It wasn’t quite the barn-burner that occurred last year in the Georgia Dome between the Falcons and Bears, but it was pretty close. The Falcons had a total team win, one in which the oft-criticized defense, helped out the normally explosive offense. Special teams for the Falcons continue to be one of the best in the NFL in playing an extremely important role in the overall victory. The hard-fought game many predicted came to fruition where both teams took turns throwing and receiving punches throughout the game, needing all 59 minutes and 31 seconds to finalize the result. The Falcons came out on top against a talented and tough Bears team, that looks to make noise of their own in the NFC down the road. A total team victory that pushed the Falcons past a tough opponent coming off a bye and to a 4-1 record (Check out DOL’s new post).The defense had an outstanding night, locking down one of the game’s best young running backs and holding Cutler and his extremely talented receiving corps from scoring. A look at all sides of the ball:
The Falcons rushing attack had a very forgettable outing against a very solid Bears defense. The Falcons sputtered often and consistently in the beginning of the game, going for several 3 and outs, and having fairly predictable play-calling. The running game was put in many poor situations, where Coach Mularkey would elect to pass or play-action on first down, and when that failed, Turner would get the ball on the ground and be stuffed for a loss, no gain, or only a couple of yards.
The Nasty Boys (Falcons O-Line) drew one of the tougher assignments in the Bears defensive line, and didn’t create a lot of openings for Turner and Norwood. The insertion of Norwood seemed to help soften up the Bears defense a little until he suffered a hip flexor injury. The Falcons finished with only 68 yards of rushing offense, with Matt Ryan owning 8 of those yards, but the Nasty Boys kept their QB nice and clean not allowing a sack against Chicago’s excellent pass rush. The rushing attack never got a chance to get going, but Turner ran tough when it counted on the 5 yard touchdown scamper. Tough defense, but 60 rushing yards likely won’t get it done on a consistent basis. Grade – C+
As with the rushing attack, the passing assault was slow going and failed to net many positive yards in the early going. The vertical passing attack that was on fire against he 49ers failed to connect throughout the game, with receivers dropping passes and balls being poorly thrown by Ryan. The normally precise QB had a fairly rough outing against a tough Bears secondary, completing 57.5% of his passes and throwing for a fairly paltry 185 yards. Ryan had two interceptions, one where he tried to force a pass to a covered Tony Gonzalez and one on a tipped pass intended for Michael Jenkins. The second of the interceptions was a particularly costly one, where the Falcons recovered a game-changing fumble on their own one yard line and had a chance, in essence, to ice the game eating up clock and potentially putting the Birds up 21-7 in the fourth quarter.
Ryan did have two touchdowns, though, one where Roddy White made another fantastic catch and touchdown run for 40 yards. The other was a masterful throw to Tony Gonzalez with 4 second before halftime, in which the tight end made a beautiful double-move and settled in a soft spot in the back of the endzone. White finished with 56 yards and one TD, Gonzalez finished with 52 yards and one TD as well, including many huge 3rd down conversion catches. Jenkins, Turner, Norwood, Peelle, and Finneran also chipped in a couple of catches, but few of big implications. The Falcons have been unable to find a legit threat in the slot with teams being able to cover White, Jenkins, and Gonzalez. Credit Coach Mularkey for giving the passing offense a jumpstart and found some good rhythm with the no-huddle passing game. Matt Ryan got the job done when it counted, but it wasn’t his best night. Grade – C+
Offensive Game-Ball – Tony Gonzalez with huge 3rd down conversions and touchdown.
What a game the defense had against one of the NFL’s best young running backs. The Falcons came out and hit early, hard, and often and caused the Matt Forte to run tentative in hitting the hole. Curtis Lofton again had a big game with 8 tackles and forced fumble, Peterson had a good game adding 6 tackles and one sack, and Coy Wire came up with the enormous fumble recovery at the Falcons 1 yard line where Forte and the Bears were threatening to score. The defensive line had another good game in stuffing the running game with particularly great performances from Jonathan Babineaux, Thomas Johnson, and Jamaal Anderson at defensive tackle, all collaring 2 tackles. Babineaux also had a big forced fumble.
