Falcons tumble to Bears in opener
The Falcons 2011 regular season got off to an ugly start with a 30-12 beatdown at the hands of the Chicago Bears on the road today.
The Falcons offense struggled to move the ball throughout the game unable to score an offensive touchdown as well as turning the ball over twice. Matt Ryan completed 31 of 47 passes for 319 yards and interception, but was pressured throughout the game as the Falcons offensive line gave up 5 sacks. On the ground, Michael Turner rushed for 100 yards on 10 carries, most of which came on a 53-yard third quarter run. Roddy White was the team’s leading receiver with 8 catches for 61 yards. Tony Gonzalez (5 catches, 72 yards) and Julio Jones (5 catches, 71 yards) also contributed. Ryan fumbled once, which led to a 12-yard fumble return for a touchdown by Brian Urlacher. Turner also fumbled.
Matt Bryant connected on both field goal attempts of 48 and 25 yards in the game. Matt Bosher had 5 punts for an average of 38.4 yards, with 2 placed inside the 20-yard line. Eric Weems was nondescript on returns with 2 kickoffs for a 16.5-yard average, and 3 punt returns for an average of 3.3 yards.
Defensively, the Falcons had their ups and downs, but for the most part it was a solid performance. They held the Bears to only one touchdown on three redzone trips, and also 6 of 16 on third down conversions. They also sacked the Bears 5 times. Kroy Biermann accounted for the team’s lone touchdown on the day with a 50-yard interception return off a tipped pass from John Abraham. Sean Weatherspoon led the unit with 10 tackles, including 2 for loss. Biermann finished the game with 2 tackles and a sack as well. Abraham (4 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, 2 sacks), Thomas DeCoud (7 tackles), Brent Grimes (2 tackles, 3 passes defended), Curtis Lofton (8 tackles), William Moore (3 tackles), Stephen Nicholas (3 tackles), Dunta Robinson (6 tackles), and Lawrence Sidbury (3 tackles, 1 sack) had noteworthy games.
On the opening drive of the game for the Bears, they were able to move the ball thanks in part to two big passes to Roy Williams and Matt Forte, each for 23 yards. But the Falcons defense held them and Robbie Gould to a 41-yard field goal. The Falcons came back and were able to march down the field on a 10-play drive to get a 48-yard field goal from Matt Bryant to tie the game 3-3. A three-and-out later and the Falcons had the ball back near midfield, but on the third play of that series Ryan threw an interception to Urlacher, who made a diving play in front of Gonzalez. Three plays later, Cutler hit Matt Forte on a screen pass that went 56 yards for a score with the Bears taking a 10-3 lead with a minute to go in the first quarter. Their next series once again started off well with Ryan hitting Gonzalez for a 30-yard pass. But on the next play Turner fumbled, giving the ball right back to Chicago. The Falcons defense held Chicago to another three-and-out, but the Falcons followed with one of their own, unable to capitalize. On the ensuing drive, the Bears got great field position to start at the Falcons own 30-yard line, and were able to get a second Robbie Gould field goal from 23 yards out now with nearly 9 minutes left in the second quarter. The Falcons failed to move the ball on their next drive, which the Bears followed up with a methodical 14-play drive that ate up over 5 minutes of play clock before Gould connected with his third field goal from 26 yards.
When the second half began, the Falcons got a big 53-yard run from Turner on a third down, but the drive stalled once they got in the redzone, and they had to settle for a 25-yard field goal from Bryant. On the next Bears drive, Devin Hester broke a pass 53 yards to set up the Bears at the one-yard line. On the next play, Cutler hit a wide open Matt Spaeth for the touchdown to give the Bears a 23-6 lead. Three plays later, Ryan fumbled while being pressured by Julius Peppers, which Urlacher picked up for a 12-yard recovery and run to give the Bears the 30-6 lead. The two teams exchanged possessions as the fourth quarter began. With 10:35 left in the game, Biermann intercepted Cutler on the Abraham tip, and ran 50 yards for the score. The Falcons two-point conversion failed, making the game 30-12. The Falcons would move the ball again on their second possession of the quarter, but pressure with 3 minutes left in the game prevented the team from converting a 4th down at the Bears own 15-yard line. With the Bears getting the ball back, they were able to run another two minutes off the clock, essentially ending the game before the Falcons ran a final play with 15 seconds left on the clock.
The Falcons start the season 0-1 for the second consecutive year. A year ago, after losing their season opener on the road against the Pittsburgh Steelers, they went on a four-game winning streak. That streak was snapped by a 31-17 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 6. The Falcons hope to reverse those fortunes next week in a Sunday night matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles. It will be the Falcons home opener, a game they have yet to lose since Mike Smith took over the team in 2008. The Falcons are also 6-0 in home games directly following road losses under Smith. The Falcons last defeat of the Eagles was their season opener at home in 2005, where they won 14-10. Prior to that, their other victory over the Eagles was their Week 2 home opener in 1998 by a score of 17-12. Each win has been followed by four straight losses.