Mike Glennon was good enough Sunday, which is to say he wasn’t half-bad, which is to say it wasn’t his fault.
If that seems like a grudging compliment, darker alternatives were in play before the Bears took on the defending NFC champion Falcons at Soldier Field. But instead of a meltdown while rookie teammate Mitch Trubisky shadowed him like a prospective student and fans screamed for a quarterback change, Glennon almost did enough in a game his team almost won. Faint praise again? No.
The Bears took Atlanta to the limit before losing 23-17 in the season opener, and they did it despite Glennon having very little offensive talent around him. He already was without wide receivers Cam Meredith (lost for the season with a knee injury) and Markus Wheaton (finger). Then he lost hardest-luck receiver Kevin White to a shoulder injury in the fourth quarter. Tom Hanks had more to work with in “Cast Away.’’
Add to that the Bears’ fear of giving Glennon any play that could lead to an interception, and you can understand why they had only 13 passing yards late in the third quarter. An NFL team has to work hard to be that unproductive in the passing game.
“We were in it,’’ Glennon said. “We weren’t throwing it, but it was a one-score game the whole time. I didn’t feel there was a huge need to change it up. We had them right where we wanted them. That’s the defending NFC champs.’’
The Bears finally had to unfurl Glennon’s arm when their defense — their very good defense — inexplicably gave up an 88-yard touchdown play to wide-open tight end Austin Hooper early in the fourth quarter.
With the Falcons leading 20-10, Glennon went to work. He ended up with 163 passing yards in the fourth quarter, the longest pass traveling 22 yards. OK, it was less an unfurling of Glennon’s arm than it was an untying. He threw a beautiful pass to rookie Tarik Cohen that was knocked down in the end zone, then found Cohen with a touchdown pass on the same drive. Good enough.
With the Bears at the Falcons’ 5-yard line and less than 30 seconds left, Glennon threw a pass that Josh Bellamy could’ve caught in the end zone but didn’t, a pass that Jordan Howard dropped at the 1-yard line and a pass to Zach Miller that went astray in the end zone. On fourth down with eight seconds left, Falcons defensive end Brooks Reed sacked Glennon. Not nearly good enough.
“A tough one to swallow,’’ he said.
But the Bears got what they wanted from Glennon: no interceptions or fumbles. He finished 26-for-40 for 213 yards and a touchdown and had a passer rating of 86.8. Did I mention no interceptions or fumbles?
“He was real composed, and he did what we needed him to do — control the game and no turnovers, that was the most important thing,’’ linebacker Pernell McPhee said.
Cohen was excellent, with five runs for 66 yards and eight catches for 47 yards and the touchdown. He can be forgiven for his adrenaline-enhanced opinion of Glennon’s performance. It was his first NFL game.
“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.”
Glennon a playmaker? No. And if he’s a baller, I’m a rapper. He’s a game manager, and the pocket is his cubicle. No apologies necessary.
If there was one knock against Glennon, it was that he held on to the ball too long and paid for it with a couple of sacks. Better that than a forced pass and an interception, the Bears will argue. The current coaching staff had two years of that with Jay Cutler, and it had had enough.
If there’s noise in social-media circles about replacing Glennon with Trubisky, trust me, the Bears aren’t paying any attention to it. Their defense was strong against Atlanta and Matt Ryan, and their offense didn’t make much of a peep, good or bad. I believe that’s coach John Fox’s idea of heaven.
Can they win like this?
“Yes,’’ Fox said. “I think we could be easily 1-0 standing up here right now.’’
“We already know that we belong, and we’re going to be competitive with everyone in the NFL,’’ Glennon said.
Only time will tell if the Bears can win because of their quarterback. They were intent on making sure they didn’t lose because of him. No one has ever described prudence, lower case, as sexy.
Follow me on Twitter @MorrisseyCST.