The friendly confines of the Georgia Dome provided little boost to the Atlanta Falcons, who are now on a three-game losing skid after a 27-13 loss to the Chicago Bears today. The Falcons dropped their first home game of the season thanks to erratic play by both the offense and defense.
Matt Ryan finished with 271 yards passing, while completing 19 of 37 passes for a touchdown and an interception. Ryan was sacked four times and plagued by several drops from his receivers. Steven Jackson led rushers with 25 yards on just six carries. The Falcons only ran the ball 13 times thanks to play from behind the majority of the game. Julio Jones led the team with 68 yards receiving on four grabs. Antone Smith caught the lone touchdown of the day, a 41-yard scamper on a screen and finished with four catches for 64 yards. Roddy White and Levine Toilolo each added three catches for 40 and 34 yards, respectively. Matt Bryant connected on a pair of long field goals from 52 and 54 yards out. Matt Bosher punted five times for an average of 43.6 yards with only one punt placed inside the 20-yard line. Devin Hester returned a pair of punts for 10 yards and two kickoffs for 44 yards. The Falcons struggled again on third down this week, converting just four of 13 attempts and failing on a pair of fourth-down tries. The team failed to reach the red zone all game.
Defensively, the Falcons got gashed to the tune of allowing 478 total yards, including 368 in the air. The Bears were able to convert seven of 15 third downs and scored touchdowns on three of five red-zone trips. Kemal Ishmael, Paul Worrilow, Josh Wilson and Joplo Bartu each tied for the team lead with six tackles. Robert Alford (three tackles, one tackle for loss, one pass deflection); Jonathan Babineaux (two tackles, one quarterback hit); Kroy Biermann (four tackles, 0.5 sacks); Tyson Jackson (four tackles, one tackle for loss); Dwight Lowery (three tackles); Jonathan Massaquoi (four tackles, one sack, two tackles for loss); Robert McClain (two tackles, one sack, one tackle for loss); Paul Soliai (three tackles, 0.5 sacks); and Desmond Trufant (four tackles, one pass deflection) each had noteworthy performances.
Bears right tackle Jordan Mills was called for a false start on the opening play from scrimmage in the game, a good omen for the Falcons with the crowd behind them. But on the next snap, Bears quarterback Jay Cutler hit wide receiver Brandon Marshall for a 20-yard gain on a crossing pattern off play-action. Three plays later, Trufant helped break up Cutler’s pass to tight end Martellus Bennett and the Bears would punt.
Jackson ran up the middle for a 14-yard gain to start off the Falcons’ first possession. Two plays later, Toilolo would make a leaping grab over the middle for a 15-yard gain to put the Falcons at the Bears 34-yard line. However, the Falcons drive would stall after Peter Konz was flagged for a false start penalty and backed the team up to 3rd-and-10. Ryan missed on his pass to Jones over the middle thanks to pressure from Lamarr Houston. The Falcons would settle for a 52-yard field goal from Bryant to take an early 3-0 lead with less than 10 minutes left in the first quarter.
Bears running back Matt Forte ran off the right side for a 12-yard gain to start the Bears’ next possession. Jonathan Massaquoi would beat Mills to get a sack on Cutler two plays later to back up the Bears to 3rd-and-15. But wide out Alshon Jeffery would make a 19-yard catch to convert the 3rd-and-long. On the next Bears third-down opportunity, Dezmen Southward was there to break up Cutler’s pass to Bennett to force Pat O’Donnell’s second punt of the afternoon.
But the Falcons offense failed to take advantage, producing a three-and-out on their next series. Jones made the grab on third down, then fumbled, but would recover well shy of the sticks, leading to Bosher’s first punt of the game.
