The Falcons played a very uninspiring brand of football last week, and it was quite troubling in many aspects. From the multiple coaching and player execution miscues against the Chargers to the lackluster overall effort in Carolina, we were reminded that this team is still quite far from being a playoff contender.
While the Falcons are still mathematically in the playoff hunt, as we’ve been reminded by Head Coach Arthur Smith, we have to remember that this team is still very young and in the second year of roster reconstruction and development. Right now, the hope is that this team has shaken the previous week off and is prepared to put out a better effort against the Chicago Bears, who are trying to rebound from a 3 game losing streak. How does this defense stack up against their offense?
In the trenches
This Bears team, in many ways, is also doing quite a bit of house cleaning and rebuilding when it comes to its roster. This offensive line for the Bears has some young names on it, but it’s also gone through quite a bit of reshuffling as a result of injuries that have occurred. Starting center Sam Mustipher has been a bit of a sore spot for this offensive line, as has right tackle Larry Borom in the passing game, so it’s to be expected that the Bears will focus on protecting quarterback Justin Fields with the running game and play action.
The Falcons defensive line has had some consistencies up front up to this point, which is why I was a bit baffled with the release of NT Anthony Rush earlier in the season. While Grady Jarrett and Ta’Quon Graham have shown consistent production on a weeky basis, there has been inconsistency from players like Abdullah Anderson and Jalen Dalton, with strong efforts followed by shaky ones. This is currently a group that’s a bit unsettled depth wise right now, so some inconsistencies are to be expected. However, considering the issues the Bears have had internally on the offensive line, this could end up being a big game for players like Jarrett and Graham.
The skill positions
When I think about the skill positions on this Bears team, one name in particular comes to mind: Justin Fields. There are still some Falcons fans that are a bit sour that Fontenot and crew passed on Fields at the fourth overall pick in 2021 for tight end Kyle Pitts. While Justin Fields is proving to be a scary prospect at quarterback, one who is showing steady progress, the Bears initially hadn’t really done much to help him when it comes to offensive weapons.
That being stated, wide receiver Darnell Mooney is quietly having a solid season, and the Bears acquired former Pittsburgh Steeler wideout Chase Claypool to add to the wide receiver room. In addition, tight end Cole Kmet has been a weapon for Fields, especially in the red zone. However, explosive running back Khalil Herbert has been put on IR and RB David Montgomery looks to be a game-time decision, so that could limit what the Bears can do on offense.
This Falcons backend is still a work in progress, to put it very lightly. The good news for the Falcons is that AJ Terrell has returned to practice, but I fully expect Coach Smith to be cautious on whether he plays or not due to the nature of hamstring injuries. Darren Hall has been surprisingly solid at cornerback and Richie Grant is starting to really come into his own at safety. There’s a hope that Rashad Fenton finds his mojo again in Pees’ scheme, but this unit is still at the bottom of the league in passing yards allowed for a reason.
Justin Fields completely scares me in this game. I fully expect him to be explosive and burn the Falcons for quite a few yards on the ground and in the air. While I would like to say that containing Fields is the key to the Falcons holding the Bears from putting points on the board, the truth is that this Falcons defense hasn’t truly contained any quarterback this season. This will be one of those games where the “bend but don’t break” philosophy is the best hope for Coach Pees and this defense.
It’s a foregone conclusion that the Bears will amass some yards offensively against this Falcons defense. The goal will be to force them into field goal opportunities instead of allowing touchdowns. If, and I do emphasize if, the Falcons can minimize the amount of points put up by this Bears offense, they certainly are capable of winning this game.