Welcome to the Week 3 post-mortem, where the Dallas Debacle gave way to the Chicago Chokejob. The Falcons controlled this game for the first three quarters until everything began to fall apart, again.
There were some good moments, but at the end of the day it’s the fourth quarter head-scratchers that dominated the day.
Matt Ryan’s bomb to Calvin Ridley
The Matt Ryan-Calvin Ridley connection continued to carry the offense, even in the absence of wide receiver Julio Jones. On the first play of Atlanta’s first offensive possession, Calvin Ridley burst through the Chicago secondary and hauled in a 63-yard pass from Matt Ryan. He was a couple of yards short of collecting his fifth touchdown of this young season.
Everything may be falling apart, but the future looks bright for Ridley as a focal point in the Falcons’ offense.
Forced into starting duties due to the rash of injuries in the defensive backfield, cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson put together a very solid game, building on the limited reps where he’s also impressed over the years. He had a key pass breakup on the Bears’ second drive, and jumped a route to pick off Mitchell Trubisky in the third quarter.
Brian Hill’s touchdown run
Brian Hill has looked like the best back in Atlanta’s offense, and it’s not particularly close. His 35-yard touchdown run in the second quarter was a thing of beauty, reading his blocks (bonus hat tips to both Matt Hennessy and Olamide Zaccheaus for clearing space) and following them into the end zone.
Darqueze Dennard’s pick
This was very nearly a head-scratcher as the refs inexplicably ruled this as an Allen Robinson touchdown on the field, but the reviewers got it right for once and the Falcons came away with possession.
Dennard had strong coverage against Robinson and was able to wrangle the football away as Robinson was coming down with the catch for the potential touchdown. Key play.
Mitch Trubisky’s 45-yard run
Another play that’s emblematic of an Atlanta Falcons season where nothing seems to go right. At the end of the second quarter with the Falcons up by 13, Atlanta’s defense allowed Mitch Trubisky to sprint up the middle for a 45-yard gain. It was about 20 yards into the run before the defense even began to react.
Trubisky would toss a touchdown pass to Jimmy Graham two plays later as they started their comeback effort.
Let me be clear: This was not Matt Gono’s fault. Starting at right tackle in place of the injured Kaleb McGary, Gono was put in an unenviable position: Stopping all-world defensive end Khalil Mack. He had a miserable game, which is not unexpected when you have an undrafted free agent taking on one of the best at his position in the NFL.
Isaiah Oliver’s missed tackle
At this point, calling Isaiah Oliver “a work in progress” feels a bit generous. He seems to make a play or two each game that indicates he’s turning the corner, just to get involved in some bonehead situation a few players later.
Sunday’s inclusion of the bonehead variety was his missed tackle on Allen Robinson that allowed the Bears’ receiver to break free and make it a 23-26 game late in the fourth quarter.
Fourth quarter offense
The Falcons’ offense was abysmal in the fourth quarter. The Falcons punted three times and Matt Ryan tossed an interception in the waning seconds to ensure Chicago left Atlanta with a win.
A startling statistic: Matt Ryan did not even complete a pass in the fourth quarter until the final two minutes.
This ties in directly with the offense’s inability to generate any momentum in the fourth quarter. The play-calling from a clock management perspective was downright infuriating, and at one point they only burned 11 seconds off of the clock during their entire offensive possession.
Isn’t this why they brought in a game management coach? What exactly is going on here?
With the gifted extra time courtesy of Atlanta’s offensive ineptitude, Chicago was able to score three touchdowns in the final 10 minutes to seal the comeback.