The Bears would dial up three passes to Forte to start their next series, although one was nullified by an illegal formation penalty on Mills. But the other two combined for 20 yards to put the ball in Falcons territory. That was followed by a 14-yard gain by Bennett. A few plays later on third down, a false start on Santonio Holmes would cause the refs to blow the whistle early but Worrilow didn’t hear it and decked Cutler. That led to a personal foul penalty that gave the Bears a first down at the Falcons 14-yard line. The final play of the first quarter was a quick throw to Marshall that gained seven yards before he was tracked down by Falcons defenders. Alford would break up a fade to Marshall in the end zone on the next play to start the second quarter. Forte dropped a pass near the goal line and the Bears would settle for a 25-yard field goal from kicker Robbie Gould to tie the game 3-3 with 14:47 left in the first half.
After Roddy White made his first catch on a 10-yard play on 3rd-and-2, Ryan found Devin Hester down the seam for a 23-yard gain to put the ball in Bears territory. However the Falcons drive stalled after that point, thanks to a drop by Jones on second down followed by Ryan being sacked by Stephen Paea. Bosher had a short 23-yard punt to set up the Bears at their 21-yard line to start the next series.
Forte would catch and carry the first two plays for a combined 25 yards to get the ball near midfield before a holding call on Eben Britton backed up the Bears 10 yards. However, two plays later Marshall set up a 3rd-and-1 with an 11-yard catch. Despite another false start penalty on Mills to back up the Bears, Marshall beat Alford for a big gain of 47 yards to get the ball down to the three-yard line. Two plays later, Josh Morgan was open underneath for the three-yard score to give the Bears a 10-3 lead with six minutes left in the first half.
On the second play of the ensuing Falcons series, Ryan found Jones on a screen for 15 yards thanks to a couple of broken tackles. White dropped Ryan’s next pass thanks to a big hit from Bears safety Ryan Mundy. Initially, the officials threw a flag for a suspected helmet-to-helmet hit, but picked it up and no penalty was assessed. Ryan’s next pass was dropped by Jones, followed by a Tim Jennings breakup on third down to force another Falcons punt. This time, Bosher’s 49-yard boot plus a holding call on the Bears forced them to start the next drive at their seven-yard line.
Jeffery kept the Bears from being deep in their own territory with a 26-yard catch to start of the drive. A few plays later and after the two-minute warning, McClain would get a sack as Cutler tried to scramble. But on the ensuing 3rd-and-7, McClain was beat by Marshall for a 15-yard gain. Two plays later, Cutler would scramble again and gained 9 yards to put the ball inside the red zone. After an eight-yard gain on a Forte reception, the Falcons defense would hold the Bears thanks to Massaquoi putting pressure on Cutler to force a throw away on third down. Gould would come out again and hit from 28 yards to push the Bears lead to 13-3 with just a few ticks left on the first-half clock. Matt Ryan would kneel on the ball, and the Falcons would settle to go into halftime down 10 points.
Gabe Carimi would copy Mills’ example by starting the Falcons opening third-quarter drive with a false start. Two plays later, Ryan found Hester deep for a 25-yard gain, but Carimi was flagged again for illegal use of hands. But that penalty was offset by the same call on Bears defensive end Jared Allen. But Jones made it up, catching a slant for a gain of 17 yards. That was followed up by a 29-yard gain to Jones on a skinny post on the next play. Yet, a holding call on White nullified a nine-yard gain by Jones on an end-around on the next play. Jake Matthews was flagged for a hold on the next play, backing up the Falcons to a 1st-and-29. Two plays later, Antone Smith would set up a manageable 3rd-and-6 with a nine-yard catch on a slant. However, Smith got those yards and much more on the very next play, breaking loose on a screen thanks to a Carimi cut block for a 41-yard score. The Falcons had cut the Bears lead to 13-10 with 11:19 left in the third quarter.
The Falcons defense responded by forcing a three-and-out thanks to pressure from Jonathan Babineaux on third down to force Cutler’s throw in the dirt.
