The Bears’ defense did a lot of good on Sunday. Akiem Hicks had two sacks, Julio Jones was held to four catches and Devonta Freeman barely averaged three yards per carry.
But there was one glaring negative that washed out a lot of those positives: Austin Hooper’s 88-yard touchdown, which came on a third-and-3 with the Falcons backed up near their own goal line early in the fourth quarter.
That touchdown put Atlanta ahead, 20-10, and while it didn’t keep the Bears from having a chance to win, it was one of those plays that defenders collectively said cannot happen. The Bears’ defense wasn’t aligned prior to the snap, which happened a few times on Sunday when Matt Ryan quickly set his offense and got the ball snapped.
“I think we had miscommunication on the call,” coach John Fox said. “The particular call we played was not the call that we called. But I’m not going to throw people under the bus, obviously. We didn’t execute very well."
“We didn’t really think we were in disarray. We didn’t realize we were in disarray until he [Hooper] caught the ball.”
The Bears weren't pointing fingers after the game as to who was supposed to cover Hooper, with players saying they needed to watch the film to diagnose what exactly went wrong. Demps, a team captain, took responsibility for the play.
“I played bad football,” Demps, who was stiff-armed to the ground on the play by Hooper, said. “I gotta be in the middle of the field.”
While that blown coverage cost the Bears seven points, there were two other key third down plays that led to Atlanta connecting on a pair of field goals. Hicks was whistled for a roughing the passer penalty late in the third quarter that extended a Falcons drive, leading to a Matt Bryant 28-yard chip shot. And late in the fourth quarter, the Bears again couldn’t cover Hooper, whose 40-yard reception on third-and-10 from the Falcons’ 25-yard line set up another Bryant field goal.
Had the Bears made a stop on either of those third downs — especially the one of the fourth quarter — they could’ve had a chance to kick a game-tying field goal on that final drive instead of needing to get in the end zone.
“I mean, one play can lose the game,” linebacker Danny Trevathan said. “But I feel like we played all right, we played good (for) three quarters. The thing is, we gotta play good for four quarters to win the game in this business.”