The Falcons first primetime game of the season turned out in their favor.
But it wasn't pretty. Neither came away from this game satisfied with the way they played. Both teams defenses stepped up and just played a physical game.
After the Falcons went three and out to start the game, the Bears marched down into the Falcons red zone looking as if they planned to take the crowd out early. That's when the Falcons defense tightened up.
It's the story of the year for the Falcons defense. Bend, but do not break.
Coming into the game, the Falcons ranked third in the NFL in scoring defense despite allowed a ton of yards to teams.
After Cutler drove the Bears into the red zone he saw something in the Falcons defense he didn't like. That forced him to take the Bears first time out. Two plays later he tossed an interception to second year starter Thomas DeCoud.
"The safety (Thomas DeCoud) made a good play and I just missed that one,” said Cutler of the pick.
Not much more to say about that, DeCoud played a hell of a game.
It wasn't a painful pick as the Falcons, who started the game very flat, went three and out and kicked the ball back to the Bears.
The rest of the first quarter was uneventful. Both defenses showing they were not there to be pushed around by any All-Pro quarterbacks.
The second quarter was a different story entirely. The Bears first play was a touchdown pass to overachieving receiver Johnny Knox. Up by seven, the Bears defense tried to stifle the Falcons offense with a multitude of blitzing.
The never got to Matt Ryan, but they did throw him off his game. They also made it a point to shut down the Falcons ability to run the ball. All that ceased when Cutler made a poor throw intended for Greg Olson that landed into the hands of DeCoud for a second time that night.
That one did hurt the Bears. The Falcons next two plays were Norwood and Turner for 15 yards followed by a beautiful catch and run by Roddy White for a 40-yard touchdown.
"They like to go to a lot of zero coverage," said White. "You know, that’s what they did, they went ‘zero’ on that play. Matt (Ryan) got the ball out early. Tony (Gonzalez) and (Brian Finneran) made great blocks and I just kind of got up the seam and scored.”
The next time the Falcons touched the ball they marched downfield on a 12 play, five minute drive to end the half. It concluded on a Tony Gonzalez touchdown catch with nine seconds remaining on the clock.
“They (Chicago) were in a cover-two defense, and it was a one on one match up," said Gonzalez. "I gave the defender an out and up route, and once he went for it, Matt (Ryan) put the ball where I could get it. It was just a great play by him.”
Going into halftime, the score favored the Falcons, but neither team had locked anything up. This was a well-coached game on both sides of the ball.
The second half featured more of the same. Defenses making plays and offenses struggling to keep drives alive.
The Bears received the ball but were forced to punt to open the second half. The Falcons took the ball and as they have done many times this season, systematically had their way down the field.
On the Falcons 18-yard line, on a third and seven play Matt Ryan overthrew a wide open Gonzales and was picked off by Zack Bowman on the Falcons 44-yard line. The Falcons defense stepped up and forced a punt.
Nearing the end of the third quarter was the drive people will talk about for ages now. I call it -- The drive of the Lofton.
On this drive Chicago marched 59 yards in 13 plays down to the Falcons one yard line. I call this the Lofton drive because on this series alone he had five tackles and a forced fumble.
His forced fumble of Forte was recovered by the Bears but on the very next play, still on the one yard line, Forte fumbled again. This time tackle Jonathan Babineaux popped it loose and the Falcons fell on it.
Perhaps goaline stands aren't Matts 'Forte' but if you read the reviews on the game it had nothing to do with the Falcons No. 4 ranked scoring defense. More on that later.
In the fourth quarter, receiver Michael Jenkins gave the Bears another chance to get back into the game by tipping a Ryan pass into the hands of defensive back Nathan Vasher.
Jay Cutler took full advantage of it. He put together an eight play drive to tie the score at 14 all with six minutes remaining in the game. So with six minutes remaining, we had a game that essentially started over.
On the kickoff, return man Eric Weems broke loose for 62 yards to put the Falcons in position to milk the clock and try to get in position for a game winning field goal. It took the Falcons seven plays and three minutes to finish the drive pounding Michael Turner into the end-zone for the sixth time this season.
The Bears had one last chance to tie the game and began a touch march dowfield. This drive had five penalty flags thrown. Two by Atlanta and three on Chicago. The final play featured the once considered weak-link of the Falcons defense being in the right place, at the right time.
The Falcons ran a zone blitz on fourth down dropping Jamaal Anderson into coverage. His 6'6" frame blocked Cutlers view of tight end Desmond Clark and the pass fell incomplete.
Not the greatest performance by either team but a win is a win. And someone the Falcons manage to force teams to shoot themselves in the foot. I'm sure it has nothing to do with the team itself. The Falcons just happen to catch teams when they aren't playing their best. You'd believe that if you read post-game articles anyways.
What Are People Saying
Well, it's Monday afternoon here and I've read as many articles as I can find on the game. I love seeing the perceptions of others on the Falcons. It's become comical of late. At some point, the Falcons will get some credit for winning rather than be the lucky team that caught their opponents daydreaming about Megan Fox in a bikini.
