After watching tape of Sunday's 27-13 win over the Falcons, coach Marc Trestman was impressed with the Bears' vertical passing game, three inexperienced starting linebackers and pass rush.
Jay Cutler connected on passes of 74 yards to Alshon Jeffery and 47 yards to Brandon Marshall—both of which set up touchdowns—and were the quarterback's two longest completions to wide receivers this season.
Asked about the vertical passing game, Trestman said: "I think it helped our whole football team. It's difficult to have one when the players you're practicing with aren't able to practice those types of things, and we said it during the week: last week was really the first week we had everybody at full speed."
The Bears defense allowed its fewest points since Week 16 of the 2012 season despite starting inexperienced linebackers Khaseem Greene, Darryl Sharpton and Christian Jones. The trio combined for 17 tackles after being forced into action due to injuries to Lance Briggs, Jonathan Bostic, D.J. Williams and Shea McClellin.
"We kept it manageable for them to know what to do and where to be and we allowed them to just play hard and fast and they played a relatively mistake-free game," Trestman said.
Another inexperienced young player who stepped up Sunday was first-year pro Demontre Hurst. In his first game as the Bears' nickel back, Hurst generated the only takeaway by either team with a fourth-quarter interception, the first of his career.
"We constantly reinforce to our team that whether you're a practice squad player or not one of the 46, we're here to get you ready to play and teach you your position every single day and that's where it starts because eventually you're going to have your opportunity," Trestman said.
"[Sunday] was a great opportunity for him as it was for a lot of guys to prove that they could play in this league. He's a very smart player. He had a very good training camp. He was always around the football. He does it in practice as well. He had an opportunity and he made the most of it."
After recording just three sacks in back-to-back losses to the Packers and Panthers, the Bears registered four in Atlanta. Defensive tackle Stephen Paea posted his career-high fourth sack of the season, knocking the Falcons out of field goal range and forcing them to punt in the second quarter.
"I thought he played well," Trestman said. "He got on the edge, created some disruption inside. The best part I'm seeing right now is he's stayed healthy. He's been able to play, and that's something he hasn't been able to do. So we'll keep our fingers crossed that that continues because he's been a factor inside. He's been given some of the one-on-ones inside with other guys getting doubled. He's created some internal pressure, which has been very good."
After Sunday's game, the areas that Trestman feels the Bears need to work on include eliminating pre-snap penalties, improving all aspects of their defense and addressing the breakdown up front that led to a rare blocked extra point attempt.
"There are a lot of good things certainly, but as we pick our way through the tape there are a lot of ways that I know we can continue to improve and grow as a football team," Trestman said.
One player who struggled Sunday was right tackle Jordan Mills. The second-year pro got beat by end Jonathan Massaquoi for a sack and committed two false-start penalties.
"I think the noise was part of it," Trestman said. "Certainly we work hard in the noise. He had the pre-snap penalties. I know that nobody is more disappointed than Jordan. Those are unacceptable. Jordan has played very well the last year and a half. Yesterday wasn't one of his best games.
"But I don't think that's a lingering thing. He's played very well this season. It just wasn't one of his best. It was in the noise. It was on the turf. I know he wants some of those plays back certainly. He didn't play as well as he's played other weeks. But he certainly played well enough for us to win the game."
Roster moves: The Bears on Monday promoted cornerback Terrance Mitchell from their practice squad to their 53-man roster and waived linebacker Terrell Manning. They also signed safety Shamiel Gary and tight end Jacob Maxwell to their practice squad.