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SportsMonday: Bears Don't Totally Suck

Opportunity blown.

But the dream is still alive. That would be the one where the Bears record five or more wins this season.

It's the dream because I said it was of course, in my preview last week. At least I said that winning five games was about as good as the Bears could hope to do in the coming campaign.

The team played well and had a great chance to win on Sunday. They failed to take advantage and in the end, the main thing people will remember was that the game was simply a 23-17 loss to the Falcons. Not a shocker.

But the Bears played considerably better than I thought they would. Also not a shocker but certainly surprising. Six or even seven wins might be possible - try to remain calm.

The best part of the weekend was when Ryan Pace signed Akiem Hicks to a four-year contract extension with a total guaranteed value of $30 million (the total value of the package is $48 mill. but the guaranteed money is what matters).

The defensive end recorded two sacks on Sunday, could have had more and is the most exciting piece of a Bear front-seven that clearly has a ton of potential.

That front seven limited Falcon quarterback Matt Ryan and his explosive offense enough that the Bears needed only to punch it in from the 5 and kick a winning extra point in the final 30 seconds.

There was a little bit of speculation about whether quarterback Mitch Trubisky could have done better finishing that drive. Perhaps the question should have been if Tarik Cohen would have been a better receiving option than Josh Bellamy or especially Jordan Howard, whose brutal drop was the worst play during the final sequence.

Cohen had more than 150 combined yards and is certainly the early favorite to be the most exciting part of the Bears offense this year - and of the special teams as well.

Hicks' contract extension was especially exciting because it moved the Bears even closer to the salary cap this season (one report over the weekend put them $12 million under before the Hicks deal).

And that is exciting to me because I had feared the primary McCaskey strategy this off-season had been a cash grab, especially when they let Alshon Jeffrey go for nothing rather than paying him about $17 million.

For a while it appeared the Bears would be way, way under the cap this season, ensuring even more monster profits than usual for ownership.

The Bears are still regretting not re-signing Jeffrey to a franchise deal when they had the chance as injuries continue to decimate their receiving corps. But general manager Ryan Pace is using the payroll flexibility that came with letting him go in great ways.

Speaking of receivers, Kevin White was no better than the Bears' fourth receiving option on Sunday, just as he had been all through the preseason. He doesn't run crisp routes, doesn't have extraordinary speed, and does not project as a major contributor in any way. He suffered an injury that may lead to his being sidelined for the season. But it barely matters. The Bears are clearly thin at receiver but Markus Wheaton is expected back soon and there are potentially other reinforcements in the wings.

All in all, the Bears gave us a little reason for hope the season won't suck. I'll take it for now.


See also:
* Campbell: Austin Hooper's 88-yard TD Featured A Total Breakdown By The Bears' Defense.

* Rozner: Same Questions, Bears Still Looking For Answers.

* Bernstein: Bears Display What They Are (And What They Are Not).


The view from Atlanta:

* Ho-Hum, Falcons Win Without All The Offensive Flash.

* Falcons' Opening Act Better Than Their Closing (But Not By Much).

* Skill, Grit And A Little Bit Of Luck.


NFL Highlights Video.


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Falcons Twitter



Jim "Coach" Coffman welcomes your comments.

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