Bears

Bears thankful to be playing Falcons at home

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Bears thankful to be playing Falcons at home

Sunday, Sept. 11, 2011Posted: 10:05 a.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com Bears Insider Follow @CSNMoonMullin
During the tenure of Lovie Smith, the Bears are 5-2 in home openers. And Chicago has not been kind to the Atlanta Falcons, although Sunday marks the first trip to the lakefront for Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan.

Since 2004, Smiths first year, only Green Bay (21) has scored more than 14 points against Bears in a Game One and no team scored more than the two TDs the Packers put across in the 2009 season-starter, and that was with Brian Urlacher missing the second half with a season-ending wrist injury.

I'm glad we've got them at home, because they're really good at home down in Atlanta, Urlacher said. We've got them at home, but it's a huge challenge for us.

The last time the Falcons played in Soldier Field (where they havent won since 1983) was in 2005, the conditions were minus-3 wind chill, night game and Michael Vick so clearly didnt want to be out there that he angrily fired the ball at Urlacher after the linebacker had dropped him for a first-quarter loss in the Atlanta backfield.

In Atlanta, the Falcons have won their last two meetings with the Bears, behind Ryan, scoring 22 and 21 points in the games that both were decided in fourth quarters. The 2009 game saw the Falcons score a go-ahead TD with three minutes to play, then stop the Bears at the Atlanta 5-yard line in the final seconds to save a 21-14 victory.

Were really focused on just trying to play well this week, Ryan said. It seems like every time weve played them, its been a great game.

Playing well is something the Falcons have done well in their three seasons under coach Mike Smith. Although Atlanta has flopped in the post-season (0-2), no NFC team won more than the Falcons 13 last season.

But they also have lost their first road game in all three seasons under Smith.
Preseason indicators

The question in Chicago, however, is not about the Falcons. Its about the Bears and what kind of team is coming off an 11-5 year and NFC Championship appearance, and which has changed more than one-third of its roster.

You can go through the preseason, teams arent doing what theyre going to do during the regular season, said coach Lovie Smith. You never really know, so I think as a football team, most coaches and teams they just cant wait to get to that first game to see exactly where they are, you set the bar then and start working form there.

The warmup games mean exactly what coaches and players say they do in terms of the season: zero. The results and the numbers dont count. After all, the 2008 Detroit Lions under Rod Marinelli went 4-0 in preseason, 0-16 when it counted.

The Falcons lost all four of their preseason games this year.

But the meaningless sometimes can foreshadow.

The Bears lost all four games in the 2010 preseason and proceeded to win 12 games on the way to the NFC Championship game. But they also scored just 17 points in one game and 10 or fewer in the other three.

They were the NFLs 30th-ranked offense, 21st in scoring, and they would have ranked even worse but for a complete mid-season course correction.

Through the 2011 preseason, the Bears scored 60 total points but also allowed more than 14 in just one. For a team anchored by its defense, this is perhaps the most positive indicator in the preseason.

Our whole objective, obviously, offensively, is to score points, coordinator Mike Martz said. And we need to do that. We need to score more points than we did last year. We got going pretty good at the end of the year, but consistency is important.

John "Moon" Mullin is CSNChicago.com's Bears Insider and appears regularly on Bears Postgame Live and Chicago Tribune Live. Follow Moon on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bears information.

2020 Senior Bowl: Jordan Love's 1st-round hype is real

2020 Senior Bowl: Jordan Love's 1st-round hype is real

The Detroit Lions didn't gain any new fans after their questionable practice session (North team) on Day 1 of the 2020 Senior Bowl, but despite a lot of time warming up and working against air, there were a few prospect performances worth noting.

Utah State quarterback Jordan Love was the headliner, showing off his cannon of an arm in what was a clear display of starting-quarterback talent. Compared to fellow North team quarterbacks Shea Patterson (Michigan) and Anthony Gordon (Washington State), Love looked like the only quarterback who's capable of succeeding in the NFL. It wasn't even close.

Love has an effortless throwing motion. His passes are crisp, accurate and on a rope. Was he perfect? No. But he had the most impressive arm of the day. His first-round hype is very real and will only continue to build momentum as the week goes on.

RELATED: Here's who Bears scouts are watching at the Senior Bowl

As for Patterson and Gordon? Bears fans need to temper their excitement for both of them. Patterson's quirky throwing motion looks labored and forced while Gordon's slight frame and underwhelming arm strength scream backup at best.

Tight end Brycen Hopkins (Purdue) had a quiet first practice. His opportunities to make plays were limited. But he'll need a strong finish to the week to maintain his standing as the top tight end at the Senior Bowl.

One player Bears fans should highlight as a name to watch is Michigan offensive lineman Ben Bredeson. He looked the part on Tuesday. He has strong hands and the kind of powerful playing style that tends to lead to success in the NFL. He showed pretty good feet, too. He has a chance to rise up the board if he stacks two more positive practices together.

On the defensive side of the ball, Syracuse edge rusher Alton Robinson flashed in drills. He showed a good first step and violent hands at the point of attack. He won several reps with ease. The Bears have to add pass-rush help in the middle rounds, and Robinson looks like a quality prospect worth keeping an eye on.

Ohio State defensive lineman Davon Hamilton had a nice day, too. He was almost unblockable at times and practiced with a level of intensity that scouts are certain to like. While not a need in Chicago, Hamilton looks like a player whose value could trump need come draft day. 

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Bears.

Jalen Hurts underwhelms in first Senior Bowl practice

Jalen Hurts underwhelms in first Senior Bowl practice

Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts, a prospect pegged as a potential option for the Bears in the second round of the 2020 NFL draft, struggled in his first Senior Bowl practice of the week, failing to throw with consistency or accuracy when targeting his South squad receivers.

This isn't an uncommon occurrence for quarterbacks participating in the Senior Bowl. It could take a few practices to develop rhythm and timing with a completely new set of pass-catchers, but there was a marked difference in Hurts' ball placement compared to fellow South team quarterback, Oregon's Justin Herbert.

RELATED: Who will the Bears be watching at the 2020 Senior Bowl?

Herbert is projected to be a top-10 pick, and while his footwork in bag drills didn't look anything remotely close to that high of a grade, his arm talent was (for the most part) on display throughout the practice.

The Bears' biggest draft needs center around tight end and offensive line, and there were a few obvious standouts from those position groups.

LSU tight end Stephen Sullivan was the most fluid and explosive route-runner on the South team which includes the likes of Jared Pinkney (Vanderbilt) and Harrison Bryant (FAU). His wide receiver background was evident; he created easy separation and flashed the kind of downfield speed that will be an asset in the NFL. 

Pinkney, on the other hand, really struggled. He looked heavy-footed and forced his quarterback to make tight-window throws. It wasn't a great start for him.

One of the really interesting names to monitor over the next few days is Ben Bartch, the Saint John's offensive lineman who's making one of the biggest jumps in competition among all of this year's Senior Bowl participants. You wouldn't know it by how he performed on Tuesday, however. He was quick out of his stance, showed strong hands and a powerful base. He's going to be a riser from this game.

The best player on the field, bar none, was South Carolina defensive lineman Javon Kinlaw. He has a chance to jump into the top-10 with a strong week of practice, and if his first session was any indication of how this week is going to go, his stock is going to skyrocket. He was unblockable, including several reps where he bullied potential Bears target John Simpson (guard, Clemson) in one-on-ones. 

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Bears.