By Laurence W. Holmes-
(CBS) Time offers the opportunity for perspective, so I thought it would be a good idea to wait each week to give my thoughts on the Bears game. The idea is that 24 or so hours allows me to watch the game over and to talk a few more people. Hence, “The 24 Hours Later” blog.
Today we break down the Bears’ 27-13 victory against the Falcons on Sunday that pushed Chicago to 3-3 on the season.
What I saw
Winning against Matt Ryan in the Georgia Dome is rough. Coming into Sunday, Ryan was 38-10 at home. The Bears played a smart, physical game with an array of backups on defense and walked out with their third road victory in four tries.
It’s pretty amazing that with an entirely new linebacking corps, the Bears were able to do what they did. Darryl Sharpton did a fantastic job setting the tone and calling the defense. Khaseem Greene showed promise that we hadn’t seen in the previous 21 games since he was drafted. And rookie project Christian Jones looks more and more like a free agency steal with each week that passes.
It was pretty clear that the Bears kept the Falcons from catching a rhythm. You wouldn’t think Atlanta receivers Julio Jones and Roddy White would shy away from physical play, but they did. The Falcons receivers were less than impressive, continually showing alligator arms as they crossed the middle of the field. Jones and White were targeted a combined 18 times but only registered seven catches. Most of the time, that came from hearing footsteps. And Chicago only had three missed tackles, according to Pro Football Focus.
Jay Cutler was efficient and at times spectacular (109.6 rating). Matt Forte couldn’t have done more if you asked him to (157 yards on 27 touches), and Brandon Marshall had his best game in a month (six catches for 113 yards).
This run of four games — Atlanta, New England and Green Bay on the road and Miami at home — is pivotal for Chicago’s playoff chances. Getting the win down in Atlanta could keep this stretch from being a disaster, as we wait to see how the Bears handle the other three games.
What I heard
“These guys did great!” — coach Marc Trestman on Bears’ linebacking trio
Bears defensive coordinator Mel Tucker and linebackers coach Reggie Herring deserve a lot of credit for getting the patchwork defense prepared for one of the most dangerous offenses (especially at home) in the NFL. Young defenders were asked to make simple plays, but the defense wasn’t dumbed down. We saw Tucker use the linebackers in the blitz game. They changed up some looks and made big hits on the ball-carrier.
The Bears defensive line deserves some credit, too. Defensive end Jared Allen schooled rookie Falcons offensive tackle Jake Matthews. Besides getting Ryan on the ground a couple of times (including one sack), Allen got consistent pressure and forced Matthews into holding calls. He was more physical than the youngster with a bull-rush and got home.
Fellow defensive end Willie Young continues to look like a free-agency steal, with seven sacks in six games, and Stephen Paea collapsed the middle of the Falcons offensive line, getting his career-high fourth sack of the season. Front-four playmakers everything look better, but the linebackers have to do their job. Sharpton, Greene and Jones cleaned up most of the things that made it through the first level.
In my opinion, all three guys deserve more playing time. Other than Lance Briggs, no other returning linebacker deserves the have his place held.
“The offensive line did a great job of securing the front guys.” — Forte
Forte played a phenomenal game. I worry that he’s being asked to do too much and that at the end of the season, he may be worn down, but he’s such a complete weapon, it’s hard not to deploy him. On Sunday, Forte became one of only 20 players in the history of the NFL to surpass 7,000 yards rushing and 3,000 yards receiving for his career. It’s fair to say that he is one of the best dual-threats in the game. It’s hard to even quantify his value to this team.
“No, I wasn’t surprised.” — Marshall on the amount of Bears fans in Atlanta
Bears fans roll deep, and Atlanta is the worst pro sports town in America in my mind. Like Marshall, I’m not surprised at the fan support, but I bet the Falcons were. It’s one thing to have a spattering of support from opposing fans. As the game went on, Bears fans took over the Georgia Dome on Sunday.
What I was told
“We had to have that one.” — Bears safety Ryan Mundy
I had a nice conversation with Mundy at Charles Tillman’s charity event Monday night. It’s clear that the Bears felt pressure to get things back on the right road. I’m not sure that they’ve fixed all their problems overall, but Sunday was essentially a “must-win.” Teams that start 2-4 only make the playoffs about 8 percent of the time.
Grabbing the win keeps the Bears in shouting distance of the Lions and Packers, who are each 4-2. I’m not sure the Bears are as good as those two teams, but at least it buys them time to figure it out.
Laurence Holmes hosts the Laurence Holmes Show on 670 The Score and is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Follow him on Twitter @LaurenceWHolmes.