May 27, 2024

Bears News

5 big takeaways from Chicago Bears’ convincing win over Atlanta Falcons on Sunday at Soldier Field

Fans chant: ‘We want Justin!’

Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields looks for a receiver in the Atlanta Falcons secondary during their game Sunday, Dec. 31, 2023, at Soldier Field in Chicago.

CHICAGO – The Bears defense dismantled the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday at Soldier Field. The defense forced four interceptions en route to a 37-17 win in the home finale.

Head coach Matt Eberflus’ team improved to 7-9 on the season, with quarterback Justin Fields throwing for 268 yards and a touchdown on 20-of-32 passing. Fields also ran for 45 yards and a touchdown.

Eberflus’ defense was the star of the show, yet again. The coach believes his team is building something.

Here are five takeaways from the Bears’ win over Atlanta.

1. Fields provides more magic

Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields fires a pass during their game against the Atlanta Falcons Sunday, Dec. 31, 2023, at Soldier Field in Chicago.

Fields said playing with this team makes football fun again. He’s clearly enjoying winning games. The Bears have won five of their past seven.

Fields threw some impressive passes, including several tough throws to receiver DJ Moore. He also had some electric runs, none better than a third-and-8 scramble after he escaped two would-be sackers in the third quarter. He broke both tackles and ran for a first down.

Late in the game, the home fans chanted: “We want Justin! We want Justin!”

“I heard it,” Fields said of the chants. “It was great. Ever since the moment I got here, the fans here have been great to me, to the team. I was saying to somebody in [the locker room], last year when we didn’t have a good record they’re still showing up late in the season, cheering us on.”

With Carolina’s loss Sunday, the Bears now are locked into the No. 1 draft pick thanks to the blockbuster trade with Carolina in March. They will have a chance to select any player they want.

I heard [the chants]. It was great. Ever since the moment I got here, the fans here have been great to me, to the team.

—  Justin Fields, Bears quarterback

The players in the locker room remain fully behind Fields.

“I’ve said it before, and I’m going to keep saying it: What makes him not the quarterback?” Moore said. “Today, the Houdini act should’ve just put the nail in. He’s not a running back, he’s him. ... I want him to be the quarterback. I said what I said, now it’s on the higher-ups. It’s up to them.”

2. DJ Moore twists way to new career highs

Moore continued to validate Bears general manager Ryan Poles’ decision to include Moore in a trade with the Carolina Panthers for the No. 1 pick last spring. The Bears’ top wide receiver continued to make jaw-dropping catches Sunday, adjusting his body mid-catch in order to make a reception.

Two plays stood out against the Falcons. The first came in the first quarter when Fields found Moore in the corner of the end zone with a dart pass that Moore managed to catch with both feet inbounds. The second was later in the first quarter after Moore lost track of the ball in the snow and adjusted his body down the sideline in order to make the catch.

Moore credited his ability to move his body in improbable ways to his early days growing up in Philadelphia and doing gymnastics with cheerleaders.

“I’m just going to trust myself to catch this,” Moore said of his mindset. “I really did it.”

Moore finished with 159 receiving yards and a touchdown on nine catches. He now has 1,300 receiving yards along with eight receiving touchdowns this season, both career highs. Moore also has the most receiving yards in a season by a Bears player since Alshon Jeffrey had 1,421 in 2013.

“He’s really unbelievable,” Bears tight end Cole Kmet said. “He’s a guy that when he’s covered, he’s really not covered. I thought the touchdown pass was awesome, in terms of the late hands that you saw, the over-the-shoulder grab over the sideline, another example of that where the guy’s kind of on him, but Justin makes a great throw, and he makes great adjustments to the ball.”

3. Snowy weather; wild return

Chicago Bears linebacker Jack Sanborn tries to tackle Atlanta Falcons cornerback Dee Alford on a kickoff return during their game Sunday, Dec. 31, 2023, at Soldier Field in Chicago.

With snow flurrying and winds swirling, kicking was a major challenge. Both Bears kicker Cairo Santos and Falcons kicker Younghoe Koo struggled from 50 yards and beyond during pregame warm ups.

