushing duo of Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman to 53 yards. They also contained the Falcons on third down, allowing only 5 conversions on 11 tries—including two stops inside of their own 20-yard line. Ultimately, Chicago allowed just 23 points to the NFL’s most powerful offense from last year.
Offensively, rookie running back Tarik Cohen had a coming out party. He racked up 113 scrimmage yards and his first NFL touchdown. As a whole, the Chicago offense played with attitude and kept themselves within striking distance of Atlanta all day.
Moving forward, Atlanta will need to play much more efficiently on offense. The offensive line struggled on run plays and allowed two sacks. Most will fault right guard Wes Schweitzer for these struggles.
Away from the players, Offensive Coordinator Steve Sarkisian may need to move into the coaches’ booth during games. Since the preseason, Sarkisian has called plays from the sideline because it makes him comfortable. However, Julio Jones had a serious, lengthy discussion with him after Jones was used as a decoy on a failed 3rd and goal play. It may take an uncharacteristically low offensive performance for that change to be made.
Next week, Atlanta will host the Green Bay Packers, who will seek vengeance for the blowout loss in January’s NFC championship game. Atlanta should expect their best shot, similar to what Chicago just gave them.