For a player whose Bears career might be better defined by the quarterbacks who came before and after him, Mike Glennon had four plays Sunday to make fans forget Jay Cutler and Mitch Trubisky.
Down six with 21 seconds left, the Bears faced first-and-goal at the Falcons’ 5.
What followed — three incompletions and a sack in a 23-17 loss — wasn’t entirely a referendum on Glennon, who was throwing to backup receivers. But it was an opportunity missed.
“It’s a tough way to lose,” Glennon said.
Flanked left, wide receiver Josh Bellamy was open on first down, split between safety Ricardo Allen in front of him and cornerback Robert Alford behind him. Glennon threw left, toward the sideline in the end zone. Playing because Kevin White left with an injured left shoulder, Bellamy dove, his knee hitting the “N” in the NFL end-zone logo. The ball bounced off his hands.
It would’ve taken a great catch.
“I led him a little too much,” Glennon said. “He ran a good route.”
On second down, Glennon threw to running back Jordan Howard at the front left pylon, but he dropped the ball. With his back to the end zone, there was no guarantee Howard would score with Alford sprinting toward him, but Glennon was optimistic.
“Jordan’s a big guy,” Glennon said. “I’ll take my chances with him vs. the corner.”
On third down, he threw incomplete to tight end Zach Miller, covered by safety Keanu Neal.
Glennon faced man coverage on fourth down. Falcons defensive end Brooks Reed rushed around offensive tackle Bobby Massie. When Glennon shuffled left to extend the play, Reed had a perfect angle, sacked him and avoided a second consecutive, albeit less notorious, Falcons late-game meltdown.
“That’s what you hope for,” Reed said. “As a D-end, you don’t wanna have to run around and step up in the pocket.”
Glennon didn’t want to declare a moral victory but detailed how the Falcons have most of their Super Bowl team back.
Coach John Fox had his reasons to be confident afterward. The Bears’ two touchdowns came immediately after the Falcons did the same, a gutty response not seen last season. Howard and rookie running back Tarik Cohen were game-changers.
“I think we’re a pretty good football team,” Fox said.
The Bears actually would feel like one — “The storyline would be so different,” Miller said — had they converted one of the last four plays.
Glennon had only one completion in the third quarter and entered the fourth 8-for-13 for 50 yards, but he finished 26-for-40 for 213 yards, one touchdown and an 86.8 passer rating.
He had 51 yards on six completions to start the fourth before he found Cohen, who plunged toward the right pylon for a 19-yard touchdown.
“He showed a lot of resiliency,” Cohen said. “You know, people are going to count him out. The crowd was booing a little bit. He just fought in that adversity and really showed up.
“He’s a playmaker. He’s a baller. That’s what we expected him to do, and he led this team.”
After Matt Bryant kicked a 37-yard field goal — his third of the game — Glennon got his chance to win the game, taking the ball at the Bears’ 18 with 3:18 to play in front of 56,990 hopeful fans.
He completed a third-down pass to Kendall Wright and a fourth-down pass to Bellamy. The Bears were out of timeouts when Miller caught an 11-yard pass and ran out of bounds, setting up the last four tries.
“We collectively, all 11 of us,” Miller said, “have to find a way to punch it in four times from the 5-yard line.”
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