CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- The Chicago Bears visit the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday. Kickoff is set for noon from Mercedes-Benz Stadium, and the game can be heard on WBBM Newsradio 780. Here are Jeff Joniak's keys to the game.
There are no perfect performances, nor perfect execution in any NFL game, but the Bears need to finish with a high batting average when it comes to scoring opportunities against the Falcons.
Missed opportunities against a Falcons defense backed into a corner right corner might turn their tide and stir up the hornet’s nest. Possession time and successful drives that end in points is the first step.
This is a size over speed matchup for the Bears. Wear down the defense with the three pronged run game featuring David Montgomery, Cordarrelle Patterson, Tarik Cohen and multiple tight end sets. Then look for the big pass play against a Falcons defense allowing the 2nd highest number of big plays(20+), and 4th highest plays of 10+yards, including six touchdowns
Blocking defensive lineman Grady Jarrett is job one for the guys up front. In a word, Jarrett is disruptive. He gets the inside edges of a blocker using leverage to blow up plays. Safety Keanu Neal is a contact tracer. Healthy and playing fast he plays in the box ferociously and with a purpose.
Points scored are on a record pace in the league and +217 higher than through two games of 2019. Teams on average have permitted 51 points, but the Bears have allowed only 36 and are one of only two teams that have allowed just one touchdown pass along with the Rams.
Each of the three pillars of the Bears pass rush will have matchups throughout the game, they should win. When they did last week, the Bears collected two turnovers against the Giants. Kahlil Mack, Robert Quinn, and Akiem Hicks piled up 16 pressures and three sacks. Similar damage to the Falcons will be revealing.
The Bears secondary is playing extremely well, but will be tested by Falcons QB Matt Ryan and his impressive weapons. The test becomes more challenging if the front seven fails to generate consistent pressure on Ryan. He is equipped to pick any unit apart when he has time and he finds matchup to exploit.
Cornerbacks Kyle Fuller, Jaylon Johnson, and Buster Skrine will face a trio of playmakers from Julio Jones, to Calvin Ridley, to Russell Gage that are in rhythm with Ryan.
To this point, the two outside corners have allowed only a 42% completion rate with no touchdowns, and 8 passes defended. Skrine from the slot adds two more pass break ups to the mix and sure tackling across the board.
In addition, Eddie Jackson and Tashaun Gipson will have opportunities to make plays, with Gipson collecting one of Matt Ryan’s 17 career pick sixes, last season with Houston. Keep an eye on the matchup with Falcons TE Hayden Hurst.
Cordarrelle Patterson is stepping onto a fast track in Atlanta. We know the Falcons are athletic and fast in each phase and that includes special teams, but Patterson defines athletic and fast as well. This environment will serve him well. He leads the NFL in kick return yardage at nearly 200 already.
This is likely going to be a tight game possibly swayed one way or the other by the field goal kickers. Cairo Santos needs to be as accurate or better than the talented Younghoe Koo, who has made all six of his attempts.
The Bears are the significantly healthier team. Atlanta’s injury report is lengthy, and it includes the great Julio Jones at receiver. The Bears lose inside depth at nose tackle with the loss of John Jenkins.
The Bears since 2018, own the NFL’s best win percentage scoring less than 22 points, while the Falcons are 0-12 scoring less than 22 points since the start of 2018. The Bears have experience accomplishing more with less sometimes.