Velus Jones Jr. didn't waste much time making the most of his opportunity to get back onto the field Sunday in Atlanta.
A healthy scratch the previous two weeks, the Bears rookie returned a kickoff 55 yards early in the first quarter, setting up Justin Fields' 16-yard touchdown pass to Darnell Mooney on the team's opening possession, tying the score 7-7.
Jones had been benched against the Dolphins and Lions after muffing two punts and dropping a long pass earlier in the season.
"I have all the confidence in the world in myself," said the third-round pick from Tennessee. "I'm special with the ball in my hands. I know that and I never forgot that, no matter what people say. Every time I touch the ball I just try to put my team in a good position, just go out there and give it my all."
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Jones fielded the kickoff at his own 1 near the left sideline, ran up field and then cut to his right at about the 20, utilizing his blazing speed to sprint around a tackler.
"I was just looking for a crease," Jones said. "I knew backside one guy was going to be unblocked, one or two. So when I saw that he was closing in, when I made the cut I knew that there was nobody else out there. It's really just having a feel for it back there, just being a playmaker."
Asked about making amends for his mistakes earlier in the season, Jones said: "I don't have to prove nothing to anybody but myself. I know who I am. I know how special I was since [being] a kid with the ball in my hands and that hasn't changed, through all the adversity I faced in the season from being a healthy scratch these past two weeks. When your number's called, make a play, that's it. That's in the past; there's nothing I can do about that. Just keep moving forward."
The 55-yard kickoff return was the Bears' longest of the season, eclipsing Khalil Herbert's 50-yarder late in last weekend's loss to the Lions. It was Jones' only touch in Sunday's game; all four of Atlanta's other kickoffs went for touchbacks.
Fields being evaluated
Fields suffered a left shoulder injury on the first play of the Bears' final possession when he landed it on after being knocked out of bounds by cornerback Dee Alford on a designed run. Fields remained in the game, gaining four yards on a quarterback draw before throwing a third-down interception that sealed the Falcons win.
"We are getting him evaluated by the doctor right now," coach Matt Eberflus said after the game. "It's his left shoulder, so we will see where it goes. We will have an update on Wednesday. We don't know what exactly it is; that's why we are going to take a look at it and see what it is."
Catch of the day
Tight end Cole Kmet made a sensational one-handed catch of a Fields pass down the seam in the second quarter for a 24-yard gain. Kmet reached high and plucked the ball out of the air while being hit by cornerback A.J. Terrell.
"Justin threw a really good ball, getting it over the second level of defenders," Kmet said. "It was in that little area where the safety can't get to it and the corner can't fall off and get to it. I was just able to make a good play on the ball."
The catch was reminiscent of tight end Zach Miller's game-winning one-handed 25-yard TD catch in a 22-19 victory over the Chargers in San Diego on Nov. 9, 2015.
The Bears run defense allowed the NFL's fourth-ranked rushing offense to gain 149 yards and one TD on 33 carries, an average of 4.5 yards per attempt. Tyler Allgeier ran for 55 yards on eight carries and Cordarrelle Patterson added 52 yards on 10 attempts.
The Bears pass defense failed to record a sack for the second time in three games and has just 15 in 11 games this season. Marcus Mariota completed 13 of 20 passes for 131 yards with one TD and a 100.2 passer rating.
Rushing streak ends
The Bears' NFL record streak of five straight games with at least 225 yards rushing was snapped Sunday, with the ground game producing 160 yards and two TDs on 41 carries. Fields rushed for a team-high 85 yards and one TD on 18 attempts and David Montgomery added 67 yards and one TD on 17 attempts.
With Herbert being placed on injured reserve last Tuesday, rookie Trestan Ebner helped pick up the slack Sunday, running for eight yards on six carries.
Better execution needed
Since beating the Texans 23-20 to improve to 2-1, the Bears have lost seven of eight, including their last four straight. During that span they're 0-6 in one-score games, losing the last three weeks after failing to score on their final possession.
"It's just execution," Kmet said. "That's all this game is. [It] sounds simple, but it's really hard to do. [We've] just got to execute better and when it comes down to the end of the game like that you've just got to be perfect in everything you do."
Kmet is eager for the offense to have another shot at a late game-winning drive.
"We've got to just do it," he said. "We haven't done it here in the past couple weeks and I want that opportunity again. We still have a lot of ball left to play here until the end of the season. I think these opportunities are going to come up more than once with these last six games we've got left. But I want the opportunity to do it again, and I think it's necessary for our offense to grow."