I even spoke with Bleacher Reports own Tim Williams and he agreed his title did steal some thunder from the Falcons No. 4 ranked scoring defense. He made the changes to identify what a sloppy game it was to watch rather than the Bears handing out an early Christmas gift.
Both Dan Pompei and Len Pastabelli agree the Bears lost that game. Atlanta did not win it. They both site the failed final drive and the two fumbles by Forte. Need we forget Forte got destroyed on both plays. Plays that coach Lovie Smith called on the one yard line against a nine man front.
Let's not forget after an Abraham sack, the Bears were backed up to third and 17 when linebacker Curtis Lofton was called for a pass interference to give them exactly 17 yards. Had Lofton turned his head, that final drive would have ended earlier.
So Who Looked Good
When two teams play sloppy football it's much more difficult to find the bright spots.
In the case of the Falcons, NBC awarded both Matt Ryan and Tony Gonzalez with the joint award but frankly, that's media bias. Here are three other candidates that really should have had consideration.
- Thomas DeCoud - His two INTs early helped keep the Falcons in the lead going into the second half of the game. He played very well for being a fifth round selection a year ago.
- Curtis Lofton - Eight tackles and a forced fumble. He was laying the wood out there. He is now third in the NFL in solo tackles (two out of first place) and he's the only one in the top five who has had a bye week.
- Eric Weems - What a relief it is for Falcons fans to have Weems around this season. With the season ending injury to Douglas and the constant dings of Norwood, the Falcons return game is in good hands. Weems 62-yard return setup the Falcons go ahead score. He also had a 20-yard punt return that came within 1 inch of being a score. He barely stepped out of bounds and made some moves that made Barry Sanders stand up and shout!
The Fallen Soldier
This season the Atlanta Falcons have taken players from the Jaguars and made them into big-time players. Both Mike Peterson and Brian Williams have made a huge impact on this defense. Sunday, the Brian Williams show is done for the season. This is a huge blow to the team.
Williams have made at least one impact play per game and the best defensive back on the team. Now the Falcons will have to decide if they want to roll the dice on rookie Christopher Owens or former first round pick Tye Hill, who hasn't taken a defensive snap since being traded from the Rams a month ago.
Running Backs Continue To Fumble
I'm not sure what the deal is with Michael Turner this season, but he is a fumbling machine. This was a physical game and the Bears Matt Forte fumbled twice on consecutive plays, but this makes five fumbles in five games for the Burner.
Eventually those fumbles will put the Falcons into a losing position. So far, they haven't kept the Falcons from winning the games but it's a real concern.
What Happened To Jenkins
After bragging on him all season he had a really poor game. He dropped a first-down pass that was in his hands. He also tipped a Matt Ryan pass for a Bears interception. I guess we can allow him to have a bad game but it was disappointing. Let's hope he bounces back for Dallas next Sunday.
Turn Your Head Already Chris
In a trend that has been going on since his rookie season, corner Chris Houston once again was called for pass interference for not turning his head. It's a known problem that bites the Falcons at the wrong times. Sunday it was on third and eight and put the Bears into field goal range. Cutler eventually tossed a TD to Olsen on that drive to tie the game.
The Anderson Experiment Continues
For the second straight week, the Falcons played Anderson at tackle and he's been impressive. When Peria Jerry went down for the season, the Falcons needed someone to hold the point of attack in the middle and Anderson has been a great rotation player at the tackle spot.
Red Zone Defense
The Falcons have one of the best in the NFL. When the field shrinks, the speed of the Falcons shows up. They make it difficult to do much. In four trips, the Falcons held the Bears to seven points total.
Protect The Quarterback
Once again, the Falcons offensive line protected Ryan and did not allow a single sack. They still lead the league with only two sacks allowed on the season. More should be said by the media about how great this crew is playing. They deserve some praise.
What Happened To The No Huddle
I believe the stats showed Ryan eight for eight with 63 yards and a touchdown the one time we utilized the no-huddle. I can't understand why we stop doing it each game. If we ran it every series Ryan would be a Pro Bowler.
We Must Protect This House
After Sundays win, the Falcons are now 10-1 at home under Mike Smith. He's instilled a belief in these guys that transcends what prior regimes produced. Home field is actually an advantage for the Falcons now.
The Falcons came out of this game with their best cornerback on the sidelines. Brian Williams was placed on injured reserve today forcing either Chris Owens, Chevis Jackson, or Tye Hill to slide into the starting role. This isn't a position the Falcons front office needed at this point in the season.
What Did We Learn
The Bears are a better team under Cutler than Orton, but they need time to gel. The Falcons rolled the Niners last week but given an extra week to prepare, the Bears made it a close game. Not good for the Falcons considering they have five more teams to play coming off a bye week this season including three in the NFC East. That begins this Sunday with the Dallas Cowboys. It should prove to be a great game in Dallas. The 21st century Falcons have taken the "Triplets" name from former Cowboys Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin and Emmit Smith.