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Falcons at Bears final score: Critical defensive stand, Hooper's score and other takeaways

Posted Sep 10, 2017

The Falcons made just enough big plays and held tough on defense to preserve a 23-17 victory.

CHICAGO -- The Falcons offense didn’t have the number of explosive plays we’ve come to expect, but they made one happen when they needed it most. An 88-yard pass from Matt Ryan to tight end Austin Hooper helped Atlanta take the lead against the Chicago Bears in a competitive season-opener that was much closer than many expected.

After taking the lead, the Falcons defense stood firm at the goal line to keep the Bears out of the end zone and preserve the 23-17 victory.

Here are the biggest takeaways from the Falcons’ thrilling victory over the Bears.

Hooper makes two clutch catches

Austin Hooper was only targeted twice during the Falcons’ 23-17 win over the Bears on Sunday, but, boy did he make them count in a big way. The second-year tight end caught two balls for a game-high 128 yards and a touchdown.

On a third-down play from their own 12-yard line, Matt Ryan found a wide-open Hooper before taking a big shot in the pocket. After making the catch, Hooper took off down the right sideline, and delivered a stiff-arm along the way to Chicago safety Quintin Demps.

Hooper’s second catch was also big – good for 40 yards and a much-needed first down in the fourth quarter.

Hooper caught 19 passes for 271 yards and three touchdowns as a rookie last year. The 88-yard touchdown catch doubles Hooper's previous career-long reception of 44 yards.

Pass rush comes alive

The Falcons did not register their fourth sack of the 2016 season until Week 4; it did not take them nearly as long to do so this year. Atlanta took Chicago quarterback Mike Glennon to the ground four times on Sunday afternoon.

Reigning NFL sack leader Vic Beasley recorded the first sack of the season for the Falcons, dropping Glennon for a 4-yard loss at the end of the first quarter. Brooks Reed broke free and sacked Glennon for a 12-yard loss in the second quarter, and Brian Poole surged into the backfield untouched on a blitz for the Falcons’ third sack of the game, another 12-yarder that occurred in the third quarter.

Reed's second sack of the afternoon came on a critical fourth-down play to preserve the win for Atlanta.

Julio ties NFL record for fastest to 500 catches

Julio Jones added another notable achievement to his already-remarkable career on Sunday, tying Anquan Bolden as the fastest player to catch 500 passes in NFL history. The record-tying catch – a 25-yarder – came in Jones’ 80th game.

Jones finished the game with four catches for 66 yards.

Campbell gives inspiring effort in first game at SAM linebacker

Among the notable changes to the Falcons defense this offseason was De’Vondre Campbell’s transition from weakside to strongside linebacker. Coach Dan Quinn made a similar move with Beasley after his rookie year, and the results were very positive.

The early returns with Campbell at SAM linebacker are also praiseworthy. Campbell was flying around the field and looked to be more confident in his role and his abilities. The Falcons worked to develop Campbell as a pass-rusher this offseason, and while he didn’t record any sacks against the Bears, there were several plays where he generated pressure.

Campbell finished his afternoon with six total tackles, a quarterback hurry and a pass defense.

Tarik Cohen provides Bears with a big spark

For the second year in a row, Chicago looks to have a rookie running back with plenty of upside. While Jordan Howard remains the unquestioned lead back for the Bears, fourth-round draft pick Tarik Cohen gave the Falcons defense some trouble in the season-opener.

The 5-foot-6, 179-pound speedster gained 66 yards on five carries, including a 46-yard run in the second quarter, and led the Bears with eight catches for 47 yards and a touchdown. Nicknamed “The Human Joystick” for his quickness and agility, Cohen set numerous school records at North Carolina A&T and finished his career with 6,564 all-purpose yards and 61 touchdowns.

A full archive of our Week 1 game feed can be seen below:

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