CHICAGO — Mike Glennon got one last chance, and he almost pulled it off. The Chicago Bears drove to the Atlanta 5 on their final possession, but they came up empty in the final seconds.
Mitchell Trubisky never played. There was never any reason to put him on the field.
Playing with a patchwork group of receivers, Glennon threw for 163 of his 213 yards in the fourth quarter and nearly led the Bears to a comeback win against the defending NFC champions. But he was sacked by Brooks Reed on fourth down in the final moments, finishing off the Falcons' 23-17 victory in the season opener on Sunday.
"I don't want to say moral victory at all, because ultimately we need to win the game," Glennon said. "But when you look at the positives and negatives, there is a positive in that we were close to beating a team of that caliber."
Glennon was selected by Tampa Bay in the third round of the 2013 draft and spent four years with the Buccaneers before he signed a three-year contract with Chicago in March. The Bears were coming off a 3-13 season and had just let Jay Cutler go, seemingly clearing the way for Glennon to take over.
But the situation became more complicated after Chicago traded up to take Trubisky with the No. 2 overall pick in the draft in April. Then Trubisky played well at times during the preseason, increasing the pressure on Glennon to deliver in his first game with his new team.
There were some forgettable moments against Matt Ryan and Atlanta, but Glennon's closing flourish likely will quiet calls for Trubisky — for now.
"He showed a lot of resiliency," rookie running back Tarik Cohen said. "People are going to count him out and the crowd was booing a little bit. He just fought in that adversity and showed up. He's a playmaker. He's a baller. So that's what we expect him to do and he led his team."
Down 20-10 with 11:55 left, Glennon capped a nine-play, 75-yard drive with a 19-yard touchdown pass to Cohen . He set up the score with a 6-yard pass to Josh Bellamy on third-and-5.
Ryan then directed the Falcons to a 37-yard field goal for Matt Bryant, but Glennon got the ball with 3:18 left and calmly guided the Bears down the field.
He found Bellamy again for 14 yards on fourth-and-3 from the Atlanta 42. Zach Miller made two receptions to set Chicago up at the Atlanta 5 with less than 30 seconds remaining.
"We just had to stick to our game plan," Glennon said. "We talked about how it needed to be a high-completion game against that style of defense. The style that they play is kind of a bend don't break, and we knew going into it that I would have to be patient and take what they gave us."
Glennon nearly hooked up with a lunging Bellamy for the winning score on first-and-goal, but the ball went off his fingertips. Jordan Howard then dropped a pass near the goal line and Glennon threw incomplete on third down before he was pulled down by Reed on his final chance.
"That's definitely a tough one to swallow, to not finish that drive at the end," Glennon said.
Glennon completed 26 of 40 passes while playing without Markus Wheaton, sidelined by broken left pinkie finger. Cameron Meredith is out for the season after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, and Kevin White left in the fourth quarter with a shoulder injury.
But Cohen provided a spark out of the backfield and Bellamy also made a couple of big plays. Howard finished with 13 carries for 52 yards and a touchdown.
"Unfortunately, we came up a little bit short," coach John Fox said. "To be a good football team is how you respond to moments like this and games like this. This will be critical. I think we'll respond just fine."