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Week 3 Game Preview: Bears-Falcons

The Bears face their biggest test against a winless opponent. Wait, how can that be true?

Atlanta Falcons v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Atlanta Falcons

SB Nation site: The Falcoholic

Record: 0-2, tied for last NFC South

Last week: A wild 40-39 loss to the Cowboys

Game day, time, TV: Sunday, noon CT, FOX

Bears all-time record against: 14-13

Historical meetings: Week 4, 1992, the 1-2 Bears and 1-2 Falcons met at Soldier Field.

Chris Miller threw four TDs, three to Andre Rison, but it wasn’t enough as Jim Harbaugh found Tom Waddle and Wendell Davis for touchdowns and Neal Anderson rushed for two himself. Brad Muster added another rushing TD.

The Bears won 41-31.

Last meeting: The opening game of the Mike Glennon era. Tarik Cohen splashed on to the scene with 114 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown. There was a nifty trick play that saw Jordan Howard score too.

But it wasn’t enough as Matt Ryan threw for 321 yards, including 128 yards to Austin Hooper (who scored on an 88-yard TD) and Davonta Freeman added a score on the ground in a 23-17 Falcons win.

Injury report: The Falcons listed 14 (!!) players on their Wednesday injury report, including nine that did not participate in practice and nine starters:

Full participation: DE Jacob Tuioti-Mariner (knee)

Limited: TE Luke Stocker (hip), DT Marlon Davidson (knee), DE Charles Harris (ankle), DT Tyeler Davison (ankle)

Did not participate: CB Kendall Sheffield (foot), WR Julio Jones (hamstring), S Damontae Kazee (hip), S Ricardo Allen (elbow), LB Foye Oluokun (hamstring), DE Dante Fowler (ankle), T Jake Matthews (knee), T Kaleb McGary (knee), DE Takk McKinley (groin)

Offense: The Falcons enter this week with one of the most potent offenses in the league.

They rank fifth in points and fourth in yards. Their passing offense is second in the league, while their rushing attack is 28th.

Their led of course by former MVP Matt Ryan (67.8 pct. cmp./723 yds./6 TD/1 INT) who is playing at a very high level.

His weapons are plenty; Calvin Ridley (16 rec./239 yds./4 TD), Russell Gage (15/160/1), Julio Jones (11/181/0) and TE Hayden Hurst (8/110/1).

Their rushing offense is led by Todd Gurley (35 att./117 yds./1 TD) and spelled with Brian Hill (6/26/0) and Ito Smith (6/24/0).

They’re incredibly effective through the air with offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter’s attack.

Ryan is second in the league in passing yards, tied for second in touchdown passes, ninth in passer rating, second in passing yards per game and second in pass attempts per game. He’s also first in passes completed per game.

Even at age 35, Ryan is still playing damn good football.

Gurley may not be what he was a few years ago in Los Angeles, but he isn’t getting a ton of opportunities, at least so far, to see what he has left. The Falcons are a one-sided attacking ranking second in passing attempts but 15th in rushing attempts.

Defense: There is a big disparity between the Falcons’ offense and defense. They rank 32 in points allowed and 31st in yards allowed.

Their passing defense ranks 31st, but their rushing yards allowed ranks ninth, although they’ve seen the third-most pass attempts against them and only the 12th most rushing attempts.

The defense is led by Deion Jones (15 tkls/1 TFL), Keanu Neal (13 tkls), Isaiah Oliver (12 tkls/2 PD), Foyesafe Oluokun (12 tkls/3 FF), Grady Jarrett (1.5 sks/1 TFL/3 QB hits) and Dante Fowler (1 sks/1 TFL/1 FF).

Defensive coordinator is a chip off of the old Tampa 2 tree, using lots of zone.

While their defense hasn’t been great at stopping anyone so far this year, they did force three fumbles last week against the Cowboys and recovered all three.

Key match ups: This is going to be a test for both the offense and defense in very different ways.

The defense has played well, but I don’t think anyone has been blown away quite yet. They’re been solid, but have had plenty of moments that have given fans pause.

So with that said, the defensive backfield, which I think most all fans would say has been the strength of that side of the ball, will be tested. Jaylon Johnson will probably get picked on a lot, and despite early season tests like Marvin Jones and Darius Slayton the first two weeks, he will have his hands full with Calvin Ridley and (possibly?) Julio Jones.

Same goes for Kyle Fuller.

A big match up problem though with Hurst, especially when Danny Trevathan and Roquan Smith are on the field. Atlanta is going to take advantage of those match ups because the inside ‘backers for the Bears have struggled so much in coverage.

The defensive line needs to win their match ups against a banged up Falcons o-line.

On offense, take advantage of match ups in the secondary and score. The offense can’t afford sleepy quarters and halves against this potent Atlanta offense. The numbers say the Falcons are good against the run, but Chicago can’t get away from it; we saw last week David Montgomery got better as the game went on and that should still be the case this Sunday. Wear them down and grind out the tough yards. That will also keep the Atlanta offense on the sidelines.

Key stats:

The Falcons’ defense has allowed opponents to score on 90 percent of their redzone trips

  • The Falcons have the most pass attempts in the league
  • Matt Ryan was the most-sacked quarterback last season, getting taken down 48 times
  • The Falcons have scored 24 or more points in six straight games. The Bears have done it three times in their last six games.
  • It’s early in the season but the Falcons, despite averaging 32 points per game through two games, still have a -14 point differential
  • Kyle Fuller and Jaylon Johnson have allowed a combined 12 receptions on 27 targets (44.4 percent completion) for 164 yards and no touchdowns. They’re allowing 6.1 yards per completion
  • Matt Ryan averages 11.9 yards per completion

What do they need to do to beat the Falcons? Will their defense be able to slow down the Atlanta offense? Can the offense win in a shootout?