Like in so many games past, the Chicago Bears proved Las Vegas and the experts wrong.
They came out on top against the Atlanta Falcons, who were 13-3 last year and were looking to show that they are still an NFC contender for the Super Bowl. The Bears were trying to show that their 2010 playoff run wasn’t a fluke. They dominated the Falcons in a 30-12 win, but what the score doesn’t show is where Chicago had problems.
Fans have to understand that their schedule doesn’t get any easier.
Jay Cutler will be under a microscope in his second season with Mike Martz. His seven-step drops looked much-improved from last season. No matter how his technique was, his instincts are still to try to get the ball into tight coverage.
While it doesn’t come up in the box score, Cutler had at least two “could have been” interceptions, which would have changed the final score dramatically. The Falcons' secondary was ranked very low in 2010, so you would think that Cutler would have dominated even more Sunday.
Luckily, Matt Forte will be very productive in the screen game, which opens up the field for long passes.
The offensive line still gave up multiple sacks, and that will have to come to a halt early so Culter doesn't get brutalized like last year.
The one gleaming factor in the Bears' offense will be red zone percentage. If the Bears would have capitalized on field position, they could have put up 50 points! If the red zone woes keep arising and the Bears find themselves in close games, that could easily cost them crucial wins down the road.
The Bears' wide receiving corps has depth, but that could actually be a hindrance. When a quarterback can’t develop a rhythm with a few go-to guys, it could prove to be a quandary. While the receivers are being rotated, Cutler has to adjust to the personnel currently on the field. The question is, “Do the Bears have a real number one receiver who will be on the field in crucial situations?”
The Bears should have to utilize Robbie Gould on 35-50 yard field goals, not gimmies inside the 10-yard line.
Some might consider the Bears' defense “old”, but it looks as though a collection of crafty veterans are going to swarm to the ball and create turnovers like the group who went to the Super Bowl a few years ago. Brian Urlacher’s awareness, play recognition and pursuit haven’t lost a step, and Charles Tillman is the best player ever at the “ball punch”. Julius Peppers shifts from spot to spot on the line and offenses have to spotlight where he is every play.
While the base cover-2 is a staple, it looks as though they have a few wrinkles that will make it hard for offenses to get anything deep downfield. We still have to wait and see if Major Wright and Brandon Meriweather will help the secondary.
If the Bears can stay healthy they should have some success, but the opponents they face this season could be challenging. In the next two weeks they have to go to New Orleans and battle a potent Saints offense and a Greg Williams-coached defense. Then they face the Green Bay Packers, who actually have a chance to go 16-0 with all the weapons they have on offense and defense.
The bottom line is that if they want to come out victorious, the defense will have to get takeaways and the offense will have to score more in red zone situations.
We still have to see if the new kickoff rules will take away some of the effectiveness of the special teams. This franchise is definitely still a work in progress in some areas, so only time will tell what is to come.