I think the best way to sum up tonight’s loss to the Falcons is that the Bears failed in all three phases of the game. They got an “F” for every subject on the report card. Special teams: bad. Offense: worse. Defense: worst.
The game started with such promise as the Bears forced a three and out on Atlanta’s first drive of the game and then the offense drove right down the field in a time-consuming drive that ended with a Cutler interception and no points, but it was a promising one that signaled what I was hoping to be good things to come.
After a good first quarter, there were no more good things.
The Falcons came out and ran a no-huddle in the second quarter and caught the Bears’ defense off-guard, something Lovie Smith admitted to NBC’s Andrea Kremer at halftime. That, to me, is inexcusable because how can you not have your defense prepared for all situations, particularly a no-huddle? The game completely swung into Atlanta’s favor from that point forward and never came back.
Nick Roach was personally responsible for the second of the Falcons’ touchdowns, a pass to the back of the end zone to tight end Tony Gonzalez. He may have been responsible for the first touchdown, too, a screen pass that was poorly defended. I was not on the field, so I don’t know who was responsible, but playing middle linebacker means he’s got to make the adjustments.
Matt Forte had fumbles on two consecutive plays inside the 5-yard line, and lost possession of the second one. Forte was never able to get anything going in the run game, anyway.
The defense was gashed — as has become custom so far this year — all game. They couldn’t generate any pressure on Matt Ryan, which, in fairness to them, no defense has been able to sack Ryan save for the Miami Dolphins in Week 1.
Even when Cutler took the Bears down the field for a game-tying touchdown pass to Greg Olsen, the special teams joined the poor performance parade and allowed a big kickoff return on the ensuing kickoff. That enabled Ryan to lead his Falcons down the field for the go-ahead score, a touchdown that was not matched by the Bears.
Poor blocking, bad tackling, missed assignments, interceptions, fumbles. You don’t win football games when you play as bad as the Bears did tonight. And even as Cutler was driving the Bears down the field with less than two minutes to go, my thought process the whole time was: “Please score with less than 11 seconds left.” Not that I was thinking about last year’s game… okay, maybe it crossed my mind. But I was more focused on the defense’s inability to stop the Falcons and I felt Ryan had the capability to once again drive his offense into field goal range, if need be.
What this amounts to is that the Bears are not good enough yet to make a playoff run. Could they? Sure. Anything is possible. But tonight’s litmus test against one of the front runners for a wild card berth proved that the Bears have a ways to go. They’ve now dropped another game behind the Vikings, who remain unbeaten after defeating the Ravens today. And technically, the Bears have dropped to third place in the NFC North because the Packers hold the tiebreaker over them and pulled even with them in the standings with a shutout victory over the Lions today.
Things don’t get easier next week on the road against a pretty good Bengals team. But this loss tonight is one that stings and will set the Bears back. They’ve got plenty of work to do if they want to make a playoff run.