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.

Accolades keep pouring in for Bears' 2016 rookie class

Accolades keep pouring in for Bears' 2016 rookie class

The 2016 NFL Draft could be one that will define Ryan Pace's tenure as GM of the Bears.

Just last week, Jordan Howard became the second rookie running back in Bears franchise history to be named to the Pro Bowl since Gale Sayers in 1965.

The PFWA released their 2016 All-Rookie Team on Tuesday, and Bears center Cody Whitehair, linebacker Leonard Floyd and Howard all made the list.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

Howard, the Bears' fifth round selection (150th overall) out of Indiana, set the rookie franchise record with 1,313 rushing yards on 252 carries and 6 touchdowns. Howard also had 29 receptions for 298 yards and one receiving touchdown.

Floyd, the No. 9 overall selection out of Georgia, registered 33 tackles, 7 sacks and 9 quarterback hits in 12 games.

Whitehair, a second-round pick out of Kansas State, started all 16 games at center for the Bears after spending the majority of the preseason at guard.

The Bears (tied with the Chargers) had the second-highest number of selections behind the Kansas City Chiefs.

Check out the complete 2016 PFWA All-Rookie Team below:

Offense

QB – Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys
RB – Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys; Jordan Howard, Chicago Bears
WR – Sterling Shepard, New York Giants; Michael Thomas, New Orleans Saints
TE – Hunter Henry, San Diego Chargers
C – Cody Whitehair, Chicago Bears
G – Joe Thuney, New England Patriots; Laremy Tunsil, Miami Dolphins
T – Jack Conklin, Tennessee Titans; Taylor Decker, Detroit Lions

Defense

DL – Joey Bosa, San Diego Chargers; DeForest Buckner, San Francisco 49ers; Chris Jones, Kansas City Chiefs; Yannick Ngakoue, Jacksonville Jaguars
LB – Jatavis Brown, San Diego Chargers; Leonard Floyd, Chicago Bears; Deion Jones, Atlanta Falcons
CB – Vernon Hargreaves III, Tampa Bay Buccaneers; Jalen Ramsey, Jacksonville Jaguars
S – Karl Joseph, Oakland Raiders; Keanu Neal, Atlanta Falcons

Special Teams

PK – Wil Lutz, New Orleans Saints
P – Riley Dixon, Denver Broncos
KR – Tyreek Hill, Kansas City Chiefs
PR – Tyreek Hill, Kansas City Chiefs
ST – Tyreek Hill, Kansas City Chiefs

Bears Talk Podcast: What should Bears do at quarterback?

Bears Talk Podcast: What should Bears do at quarterback?

On the latest edition of the Bears Talk Podcast, Chris Boden and John "Moon" Mullin discuss the Bears' quarterback situation.

The guys discuss the pitfalls of trading for a veteran, backup QB while also looking at some of the college players the team could be interested in.

[RELATED: Cautionary quarterback tales for Bears as playoffs move along]

Finally, Devin Hester is contemplating retirement. Is he worthy of the NFL Hall of Fame?

Listen to the Bears Talk Podcast below.