By the time Falcons tight end Austin Hooper pointed skyward and crossed the goal line, so much had gone wrong for the Bears defense. And they had only themselves to blame.It was a real shame, too. All the fine work they did for three quarters of Sunday’s season opener was undermined by one collective breakdown lasting 25 maddening seconds. It resulted in the decisive touchdown in the Bears’ 23-17 loss and an example of how razor-thin their margin for error is as they continue to rebuild.


“One play,” inside linebacker Danny Trevathan said, “can lose the game.”

The stat book reads Hooper caught an 88-yard touchdown from quarterback Matt Ryan on third-and-3 with the Falcons protecting a 13-10 fourth-quarter lead.

That doesn’t detail the calamity.

It started before the snap, as the Falcons broke the huddle. As they got set at the line of scrimmage, the Bears were disorganized, still breaking their huddle trying to get into position.

With the play clock under five seconds, rookie safety Eddie Jackson gesticulated to his teammates. Inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman yelled something to Trevathan, and he yelled back.

Did coach John Fox consider calling timeout in that moment?

“We didn’t really think we were in disarray,” he said. “We didn’t realize we were in disarray until he caught the ball.”

Hooper, the inside receiver of three on the right side of the formation, ran deep down the right seam. Freeman nudged Hooper as he released, passing him off to, as it turned out, no one.

The outside receiver, running back Tevin Coleman, ran a shallow cross, and Jackson came down to cover him. Freeman covered him too.

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