The Bears exceeded expectations by dominating on both sides of the ball. The defensive line kept Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan under pressure all afternoon, racking up five sacks and forcing three turnovers, including a fumble recovered by Brian Urlacher returned for a touchdown.
Atlanta’s offense was held to two field goals. The other six points came courtesy of a Jay Cutler interception in the fourth quarter.
“We wanted to come out and show that we are a dominant defensive line that everybody expects us to be,” said Bears defensive lineman Henry Melton, who was credited with two sacks and seven hits on Matt Ryan. “We try to have a relentless pass rush.”
The offense was nearly as impressive. Jay Cutler threw for 312 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. He spread the ball around, hitting eight different targets.
Matt Forte caught a 56-yard touchdown pass and Devin Hester went out of bounds just before crossing the goal line after a 53-yard reception.
“We got a lot of speed out there,” said Jay Cutler. “We got some guys that can flat out run. If you want to come up and bump them, you better have some track guys too.”
The running game, while not as explosive, proved efficient. Matt Forte carried the ball 16 times for 68 yards. The offensive line, while noticeably improved from last season’s early performances, still needs work.
Center Roberto Garza, along with guards Lance Louis and Chris Williams, performed well. The tackles, J’marcus Webb and Gabe Carimi, struggled somewhat. Cutler suffered a few nasty hits and four sacks.
The team seemed to struggle in the red zone, settling for two field goals. In one instance, Cutler overthrew a wide open Kellen Davis pass on a brilliantly designed play that left the tight end all alone on the far side of the field.
“We have to get better in the red zone and hammer out some of these details,” said Jay Cutler. “We left 14 or 20 points on the board.”
While Mike Martz devised an obviously effective strategy against a very good Falcons team, some of the play-calling near the end of the game seemed somewhat confusing.
With a 24-point lead in the fourth quarter, the Bears continued to pass instead of trying to eat up the clock with the ground game.
On a 3rd-and-4, with 10:40 left in the game, Cutler threw blindly to his left. The ball was batted up in the air, picked off and returned for a touchdown.
Their inability to completely close out the game seemed the only negative on an otherwise impressive start to the season.
“It was one win, we’re excited about it. We have a long ways to go," head coach Lovie Smith said. "We made a lot of mistakes, but normally that’s the case with the first game.”