Bears Make 30-12 Opening Statement
By Benjy Lipsman in News on Sep 12, 2011 2:15PM
Even though the Bears finished the 2010 season with an 11-5 record, the NFC's second seed in the playoffs and made it all the way to the NFC Championship game, many questioned whether the Bears were contenders in 2011. While it may still be early to tell what this team is capable of, the Bears' 30-12 victory over the Atlanta Falcons was a statement to doubters they shouldn't be counted out just yet. After all, the Falcons were the NFC's top seed a season ago, and a popular pick to represent the conference in the Super Bowl this year.
The Bears were in control for most of the game, driving down on the game's first possession to score a field goal and take an early 3-0 lead. The Falcons tied the game soon after before the Bears pulled away. Brian Urlacher laid out to intercept a Matt Ryan pass, which set up the Bears first touchdown of the season. Cutler hit Johnny Knox for 25 yards and Matt Forte turned a short pass from Cutler into a 56-yard touchdown reception and a 10-3 lead. A pair of field goals in the second quarter gave the Bears a 16-3 halftime advantage. The Falcons cut the Bears lead to 10 with a field goal to open the second half, but the Bears stormed back with 14 quick points. Devin Hester caught a screen pass and weaved his way 53 yards to the one-yard line before Cutler found tight end Matt Spaeth in the end zone. On the ensuing Falcons possession, Julius Peppers sacked Matt Ryan and forced a fumble, which Urlacher scooped up and ran into the end zone to give the Bears a 30-6 lead. Atlanta added a late touchdown, but failed on their two point conversion.
The Bears won this game on all three phases of the game. Cutler passed for 312 yards on 22 of 32 passing, hitting nine different receivers while throwing two TDs. He did get picked off once on a tipped pass and was sacked five times by the Falcons. Forte caught 5 passes for 90 yards and rushed for 68 more, compiling 158 total yards -- that should help his argument for a new deal. Knox and Hester each caught three balls for 60 yards apiece and Roy Williams caught all four balls that came his way, for 55 yards. The offensive line allowed four sacks and was flagged for a number of penalties that brought back a couple long Kahlil Bell runs, but they looked better than last year at this time.
The Bears defense was relentless, allowing the Falcons few big plays and holding a high powered offense to just 12 points. Peppers and Henry Melton each recorded two sacks, while Urlacher looked as good as ever with his pick and fumble recovery.
While the Bears passed their first test with flying colors, the challenges don't stop. They still have to face two more legitimate NFC contenders over the next two weeks. The Bears travel to New Orleans to play the Saints next Sunday before hosting the Green Bay Packers at Soldier Field in week three. We were fearing an 0-3 start for the Monsters of the Midway, so they've already surpassed our expectations. If they split the next two games the Bears could prove many of the naysayers wrong.