We’ve learned a little bit more about the Falcons after last week's thrashing of the 49ers. I think the gameplan put together by Mike Smith and his coaching staff was not only top-notch, but worked well in all three phases of the game. They were also coming off of a bye, so headed into this Week Six matchup against the Bears, the Falcons had better be ready for a rested and prepared team in the Bears.
I must preface this preview with the fact that, while I love my Falcons and have a mancrush on Matt Ryan, I also admire Jay Cutler’s physical toolset. Quite simply, what this Vanderbilt alum can do on the field at times with his arm is staggering. So needless to say, I was one of those folks who couldn’t help but watch the train wreck that followed Shanahan’s departure at Denver. Like a car crash, I just couldn’t turn away from what surely was a franchise imploding on itself.
What a difference a month makes, huh? It only seems like yesterday when McJayGate threatened to tear down the walls of Invesco Field. Only seemed like yesterday when Cutler looked out of sync and just plain horrible against the Packers in the first half, throwing for four picks in the loss.
Since then, Cutler has quietly and efficiently rounded back into form, posting a 107.8 quarterback rating. He’s also making quicker decisions due to being a little more in sync with his receiving corps, compiling a 70 percent completion percentage.
Look for the bye week to only help the Bears' cause in the air, with surprising Johnny Knox, Devin Hester, and Earl Bennett leading the charge. The Bears' receivers are quick and fast and the Falcons must do a good job in coverage to contain the potent passing attack.
On the ground, however, the Bears have uncharacteristically struggled early on with their sophomore runner, Matt Forte. The second-year man from Tulane looks to build on a strong showing against the Lions, where he put up some big numbers toting the rock 12 times for 121 yards.
The Falcons must find a way to bottle up Forte, while maintaining discipline to cover him coming out of the backfield. They also need to bracket their promising TE, Greg Olsen.
The bye week came at a good time for the Bears, as they were dinged up along the defensive line and in the middle at linebacker. Despite their recent health issues, they are still fourth in the league in sacks, even though the other teams up at the top have played five games to the Bears' four.
They also don’t have the services of one Brian Urlacher, undoubtedly the face of this franchise for the past 10 years plus. Yes, the Bears have done a great job so far in rushing the passer to help out their inconsistent secondary, but let’s take a deeper look into their opponents thus far.
Green Bay did them no favors by allowing Allen Barbre to go one-on-one with Adewale Ogunleye, who promptly posted a 4.5 sack night, tormenting Aaron Rodgers. Pittsburgh allowed Alex Brown to pressure Big Ben, Seattle was dinged up at tackle in Week Three, and the Lions still cannot protect their QB.
Coming into this game, the Falcons have allowed just two sacks and will face a stiff test against this well-rested defense coming off a bye week of preparation for this game. Although the Bears' defense has started slowly in just about every game this season, I think that the Bears coaching staff, particularly Rod Marinelli, will have the defense ready to roll from the opening series.
This will be especially important to a team like the Falcons, who love to start fast and dictate the tempo from the beginning of the game, especially at home.
In the QB friendly confines of the Georgia Dome, the Falcon defense must be disciplined and prepared to stop Jay Cutler and his receivers. These guys can score and can score quickly, so the Falcons will need to set the tempo early, but unlike last week’s game against the 49ers, making the Bears one-dimensional might not be a good thing.
Sorry to state the obvious again, but Jay Cutler can flat out sling it. Sure, he might be a tad cavalier in his playing style, and you might not like his postgame interviews. But falling down, off balance, wrong foot, backpedaling, throwing across his body—there is no throw that this guy cannot make with precision and velocity despite a non-optimal body position. John Abraham and Kroy Biermann coming off the edges will have to get him down and get him pressured quick.
The pass rush was much improved against the 49ers, but I would advise against singing their praises until after this game. The 49er o-line is shaky at best, as evidenced by two benchings two days after suffering their worst defeat at home since the 1960s.
We also must limit our mistakes, as we still laid the ball on the ground quite a few more times than the score might have indicated last week.
Even though the Bears are coming off a bye, and their offense can put up yards and scores in bunches, I think the Falcons have enough weapons to put the Bears secondary to the test. Matthew Stafford and Seneca Wallace found enough time and holes to put up some decent numbers against them. If the Falcons can start fast, I don’t see why they wouldn’t continue to build on their home record.
It will be a great game, and one that feels like it's going down the wire with the last possession being the most important one.
Falcons 35 - Bears 28