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Falcons – Bears: 5 takeaways from a gutsy home win

It wasn’t always pretty, but the Falcons had enough in the tank to get a big win at home.

Chicago Bears v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

As has been the theme for the majority of the 2022 season, the Atlanta Falcons found themselves in a game that went right down to the wire.

This time, Atlanta had enough to get by with a 27-24 victory against the visiting team and snap a two-game losing streak. The win moves the Falcons to 5-6 on the season and means they are still very much alive in a down NFC South.

Here are a few overall takeaways from Sunday afternoon:

Special teams holds the Falcons back early

A pair of miscues on special teams put the Falcons in a tough spot in the first quarter. Mike Ford’s missed tackle on the kickoff that followed the Falcons’ opening touchdown helped allow a 55-yard return by Velus Jones Jr. It set the Bears up beautifully for their first possession of the game, and seven plays later they punched it in on a 16-yard touchdown pass from Justin Fields to Darnell Mooney. The play could have arguably been ruled a foul due to a pick by Equanimeous St. Brown, but no flags were thrown.

After a quality stand by the Falcons’ defense near the end of the first quarter, Avery Williams put the ball on the turf during the ensuing punt return. That put Atlanta’s defense in a tough bind, but the unit responded once again thanks to quality play by the defensive line. Grady Jarrett recorded sack No. 5.5 on the season to get the Falcons off the field on third down.

Cordarrelle Patterson’s fumble swings the game in the Bears’ direction

What began as a highlight-reel moment ended up putting the Falcons in a very tough spot in the first half. After finding no daylight to his left, Cordarrelle Patterson bounced it all the way back to his right and broke a tackle for what would have been an explosive play, but safety Jaquan Brisker jarred the ball loose and cornerback Jaylon Johnson scooped it up and returned it 18 yards the other way to set the Bears up with excellent field position.

The Falcons had done an admirable job containing Justin Fields for much of the first half, but he finally found the cut-back lane he’d been looking for and scored on a 4-yard designed run to the left. It felt like an early dagger moment from the Bears until…

Patterson redeems himself and sets an NFL record along the way

Eager to make amends for his fumble, Patterson single-handedly (with the help of 10 blockers) put six points on the board. The electric returner set a new NFL record by returning the kickoff that followed Fields’s touchdown run 103 yards right up the middle for a touchdown.

It was Atlanta’s second touchdown of the game and cut Chicago’s lead to only three points late in the second quarter. Special teams had largely been holding Atlanta back in the first half, but Patterson gave the Falcons a spark that they desperately needed from the unit. With the return, Patterson set a new league record for most kickoff returns for a touchdown. It was the ninth kickoff return touchdown of his career, moving him past Josh Cribbs and Leon Washington, who each had eight.

Falcons find their pass rush

In the previous six weeks, the Falcons had just five sacks to their name. Arnold Ebiketie registered the fourth sack of the game for Atlanta with just over six minutes remaining in the third quarter. It came exactly one play after Lorenzo Carter took Justin Fields down for a 2-yard loss and continued a really good showing from the Falcons’ defensive front.

Grady Jarrett and Abdullah Anderson joined Ebiketie and Carter in the sack party. Although the sack totals haven’t been impressive for the Falcons this season, they’ve been generating pressure at a decent clip. On Sunday that pressure got home.

Atlanta was bad on third down, but largely avoided it

It’s not very often that a team wins a game or scores north of 25 points while converting just 25 percent of its third-down attempts, but that’s what the Falcons did on Sunday. And, yes, I’m aware that special teams accounted for seven of those points. Atlanta was just 2-of-8 on third down against the Bears, which is notable both for the lack of success and that lack of attempts.

The Falcons entered this game ranked 8th in the NFL in third-down conversion percentage (43.24), but they were largely effective in avoiding the critical down. It was an efficient outing for Atlanta, which averaged 5.5 yards per play against the Bears.