Matt Ryan was battered, bruised, pestered and sacked all afternoon. The suspect Atlanta Falcons secondary forgot how to tackle and a makeshift offensive line crumbled under a four-man Chicago Bears assault.
The Falcons showed exactly how not to start the 2011 season.
Jay Cutler went from absolute zero to Chicago hero, completing 22-of-32 passes and two scores, and Brian Urlacher had an INT and ran a fumble back for a TD as the Bears rolled to a 30-12 win over the Falcons at Soldier Field on Sunday.
Ryan passed for 319 yards, but was sacked five times and thrown to the ground 10 more for Atlanta, which just couldn’t get anything going against a Chicago team with a bit of a chip on its shoulder.
The last time the Bears took the field, their field general Cutler was ripped mercilessly by the hometown press after an injury forced him to the sidelines in an embarrassing loss to the eventual Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship game last season.
Left out of much of the preseason hype, which included lots and lots of praise for the Falcons, Chicago thought that it had something to prove in its home opener.
Boy did they ever make a statement.
Atlanta’s so-called Ferrari offense looked more like a Fiat – the car notoriously known by the moniker “Fix it again, Tony.”
Time again and time again, the Dirty Birds went with short passes, slants and runs up the middle, rarely, if ever, using rookie deep threat Julio Jones in the game, playing right into the hands of a ferocious Bears defense. And time and time again, an Atlanta team known for its offensive efficiency sputtered and as Ryan and Company made uncharacteristic mistakes.
Atlanta was third-best with a +14 turnover ratio in the regular season last year. But the Bears took a 16-3 lead into the half, buoyed by a pair of Falcons turnovers.
The Falcons looked poised to take an early lead late in the first quarter as Ryan marched the team into field goal range. But Urlacher picked off the fourth-year Atlanta QB at the Chicago 28 and three plays later it was the Bears who were in business.
Cutler found Johnny Knox for a 25-yard advance on 2nd and 19 from their own 19 before the Chicago QB dumped a short pass down the right side to Matt Forte, who marched 56 yards to give the Bears a 10-3 lead. The gain could have been a manageable one but for a poor display of tackling by Sean Weatherspoon, who failed to wrap up the Chicago rusher.
The miss was indicative of a miserable night for the Atlanta secondary. Thomas DeCoud dropped a pair of easy interceptions. Dunta Robinson was taken to school on another play as the Bears clawed their way to the easy rout.
Chicago took a 16-3 edge into the break on after two more Robbie Gould field goals in the second quarter before breaking the game open in a 57 second frame in the third quarter.
Seconds after Devin Hester narrowly missed finding paydirt on a 53-yard completion from Cutler, Chicago capped a seven-play 92 yard Chicago drive with a one-yard strike to Matt Spaeth with 6:55 left in the third quarter to put Chicago up 23-10.
The Bears then attacked Ryan on the ensuing possession as the Atlanta QB couldn’t sustain the pressure coming from Julius Peppers, fumbling the football as he tried to evade the five-time Pro Bowl defensive end. Urlacher picked up the football and rumbled 12 yards into the end zone for Chicago’s final score.
Kroy Biermann had a 50-yard interception return for a TD in the fourth quarter for the Falcons.
Jones had five catches for 71 yards in his NFL debut and Michael Turner rushed for 100 for the Dirty Birds, who face the unenviable task of taking on the Philadelphia Eagles in their home opener next week.
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