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Sunday, September 11, 2011
Rapid Reaction: Bears 30, Falcons 12

By Michael C. Wright


CHICAGO -- The Chicago Bears demolished the Atlanta Falcons 30-12 to remain tied with division-rival Green Bay for the most opening-day victories of all time (52).

In addition, the club picked up its NFL-best 62nd home-opening win and has now triumphed in five of its past six openers at Soldier Field.

Let’s take a closer look at what transpired in Sunday’s lopsided affair:

What it means: Chicago showcased dominance against a Falcons team considered to be among the NFL’s best, and that bodes well considering the team travels to New Orleans next Sunday before facing the Packers at home the following week.

As important as the actual win was, the Bears answered questions along the offensive line, and receiver positions, while the defense proved that despite the unit’s overall age, it’s still one of the league’s most dominant groups.

The team suffered two injuries in receiver Roy Williams (groin) and right guard Lance Louis (ankle), but came out of Sunday’s game relatively healthy. Besides that, both Williams and Louis have capable backups in Johnny Knox and Chris Spencer who can fill in next week with little-to-no drop off in performance.

Sack parade: The Bears played with just three defensive ends (Julius Peppers, Nick Reed, and Israel Idonije) on the active roster, but that didn’t keep the defensive line from racking up five sacks.

Peppers and Henry Melton contributed two sacks apiece, and new acquisition Amobi Okoye contributed another.

The team came into the season with question marks about potential sack producers outside of Peppers, but Melton and Okoye proved capable of providing plenty of pressure from their inside defensive tackle spots.

It’s worth mentioning, however, that the Falcons played without two of their starters along the offensive line. So while Chicago showed promise with the pressure, the front-four players still have plenty left to prove.

Classic Peanut: Bears cornerback Charles “Peanut” Tillman proved his mettle as the team’s turnover artist in the first quarter by punching the ball loose on Michael Turner run in the first quarter. While attempting to tackle Turner, Tillman poked the ball out with Peppers recovering.

The forced fumble marked Tillman’s 25th nine seasons, giving him the most since 2003 among NFL cornerbacks.

Turnover party: The Bears forced three turnovers through the first three quarters, and scored points off two of them, courtesy of linebacker Brian Urlacher.

Urlacher made a diving interception in the first quarter, which the Bears turned into a 56-yard scoring strike from Jay Cutler to running back Matt Forte just three plays later. Then in the third quarter, Urlacher brought one in for a score himself by scooping a fumble forced by Peppers and returning it 12 yards to make the score 30-6.

Quick strike: The Bears scored touchdowns on offense and defense in a span of 57 seconds.

Matt Spaeth caught a 1-yard touchdown with 6:55 left in the third quarter, and three plays later Urlacher scored one for the defense with his 12-yard fumble recovery return when Peppers sacked Ryan for an 11-yard loss.

Interestingly, the Bears were the quickest-scoring team in the NFL last year. The team’s average scoring drives in 2010 were 3 minutes and 2 seconds.

OL still developing: The offensive line gave up three sacks over the first two quarters, but as Cutler anticipated, the unit adjusted in the second half.

Still, Cutler appeared to take too much punishment. Several times Falcons defenders converged on Cutler for crushing shots just as the quarterback delivered the ball. Earlier in the week, Cutler anticipated the offensive line would experience some early struggles before finally settling in, which seems to be what transpired.

Louis delayed the adjustment period by leaving the game in the second quarter with a right ankle injury. Veteran center Chris Spencer stepped in as Louis’ replacement. Louis’ availability for next week’s game is uncertain, but the club isn’t concerned with Spencer assuming the starting role because he’s started in 70 of the 83 games he’s played.

Injury update: Louis suffered an ankle injury near the end of the first half, and his status for next week wasn’t immediately known. Williams sustained a groin injury in the second half, and was held out for the duration.

What’s next: The Bears face their second consecutive NFC South foe on the road when they take on the New Orleans Saints (0-1).