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Pleased to Meet You: Week 6, Atlanta Falcons

The Bears fell to the Panthers after another dismal second half. Can they avoid the same fate against the Falcons in Week 6? We're previewing the upcoming matchup.

Jim O'Connor-USA TODAY Sports

The story of the Bears' 2-3 season has been one where the defense has improved a little bit, but the offense falls down a flight of stairs, climbs a couple then falls back down, rinse and repeat into two second-half meltdowns and two consecutive losses. The Falcons, on the other hand, have been just as unpredictable, scoring ten points against the Bengals in week 2 before blasting the Buccaneers with 56 and losing to the Vikings and Giants scoring 28 and 20, respectively.

So what kind of game can we expect on Sunday? Let's take a look at the matchup and try to figure this one out, because who knows.

Last Year: Finished 4-12, which was good enough to take third in the NFC South over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

This Year: So far, they have the same 2-3 record as the Bears, after falling to the Giants last week.

When Last We Met: It was the 2011 season opener, and the second season of the Mike Martz era. The Bears held the Falcons' offense without a touchdown (a Kroy Biermann interception provided the Falcons' only touchdown), as the Bears took the game 30-12.


2014 Offense Defense
Total Points 151 (3rd) 143 (29th)
Total Yardage 2,173 (3rd) 2,036 (29th)
Passing Yardage 1,596 (2nd) 1,298 (24th)
Rushing Yardage 577 (17th) 738 (28th)

Offense: I was about to say he's tangentially an offensive player, but Devin Hester's found a home and a role as a third or fourth receiver with the Falcons behind Roddy White and Julio Jones. His 15.1 YPR and 212 receiving yards, as well as one rushing touchdown, one receiving touchdown, and one punt return touchdown, may indicate the Falcons figured out how to use his speed in a complementary role in the offense, and it's helping Matt Ryan have a very strong start to his year (11 touchdowns to 6 interceptions and the #2-ranked passing offense in the league). Not, of course, that Jones isn't contributing to that at all (40 receptions, 552 yards, 3 TD).

Rushing the ball isn't the team's strong suit, but with Steven Jackson at the head of the running back corps, the unit's capable in and of itself. Jackson gets the lion's share of the carries (63 of the team's 123), but the remainder is split between Devonta Freeman, Jacquizz Rodgers, and Antone Smith, who leads the team in total touchdowns with 2 rushing and two receiving.

The offensive line has been in shambles enough that the Falcons were playing a tight end at right tackle a week ago. As is, starting center Joe Hawley and Lamar Holmes hit injured reserve since that game, with Justin Blalock listed as questionable. It means the resurgence of Gabe Carimi as well as play time for Peter Konz.

Defense: According to the statistics, the defense may not be having it's finest year. I know, strong analysis, that.

In the nickel look that the Falcons list on their unofficial depth chart, Prince Shembo has taken a hold of the linebacker spot alongside Paul Worrilow, the team leader in tackles - although neither has a sack. Four players on the Falcons have sacks - and they each lead the team, with one. And none of them are listed first on the depth chart (Osi Umenyiora, Jonathan Massaquoi, Corey Peters, Stansly Maponga). They don't really rush the passer fiercely, but when they do, so far this year it's been in rotation. Kroy Biermann has been lined up all over the place.

The backfield's also picked up two interceptions (safety Kemal Ishamel, cornerback Robert McClain) to go with 15 passes defended.

If the Bears do this: Pass rush and the defensive line should play a key role as, given the Falcons' entire right side resembles the Bears' left side, this could be a contest where the Bears' pass rush forces some errant throws or picks up a couple of additional sacks. The Bears should also be aware of when some of those pass-rushers make their way to the left side of the line; if they get some time against a unit that hasn't rushed the passer well, the deep play may be in the playbook after all this week.

If the Falcons do this: Levine Toilolo was the unfortunate tight end stuck at right tackle two weeks ago, and since he'll be a little more free to run routes this week, he had to take notice of what Greg Olsen accomplished against the Bears. The Falcons also have a deep receiving corps, which they may be able to take advantage with.

Closing Thoughts: The game could devolve into a shootout, which means the Bears should be prepared to play all four quarters of offensive football for the first time this season.