Bears pull away from fading Falcons
Missing four linebackers and playing in a usually intimidating road environment, the Bears reached back and delivered one of their strongest performances of the season Sunday in Atlanta.
Led both by an offense that gained close to 500 yards and a defense that dug deep under tough circumstances, the Bears powered to a 27-13 victory over the host Falcons at the Georgia Dome.
Quarterback Jay Cutler completed 26-of-38 passes for 381 yards and a touchdown for Chicago, with receivers Brandon Marshall (six catches, 113 yards) and Alshon Jeffery (five catches, 136 yards) also having standout days. And dual-threat tailback Matt Forte was outstanding, rushing for a pair of second-half TDs and racking up 157 combined rushing-receiving yards.
Forte’s rushing scores came after Atlanta had tallied the first 10 points of the second half to tie the game at 13. But the Bears (3-3) would reassert themselves, with Jeffery’s 74-yard catch setting up the first of Forte’s touchdowns, a six-yarder, to make it 19-13 with about five minutes left in the third quarter.
Then, after a Falcons punt, the Bears put together a 15-play, 87-yard march taking more than eight minutes off the clock. And when Forte rushed in for nine yards out and Martellus Bennett caught a two-point try, the Bears had a comfortable two-TD lead with 10:07 left, and Chicago really was not hassled thereafter.
The Bears’ defense was the surprise star of the show. Playing without linebackers Lance Briggs, Jon Bostic, Shea McClellin and D.J. Williams, the Bears nonetheless held Atlanta (2-4) to 287 yards on 54 plays. The Bears’ defensive line especially came up big, sacking Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan four times, with end Willie Young notching a pair of takedowns.
The loss was the Falcons’ fourth in five games after defeating New Orleans in the opener. And it was a most disheartening defeat for Atlanta. The Falcons’ defense struggled vs. the run and through the air, surrendering nearly seven yards per play and 478 yards overall. The ground game (13 carries, 42 yards) was a non-factor. Ryan, meanwhile, was under far too much pressure. Though he completed just 19-of-37 passes for 271 yards with a touchdown and a pick, the Fox telecast counted at least a half-dozen drops.
Finally, as the Bears closed out the victory, their fans made their presence felt at the Georgia Dome, cheering loudly. It was another indignity in an afternoon full of setbacks for the Falcons, who now have to regroup for a matchup at Baltimore (4-2) next Sunday.
The Bears, meanwhile, will host 2-3 Miami, which suffered a punch-in-the-stomach last-second loss to Green Bay on Sunday. And they will do so after showing some real backbone in the Georgia Dome.