By Andrew Seligman
AP Sports Writer
CHICAGO — The Atlanta Falcons made just enough big plays to avoid another late collapse. The Bears couldn’t get the big play they needed.
Matt Ryan threw an 88-yard touchdown to a wide-open Austin Hooper in the fourth quarter, Brooks Reed sacked Mike Glennon in the closing seconds and the NFC champions hung on to beat the Chicago Bears 23-17 on Sunday.
A narrow victory against a team that finished last in the NFC North at 3-13 showed the Falcons have plenty to work on as they prepare for Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers next week. But coming off a historic collapse against New England in the Super Bowl, they will take the win.
“It felt great,” receiver Julio Jones said. “We definitely have a lot of things to clean up, but we got what we set out for and that was a W.”
The big touchdown to tight end Hooper midway through the fourth quarter gave Atlanta a 10-point lead, and the Falcons hung on in the closing seconds after Chicago drove to the 5. Glennon’s pass to a lunging Josh Bellamy on first down hit off the receiver’s hands, and Jordan Howard then dropped a simple catch at the 1.
After another incompletion on third down, Glennon got sacked by Reed to end the drive.
Some things to consider after Atlanta barely beat Chicago.
The Falcons will need more from their high-powered offense if they’re going to make another big run — or beat Green Bay. Tops in the NFL in scoring last season, they struggled to get points in their first game under new coordinator Steve Sarkisian.
They managed just 64 yards rushing and didn’t get much from their passing game. Though Ryan threw for 321 yards and a TD, Julio Jones had just four catches for 66 yards. A first team All-Pro the past two seasons, Jones was targeted just five times.
Glennon, who backed up Jameis Winston in Tampa Bay the past two years, didn’t silence fans who would rather see No. 2 overall draft pick Mitchell Trubisky.
Glennon went 26 of 40 for 213 yards and a TD. All but 50 of those yards came in the fourth quarter. But the strong finish probably won’t put an end to a debate in Chicago that picked up steam in the preseason.
Atlanta’s defense has a new coordinator in Marquand Manuel and the change hasn’t slowed down the pass rush.
The Falcons sacked Glennon four times, none bigger than Reed’s takedown on fourth down at the 5 near the end of the game. Reed had two sacks in the game after recording just two last season.
Vic Beasley, who led the NFL with 15 ½ last year, also sacked Glennon.
“As a group, we did OK,” Reed said. “We saw a lot of run. That’s what we expected. We’ve got a lot of stuff to correct. That’s what this week will be.”
Rookie Tarik Cohen is off to a good start with the Bears.
The Bears need help at receiver.
Losing Kevin White to a shoulder injury in the fourth quarter deprived them of a starter and further depleted a group short on bodies — and possibly talent.
After playing only four games his first two years due to injuries, White had two catches for six yards.
The Bears already were without Markus Wheaton due to a broken left pinkie finger and lost starter Cameron Meredith to a torn ACL before the season.
Kendall Wright and Josh Bellamy caught the most passes among Bears wide receivers with three each. Chicago had only one catch longer than 19 yards — a 22-yard completion to tight end Dion Sims.
“I think Josh Bellamy stepped up,” Glennon said.
Bellamy made a key fourth-down catch in the final Bears drive.
“He’s been in these situations before,” Glennon added.