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Week 3 preview: Falcons vs. Bears

After a disaster in week two, Falcons look to rebound in a must win contest.

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

If you are a Falcons fan and have been following the team for quite some time, Week 2’s episode against the Dallas Cowboys was a reoccurring theme that has played over once before. There was a similar game on a bigger stage in the same state about three years ago, if you catch my drift.

Anyway, now the Falcons are armed with an 0-2 record to start the season. Their next test is a Chicago Bears team that has an aggressive nature and is in possession of arguably the best pass rusher in the league in Khalil Mack. To answer your question, yes, this is a stiff test for a team looking to gain their first win of the year. Let’s break down the matchup.

About their opponent

It is not complex at all to comprehend that the Bears are led by their defense. A unit that is third in the league in points allowed per game and was fourth in the same category in 2019.

Fourth year quarterback Mitch Trubisky has not necessarily picked defenses apart this season, but he is tied for seventh with Patrick Mahomes and Ben Roethlisberger in touchdown passes with five. Five different players have a touchdown catch this season while their top receiver, Allen Robinson, has 18 targets on the season. That doubles the next player on the list, Anthony Miller, who has nine.

Key matchups

Falcons pass defense vs. Mitch Trubisky - I know it, you know it and opposing quarterbacks are fully aware also. The Falcons have been completely abysmal defending the pass this season. They are allowing 372.0 passing yards per game (31st in the NFL), 77.3% completion percentage (32nd), and 8.9 yards per completion (31st). It’s easy to point at a somewhat stale passing attack by the Bears as a possible remedy but last season, the Falcons passing defense was not necessarily juggernauts either as they finished the season ranked 23rd. Simply put, plays must be made against Trubisky and his receivers or the Falcons will get exposed once again.

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

Jake Matthews/Matt Gono vs. Khalil Mack/Robert Quinn - This particular matchup can dictate a lot when it comes to offensive rhythm for the Falcons. Quinn was brought in this offseason on a five-year deal in free agency and last week made his debut against the Giants. The two-time Pro Bowler recorded a sack and forced fumble on the Giants first drive of the game which led to a field goal. Mack of course is a three-time All Pro and is comfortably in the discussion of best pass rushers in the league.

There is certainty that Gono will see plenty of Mack and while Gono fared well last week when he replaced an injured Kaleb McGary, Mack is a different breed and is capable of controlling the game on his own.

Analytical outlook

The Bears are stingy on defense and I would underline the word ‘stingy’ with emphasis. According to Football Outsiders, the Bears are fourth in the NFL in points per drive allowed with 1.64. They are also eighth in the league in defensive drive success rate which measures the percentage that an opposing offense has a drive that results in a first down or a touchdown.

The ranking for the Bears comes with a 71% success rate for opposing offenses. In comparison, the Falcons are 28th in the same category with an 80% success rate given to opposing offenses. In summation, successful drives are a little harder to come by against the gritty Bears defense.

Final thought

I should warn most to refrain from filing this game away as one that the Falcons can easily win. Me personally, I am not so certain that is the case. The Bears offense does not produce a ton of big plays and they are more methodical with their approach. Most cases, they prefer to lean on you a bit and lull you to sleep with the short passing game and the power run game behind running back David Montgomery.

A lot will be asked for from Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter and defensive coordinator Raheem Morris. Both have had their share of pitfalls so far this season and after a game such as last Sunday against Dallas, both still have plenty to prove. Key factors that will apply to the outcome of this game are the Falcons takeaways on defense, their balance on offense against a very good defense and game management by the coaching staff. If it is a winnable conclusion for the Falcons, trust me when I say it will be one that is well-earned.