Busted: Miscommunication dooms Bears on Austin Hooper’s 88-yard TD

Linebacker Danny Trevathan didn’t know what happened.

‘‘I’m not really sure,’’ he said about the colossal defensive breakdown that led to tight end Austin Hooper’s 88-yard touchdown catch, which made the difference in the Bears’ 23-17 loss Sunday to the Atlanta Falcons at Soldier Field. ‘‘We’ve got to get back and watch the film.’’

Cornerback Marcus Cooper couldn’t explain it.

‘‘I don’t know yet,’’ he said. ‘‘Luckily, we have [Monday] to look at it and figure out what happened and learn from mistakes we made and get better.’’

Falcons tight end Austin Hooper (81) stiff-arms his way past Bears safety Quintin Demps en route to an 88-yard touchdown reception in the Falcons' 23-17 victory over the Bears on Sunday at Soldier Field. (David Banks/Getty Images)

Rookie safety Eddie Jackson at least tried to explain it.

‘‘It was just a busted coverage,’’ Jackson said. ‘‘It was a mental error on our behalf.’’

Safety Quintin Demps took his share of the blame.

‘‘It was piss-poor football on my part,’’ said Demps, who was stiff-armed by Hooper at the Bears’ 32-yard line to clear a path to the end zone. ‘‘That’s on me. Bad football. I’ve got to be in the middle of the field.’’

As it turned out, coach John Fox provided the most direct explanation for the breakdown on a third-and-three play from the Falcons’ 12-yard line that left Hooper wide-open at midfield and gave the Falcons a 20-10 lead with 11:55 left.

‘‘I think we had a miscommunication on the call,’’ Fox said. ‘‘The particular call we played was not the call that we called. But I’m not going to throw people under the bus, obviously. We didn’t execute very well.’’

Not on that play, anyway. The Bears actually did a fine job against an offense that led the NFL in scoring last season.

Even though three third-down miscues led to 13 second-half points, the Bears’ defense still held the Falcons to their lowest point total in 10 games. In fact, the Falcons scored 23 points or fewer only twice in 19 games last season.

The Bears were in position to steal the game, trailing only 13-10 before the decisive play. They had the Falcons backed up to their 12-yard line. Defensive ends Akiem Hicks and Roy Robertson-Harris and outside linebacker Willie Young applied pressure that forced quarterback Matt Ryan to step up in the pocket. It gave him enough time and enough room to find Hooper by himself at the Falcons’ 48.

‘‘We were almost there,’’ Robertson-Harris said. ‘‘I know Akiem got there. I know Willie got there. So we’ve just got to finish.’’

Hicks was close enough that he thought he had Ryan.

‘‘Yeah, definitely,’’ said Hicks, who already had two sacks at that point. ‘‘He still had the ball in his hand, and I was probably a foot [away]. And he got it off.’’

Still, it was a pretty good start for a Bears defense with high hopes.

‘‘One play doesn’t define us,’’ Demps said. ‘‘It doesn’t define me as a player, either. I think we’ve got a great team; I know we’ve got a great defense. It’s a long season. We still had a chance to win, even with that big play we gave up. We’ve got to stay at it.’’

Follow me on Twitter @MarkPotash.

Email: mpotash@suntimes.com

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