Koo missed his first two field goal attempts from 50 and 42 yards. The Falcons came away empty-handed from their first two offensive possessions.

Santos, for the most part, handled the weather better. He made three of his four field goal tries and all four of his extra points. The missed field goal came from 55 yards as time expired in the first half. Santos’ kick came up short and landed in the arms of Falcons cornerback Dee Alford.

From nine yards deep in the end zone, Alford tried returning the ball to his right before cutting left and finding open space. He followed his blockers 96 yards before the Bears brought him down.

Tight end Robert Tonyan earned the tackle on the play after running Alford down for a significant portion of the 96-yard run.

“I had two people pulling me back,” Tonyan said. “It was like a resistance sprint for like 200 yards. I was just trying to get down there and get in the way somehow some way.”

Tonyan, center Lucas Patrick and kicker Cairo Santos all were near Alford as he went down.

“I think Soldier Field helped us a little bit too because we didn’t make a clean tackle on him,” Santos said.

They did enough to trip him up. A touchdown there could’ve made it a one-possession game at halftime.

4. Stevenson’s two picks

Chicago Bears cornerback Tyrique Stevenson intercepts a pass intended for Atlanta Falcons running back Bijan Robinson during their game Sunday, Dec. 31, 2023, at Soldier Field in Chicago.

Rookie cornerback Tyrique Stevenson had two interceptions in the game. On one of them, the Falcons were trying to put him in a bind between two receivers. He said that watching film of teammate Jaylon Johnson helped him make the play.

He acted like he was going to stick with the shorter route, before dropping back with the receiver going deep.

“Show them short, but make sure we’re able to get back, just kept my hips open,” Stevenson said. “Know I have my responsibility low, but also know I’ve got to help the safety high.”

Kyler Gordon and TJ Edwards also had interceptions.

Johnson left the game with a shoulder injury and didn’t play in the second half. The Bears were, otherwise, injury free throughout the afternoon.

Left guard Teven Jenkins made his return for the offense after missing last week’s game because of a concussion. Darnell Mooney did not play because of a concussion.

5. Bears earn No. 1 pick, again

Carolina lost to Jacksonville on Sunday and Arizona surprisingly beat Philadelphia. The Panthers (2-14) are a lock to have the worst record in the NFL, no matter what happens in Week 18.

Thanks to that trade, the same one that sent Moore to Chicago, the Bears have Carolina’s first-round pick. For the second year in a row, the Bears hold the No. 1 overall draft pick.

There are a million ways that Poles could approach this. If he doesn’t want to draft a quarterback, some team will be willing to trade up for the rights to draft USC’s Caleb Williams or North Carolina’s Drake Maye. He could trade the No. 1 pick for the second consecutive year, netting a huge haul. He also could use the pick if he believes either Williams or Maye could be a future star in the NFL.

Last year, Poles said he wasn’t celebrating when he earned the No. 1 pick. But that also was because the Bears had the worst record in football.

Still, it’s probably not the first thing on the Bears’ mind right now.

“I really don’t give attention to it right now,” Eberflus said. “I don’t think we’re picking tomorrow, you know what I mean? So the focus – like I said, for you to do your job the right way is you got to be here right now, get your eyes forward for the next thing. Next thing for me is go spend some time with my wife and family tonight. I will look at the tape at the house.”

Sean Hammond

Sean Hammond

Sean is the Chicago Bears beat reporter for the Shaw Local News Network. He has covered the Bears since 2020. Prior to writing about the Bears, he covered high school sports for the Northwest Herald and contributed to Friday Night Drive. Sean joined Shaw Media in 2016.

Michal Dwojak

Michal Dwojak

Michal is a sports enterprise reporter for Shaw Local, covering the CCL/ESCC for Friday Night Drive and other prep sports for the Northwest Herald. He also is a Chicago Bears contributing writer. He previously was the sports editor for the Glenview Lantern, Northbook Tower and Malibu Surfside News.