I picked the Bears to win, but I only projected them to win by a touchdown.
Instead, the Bears throttled the Atlanta Falcons 30-12. It was a somewhat surprising outcome, since the Falcons were one of the trendy picks do fare well in the NFC this season. Certainly, they were far more popular than the Bears, a team that I could hardly recall any analyst picking to win the NFC North, let alone even make the playoffs.
It is only one game, but the Bears made a strong statement against a talented team.
You can see my two keys and two concerns here
But, here are four other things that stood out to me:
1) The Bears key defensive unit has some depth. The defensive line really stood out, beyond the obvious reasons (five sacks, most notably). They waved seven different players into a game in which field temperatures were in the 80s. In the fourth quarter, they still looked fresh. Matt Toeaina and Henry Melton are young players they were excited about, and they both delivered. Meanwhile, older veterans like Anthony Adams, Israel Idonije and Julius Peppers made plays. But the Bears also got meaningful contributions from newcomer Amobi Okoye and Nick Reed. The latter, in fact, ensures that they don't have to rush Corey Wootton back from his minor knee surgery.
2) The Bears offensive line still concerns me. No, this unit wasn't responsible for all five of Jay Cutler's sacks. Without the benefit of a proper review, I do think Cutler held the ball too long in a couple of instances. But left tackle J'Marcus Webb had two holding penalties in the fourth quarter, and he had his hands full with John Abraham. The Falcons Pro Bowl defensive end is a handful for anyone. But Webb has to become more consistent, so Cutler can make it through the entire season. In addition, the Bears didn't do a great job of running the ball. The Falcons were 10th in rushing defense a year ago, so that can't be discounted. But the Bears need to do better than 3.3 yards per carry.
3) Matt Forte is a special player. Much has been made about where Forte fits among the NFL's elite running backs. But he made some game-changing plays against the Falcons. He bounced off linebacker Sean Weatherspoon at the 36-yard line, en route to a 56-yard touchdown in the first quarter. Then, in the third quarter, he juked Falcons cornerback Dunta Robinson around the 23-yard line. So he turned what should have been a four-yard gain into a 27-yarder that helped set up another touchdown.
4) The Bears new players can be contributors. For a club that reached the NFC title game, the Bears have a lot of new faces. They have 19 new players on the 53-man roster, and several of the newcomers contributed on Sunday. Undrafted rookie Dane Sanzenbacher had a catch for six yards. Roy Williams had five catches for 55 yards, including several third-down conversions. Chris Spencer stepped in nicely for an injured Lance Louis at right guard. Tight end Matt Spaeth scored a touchdown. Fullback Tyler Clutts had some nice blocks. Punter Adam Podlesh had a very strong debut. Okoye had a sack, Reed had a defended pass. And rookies Winston Venable and Dom DeCicco had specail teams tackles.