Atlanta Falcons’ quarterback Matt Ryan is sacked by Chicago Bears’ defensive tackle Amobi Okoye in the second half of Sunday’s season opener in Chicago, which was dominated by a Bears defense that had five sacks, two fumble recoveries, one interception and a touchdown.
CHICAGO -- In the rare times when it appeared the Atlanta Falcons might get on track in the season opener Sunday, they were hampered by their own mistakes.
Matt Ryan was sacked five times, intercepted once by Brian Urlacher and also lost a fumble that the Bears' linebacker returned for a TD, all part of Chicago's 30-12 lopsided victory.
Flat was how the Falcons came out on a sunny day at Soldier Field.
Michael Turner ran for 100 yards, including a 53-yarder, but the reigning NFC South champions never established any kind of rhythm. It was certainly not the sort of performance they had in mind, coming off a 13-win season that ended with a blowout loss to the Packers in the playoffs.
Atlanta's supposedly high-powered offense couldn't find the end zone. The lone TD came on defensive end Kroy Biermann's 50-yard interception return in the fourth
"Anytime you get the ball in positive territory you like to come away with points. That's something we didn't do well today, we really didn't," said Ryan.
"We turned the ball over twice on our side of the 50. ... It's tough to overcome those things. And it's disappointing."
Ryan hit Julio Jones for a 14-yard gain in the first quarter and then connected with Turner on an 8-yarder as the Falcons mounted a drive that reached the Bears 35.
But Urlacher got in the way of a pass intended for Tony Gonzalez, making an outstretched interception. Three plays later, Chicago's Matt Forte took a screen pass and went 56 yards for a TD. Like that, the Bears were off.
"The interception Brian made was a good play, full extension. He made a nice catch," Ryan said.
"I probably shouldn't have thrown it there. I definitely shouldn't have thrown it there. But that's one of those situations where you need to throw the football away. ... Just a poor decision."
On the Falcons' next series, Turner fumbled near midfield after a hit by Charles "Peanut" Tillman and Julius Peppers recovered. That mistake came after Ryan had hit Gonzalez for 30 yards.
Peppers was after Ryan, all day and when he got to the quarterback in the third quarter, the ball got loose and Urlacher took it in from 12 yards.
"You just got to protect the football better in the pocket, that's as simple as it is," Ryan said. "I didn't go a good job of having two hands on that in that situation."
Ryan completed 31 of 47 passes for 319 yards but also had trouble throwing deep against the Bears.
"We didn't protect the quarterback very well. There were some situations where they had an opportunity to pin their ears back and go," Falcons coach Mike Smith said.
"We're going to evaluate everybody, we're going to evaluate starting with me like we do every week, whether we win or lose."
Roddy White led the Falcons with eight catches and Gonzalez had five.
"Toward the end of the game we played right into their hands. They got Julius, Lance (Briggs) and they are coming, get to the quarterback. But at the beginning of the game they got turnovers, that kills you," Gonzalez said.
Turner, who played his college ball for Northern Illinois, said blame for the loss can be shared.
"We have to finish drives, finish plays, take care of the football. Start with myself. I had a turnover out there today and I never want to do that in any situation," he said.
"We have to get better as a team as a unit."
And Smith says the Falcons will. They'll make the adjustments and correct the mistakes that plagued them Sunday.
"Disappointed, not discouraged," he said. "It's a long season. It's Week 1. We will work to get this fixed and we will get it fixed."
Forte, seeking a contract extension, turned a short screen into a long TD in the first quarter, and caught five passes in all for 90 yards. He also carried 16 times for 68 yards.
Devin Hester had three catches for 60 yards. He turned a swing pass into a 53-yard gain and got stopped just short of the goal line, setting up a 1-yard TD catch by Matt Spaeth that put the Bears ahead 23-6 midway through the third quarter. Urlacher put away the game with his fumble return.
Roy Williams caught four passes for 55 yards in his Bears debut before leaving with a groin injury in the fourth quarter.
"We still have to play up to the defense's level," Cutler said. "They're still carrying us."
On the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks, there were large 9/11 ribbons at the 25-yard lines. The coin used for the pregame toss had the same ribbon on one side with a Bears "C" on the other.
There was a video narrated by Robert DeNiro, a live simulcast of the trumpeter performing "Taps" in Shanksville, Pa., and a moment of silence. A loud "USA! USA!" chant broke out as a flag stretching from goal line to goal line was unfurled.
Notes: Williams had little to say about the groin, other than he'll get treatment and "see what happens." ... The Bears also lost starting RG Lance Louis to an ankle injury. ... With Marion Barber sidelined by a calf injury, Kahlil Bell moved into the No. 2 slot at running back and carried 10 times for 24 yards.