Ryan’s opening pass on the next series was tipped at the line by Houston and nearly intercepted. A check down to Smith for nine yards was followed by his leaping two-yard gain to convert on 3rd-and-1. Houston would hit Ryan as he threw on the next play to force an incompletion. Ryan would scramble and find an open Eric Weems over the middle for a 14-yard gain to convert on the ensuing third down and get the ball into Bears territory. However, Toilolo dropped Ryan’s next pass. A seven-yard run by Jacquizz Rodgers set up a manageable 3rd-and-3 but White dropped the slant after taking a hit from Darryl Sharpton. That would force Bryant onto the field for another long field goal, this time hitting from 54 yards to tie the game at 13-13 with slightly more than six minutes left in the third quarter.
On the second play of the ensuing Bears series, Jeffery got behind Ishmael on a bomb for a gain of 74 yards to get the ball down to the six-yard line. Forte finished off the drive on the next play with a six-yard score up the middle. The only shining moment for the Falcons on the drive came when Ra’Shede Hageman burst up the middle to block the extra point to keep the Bears lead at 19-13.
The Falcons themselves failed to respond with a three-and-out thanks to cornerback Kyle Fuller breaking up a shallow cross to Jones on 3rd-and-1.
Marshall started off the Bears drive with a 13-yard gain and three plays later Forte would convert on 3rd-and-1 with a two-yard run. Cutler dialed up Marshall again for a deep ball on the next play, but it was overthrown. But on 3rd-and-11, Bennett broke open for a gain of 25 yards to put the ball in Falcons territory on the final play of the third quarter. Jeffery converted on another third down a few plays on a 10-yard gain, putting the ball at the Falcons 23-yard line. A few plays later, Cutler found Jeffery again in the back of the end zone as he beat Josh Wilson. But the Bears receiver stepped out of bounds before making the grab and was flagged for illegal touching, nullifying the score. But two plays later, Forte would go right up the middle on 3rd-and-goal for a nine-yard touchdown. The Bears opted to go for the two-point conversion, and Bennett made the grab to push Chicago’s lead to 27-13 with 10 minutes left in the game.
The Falcons followed with another three-and-out, thanks to the offense being backed up by a Jared Allen sack on second down and Ryan’s bomb to Jones being incomplete on third down.
The Bears proceeded to try and run down the clock on their ensuing series, bleeding over three minutes of the clock with five runs before punting it back to the Falcons with 5:19 left in the game.
White made a nice grab on a slant for 23 yards to start the next series, but the Falcons struggled to move the ball any further. Toilolo dropped an open pass on second down, which was followed up by a Willing Young sack on Ryan on third down. The Falcons opted to go for it on 4th-and-5 with 3:48 left in the game, and Ryan’s pass was underthrown due to pressure and intercepted by Bears cornerback Demontre Hurst.
The Bears ran the ball twice and then Cutler was sacked by Paul Soliai and Kroy Biermann, giving the Falcons the ball back with 2:36 left on the clock with one less timeout.
The Falcons barely moved the ball in the no-huddle thanks in part to Ryan getting sacked again by Young just before the two-minute warning. Toilolo would drop another pass, followed up by a 14-yard gain by Devonta Freeman to set up a 4th-and-1 with 1:30 left in the game. But Bears defensive tackle Will Sutton batted down Ryan’s pass at the line, giving the Bears the ball back with 1:26 left on the clock. They promptly knelt three times and the game was over.
The Falcons fall to 2-4 with their third consecutive loss and will have to find a way to fix their road woes in the ensuing weeks, as they will play their next four games away from the Georgia Dome. The team is winless on the road and will travel to Baltimore next week to face the 4-2 Ravens. Similar to the Falcons under head coach Mike Smith, the Ravens sport an impressive home record under head coach John Harbaugh. The Ravens are 41-10 over six seasons under Harbaugh, including 2-1 this season.
Next week will mark the fifth all-time meeting between the Falcons and Ravens, as the latter team began playing in 1996. The two teams have split their four previous matchups. The Falcons are 0-1 in Baltimore all-time, losing their only trip there by a score of 24-10 in 2006. The last meeting between the two teams was a 26-21 last-minute win for the Falcons in the Georgia Dome in 2010.