Although the defensive ends only came up with half a sack (Abraham), it pressured and hurried Jay Cutler all night long and forced him to make some errant throws, two of which were picked off by Thomas DeCoud. Anderson played both defensive tackle and defensive end, but made the play of the game by dropping back into coverage from DT and securing the win. The Bears game makes two weeks in a row that the quarterback was the leading rusher (Cutler – 34, Forte, 23). Great game all around on defense, but particularly in stuffing the run and helping out an offense that found itself struggling to find consistency most of the game. Grade – A+
In terms of statistics, the Falcons defensive secondary hemorrhaged yards by the truck load (300 yards) to Cutler and the Bears, but they put the brakes on the passing attack when it counted it most. Thomas DeCoud had a career night with five tackles and two enormous pick and Erik Coleman also had a big night with 7 tackles and 2 assists. The Falcons defensive backs did have a less than stellar night against some very fast and talented receivers Devin Hester, Johnny Knox, and Earl Bennett. Greg Olsen seemed to be open most of the night, but much of the credit goes to Cutler for making several excellent throws and his receivers for hauling in many tough catches.
There were several pass interference calls that extending many drives coming on third downs, one where Chris Houston got called for interference on Johnny Knox on 3rd and 8, which led to a score. The second being a potentially catastrophic play when Curtis Lofton was flagged for interference on Greg Olsen on 3rd and 17 on the Bears final drive with 1 minute and 12 seconds remaining. Brian Williams also had a solid game going as well before suffering a terrible season-ending injury, cutting short an excellent start to the season to date. The defensive line even got involved in the passing defense, with Jamaal Anderson making the play of the game dropping into coverage from defensive tackle and securing the win breaking up a pass on the final fourth down. Safeties continue superb play, and corners had a good game as well, but will need to tighten up their coverage with the high-powered Saints passing attack only two weeks away. Kudos to an excellent game plan by Coach Van Gorder and Coach Smith. Grade – B
Defensive Game-Ball – (Two) Thomas DeCoud for his two picks and Jamaal Anderson for the game-saving play.
This group continues to exceed all expectations and be one of the best and most disciplined units in the NFL. Although giving up a few long returns (Hester Punt Return for 33 and Knox kick return for 33 yards), the Falcons kept one of the fastest and quickest return teams fairly under wraps. Michael Koenen had a nice night punting, forcing Hester into several fair catches and his longest punt going for 61 yards. One of the biggest plays of the night came with Eric Weems returning a kickoff 62 yards after the Bears had tied the game with 6 minutes remaining. The play changed the momentum and reversed the field position within seconds. Another big game from what Falcons fans have come to expect from the Birds special teams. Grade – A+
Special Teams Game-Ball – Eric Weems for seizing the momentum back on his 62 yard kickoff return with the game tied in the fourth quarter.
Great win for the Falcons, showing they can win when they don’t play the best of games and gaining the victory. The Birds are 4-1 and have only had one game (San Francisco) where they put it all together on offense, defense, and special teams. Defense and special teams deserve extra praise for keeping the Falcons in it until the offense finally found some rhythm.
-Give your grades and assign your game-balls
-What’s your thoughts on the rushing attack: tough defense or officially worried?
-How much will Norwood’s injury hurt the Falcons?
-Play-calling, running backs, O-Line, or all need to improve?
-Worried on Ryan’s tough day or good Bears secondary?
-Ryan’s inaccuracy a one-time deal or reason for concern?
-Anxious about lack of a threat from the slot?
-Defensive line dominated or Bears weak run offense?
-Coleman and DeCoud one of the best safety tandems in the NFL?
-Seriously alarmed on lack of man-to-man DB skill?
-How bad will Brian Williams injury hurt?
-Is there a better overall special teams unit in the NFL?
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