By Chris Emma—
(CBS) Whether it was Jake Delhomme, Tim Tebow, Peyton Manning or Jay Cutler in his past stops, there’s something important Bears coach John Fox always hopes to see.
Ultimately, his quarterback is the most important man on the field and those 10 other player in the huddle are looking to their leader. Fox has said it before and will say it again – how a quarterback can rally the team can make or break a team on any given Sunday.
Fox has now entrusted 27-year-old Mike Glennon to lead his team in a critical season, with rookie Mitchell Trubisky waiting for his chance. The Bears and Fox have touted the experience of Glennon in this league as an asset to their chances of contending in 2017.
Sunday’s season opener saw the Bears rally around Glennon but come up five yards short of the end zone with four goal-to-go chances in the waning seconds. They fell to the Falcons, 23-17, but Fox saw that important characteristic stand out with Glennon.
“I thought the guys responded pretty well to him,” Fox said after the game. “It wasn’t always smooth. Like all opening games, they aren’t oiled up really well. You have a lot of new people. In our case, we had our quarterback’s first time in the offense. I think he operated the team very well.”
Added tight end Zach Miller: “I thought he did a hell of a job for us, put us in position to win.”
Many questions loomed as Glennon took the field for his first start in a Bears uniform. The experience to which Fox often refers is mostly from observing on the sidelines. Glennon only made his 22nd NFL start Sunday, and he looked mostly as expected.
Glennon finished 26-of-40 for 213 yards and a touchdown in his Bears debut. He worked around a lack of experience at receiver – something that could remain all season long – by utilizing the running game and making Tarik Cohen his primary target. In fact, the rookie Cohen had twice as many targets (12) and receptions (eight) as any other teammate.
Trailing 20-10 in the fourth, Glennon took advantage of soft Falcons coverages – he referred to their strategy as “bend-don’t-break” – and led the Bears into the red zone and scoring opportunities. Glennon’s lone touchdown came on a strike to a wide-open Cohen, who barreled through Falcons cornerback Desmond Trufant and into the end zone. But the Bears couldn’t cash in with four chances to win the game from the five-yard line.
“It’s definitely a tough one to swallow to not finish that drive at the end,” Glennon said after the game.
Glennon didn’t have much to say about his own performance, instead speaking on behalf of his team coming up short.
There were throws that could’ve been placed better and sacks that could’ve been avoided. Glennon struggled against pressure but made plays when he had time. Had he thrown a second sooner to Jordan Howard on second-and-goal or had a check-down ready on fourth-and-goal, the Bears may have won the game.
Ultimately, Glennon’s first start was what the Bears expected. He managed the game well, protected the football and gave the team a chance.
“All in all,” Fox said, “whether it was Mike Glennon or anyone else out there (Sunday), we just came up a little short.”