Winners and Losers of Chicago Bears' Week 1 Performance

Chris RolingFeatured ColumnistSeptember 11, 2017

Winners and Losers of Chicago Bears' Week 1 Performance

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    The mark in the loss column aside, the Chicago Bears used an encounter with the Atlanta Falcons in Week 1 to confirm the idea that the team is much better off than a year ago after another offseason of rebuilding. 

    Keeping pace with a Super Bowl participant from the year prior with an MVP candidate in Matt Ryan under center isn't an easy task, which makes a 23-17 loss that was still competitive in the fourth quarter all the more impressive. 

    Granted, certain players didn't perform up to expectations or do much to silence doubters. Others surprised with big days, though, and earned greater roles moving forward as head coach John Fox and his staff continue to seek the best possible lineup combination on both sides of the football.

    Below, let's outline the biggest winners and losers of Chicago's opening-weekend loss.

Loser: Quintin Demps

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    Veteran safety Quintin Demps was one of Chicago's big free-agency wins this offseason. 

    It isn't often that teams get to add a veteran with ball-hawking experience to the back end of the defense, especially not when it is one of the team's biggest needs. 

    Demps didn't exactly make the best impression on Sunday, though, getting bullied while Falcons tight end Austin Hooper scored an 88-yard touchdown. 

    He knows it, too, as captured by CBS 2's Zach Zaidman: "I played bad football. I have to be in the middle of the field.”

    First-week hiccups aren't uncommon for players in new surroundings. Hindsight might view the game-altering mistake as a small blip on the radar if Demps can turn it around and play as he has over recent seasons. 

    For now, though, his stock goes down.

Winner: Akiem Hicks

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    What a week for Akiem Hicks.

    The defensive end had a breakout season a year ago, his first with the Bears. The front office rewarded him days before the game against Atlanta with a $48 million extension, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.

    Sunday, Hicks started proving he was worth every penny by putting on one of his usual performances. 

    The 27-year-old recorded two sacks, got a salute from Bleacher Report's Matt Miller as one of the players of the day and posted a big grade at Pro Football Focus

    While he isn't the outright face of the Chicago defense, Hicks might just be the most important player on the unit.

Loser: Kevin White

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    The Kevin White experiment in Chicago might be over. 

    This was the wide receiver's year to prove he could contribute after the Bears selected him at No. 7 in 2015. Cameron Meredith went down with a season-ending injury, so White had an opportunity to prove doubters wrong after he got his career off to a slow start. 

    Unfortunately, he caught two passes for six yards before exiting the game with an injury. According to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, White will go on injured reserve alongside Meredith. 

    The 25-year-old's body simply hasn't been able to hold up under the rigors of the pro game. Barring a new development, it sounds like he'll be shut down yet again. 

Winner: Bobby Massie

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    After arriving before last season, Bobby Massie went on to have an up-and-down year. 

    Chicago flirted with the idea of bringing on help at the offensive tackle spot in free agency before continuing to give the 28-year-old another shot this season. 

    After one game, at least, Massie has responded in a big way. 

    Over at PFF, he graded out as the highest-rated Bears player in the game. Granted, he had a role in a sack of Mike Glennon near the end of the game, but the blame goes on the quarterback and wideouts' inability to escape coverage as much as it does Massie. 

    Granted, PFF is simply one method of evaluation. But facing a unit featuring names such as Brooks Reed and Vic Beasley Jr., Massie held up well enough and has something to build on as the team turns its eyes toward Week 2.

Loser: Vic Fangio

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    Vic Fangio didn't get what he needed from the majority of his defenders on Sunday. 

    Other than the Demps gaffe in coverage, the defensive coordinator went on to lose linebacker and unit-leading presence Jerrell Freeman to a concussion, according to the Chicago Tribune's Rich Campbell

    Fox outright confirmed there was a big mishap on the Hooper touchdown, too, per WGN Radio's Adam Hoge: “The particular call we played was not the call we called.”

    Chicago as a whole can't seem to dodge the injury bug. Communication problems are a natural product of so much continued turnover along a unit. 

    For Fangio, getting everyone on the same page is key moving forward, as is getting healthy. 

    As Sunday showed, though, that's easier said than done.

Winner: Zach Miller

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    Zach Miller's standing in the pecking order just keeps increasing. 

    Once viewed as a potential surprise cut because the team added free agent Dion Sims and spent a second-round pick on Adam Shaheen, the 32-year-old might now classify as the team's top target. 

    Not that it showed too much on the stat sheet outright. Miller received six targets against Atlanta, catching four for 49 yards. The target number, though, slotted him a full six behind rookie running back Tarik Cohen. 

    Sooner or later, though, the Bears will need to space the field, if not stretch it, which means a reduced reliance on check downs to backs. 

    When that time comes, Miller will be there as perhaps the main contributor. His role and usage while fending off two other tight ends speaks volumes about his status heading into Week 2 and beyond. 

Loser: Mike Glennon

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    Mike Glennon had a solid fourth quarter in an eventual loss and watched as guys such as Jordan Howard let him down. 

    However, it doesn't change the fact he hasn't done enough to quell the calls for rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. 

    Call Sunday a pedestrian performance for Glennon in his first real playing time over the course of the past two years. The staredown with Ryan doesn't look good on paper: a 26-of-40 line for 213 yards and a touchdown, good for a 5.3 yards-per-attempt average. 

    Glennon's inability to stretch the field stuck out during the game. The cast of weapons around him isn't doing him any favors, of course. But considering Trubisky's live arm and ability to make plays with his feet, it isn't hard to understand why fans might call for the rookie even though the 27-year-old seemed serviceable. 

    As expected, the difference between the two is comparing a game manager to a risky play with upside. If the former keeps cobbling together so-so lines and losses, the chants for the latter will only increase. 

Winner: Tarik Cohen

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    The Bears have something special with Tarik Cohen. 

    Chicago fans know the drill: The national media didn't love the idea of the running back in the fourth round this year because he hailed from a little school called North Carolina A&T.

    After five carries for 66 yards and eight catches for 47 yards and a score—leading the Bears in rushing and receiving—the kneejerk reactions to Cohen don't seem to hold much weight. 

    "I consider myself a spark plug. I just want to make plays," he said after the game, per CBSChicago.com's Chris Emma

    The trick for the Bears now? Continuing to allow Cohen to operate within his self-described role as opposed to leaning on him for everything. 

    For now, the 22-year-old excels in his comfort zone and it makes him the biggest Bears winner of all after Week 1. 

               

    All contract information courtesy of Spotrac unless otherwise specified. Stats courtesy of NFL.com. All advanced metrics courtesy of Pro Football Focus.