If you thought Chicago Bears fans were all in on the team’s 2-0 start, think again. While many are not complaining that the Bears are undefeated after their first two games, it seems nobody is planning the championship parade route just yet.
Bears @ Falcons Preview – September 27, 2020 – Noon CT
Records: Chicago Bears (2-0); Atlanta Falcons (0-2)
Last Meeting: September 10, 2017, at Chicago – Falcons 23 – Bears 17
Week 2 Results: Giants 13 @ Bears 17; Falcons 39 @ Cowboys 40
Several factors are leading to the skepticism in Bears nation:
- The quality of the Bears last two opponents: the Lions and the Giants are a combined 0-4
- The continued inconsistency of Mitchell Trubisky: one good fourth quarter in the opener against the Lions, and one good first half against the Giants
- Doubts about whether the Bears’ defense will ever return to top ten form
That the Bears will be taking on another winless team in the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday will probably not do much to change the perceptions by the fans if they happen to win and move to 3-0.
For Atlanta, they are coming off one of their most humiliating defeats in team history; save for their 25-point come from ahead defeat to the Patriots in Super Bowl 51. The video of the Falcons special team players in last Sunday’s game against Dallas inexplicably letting the Cowboys on-side kick attempt roll past 10 yards without falling on the ball has been played on repeat this past week.
Will the Falcons be ill-tempered at kickoff on Sunday, with a chip on their shoulders? Or is this an opportunity where the Bears can kick a team while they are down (and injured)?
When the Bears Have the Ball
As mentioned, the inconsistency of Trubisky remains a problem. Three good quarters of football out of eight remain problematic for the Bears, despite the 2-0 start. His 59 percent completion percentage ranks 26th, and his passer rating of 92.7 percent puts him in the middle of the pack at 18th.
Yes, there are some drops and near misses in those numbers, but that is true for all quarterbacks across the league. Trubisky will have a chance to improve on those numbers against a Falcons defense that has surrendered nearly 40 points per game in the early going. Both Atlanta starting defensive ends Takkarist McKinley and Dante Fowler Jr. are listed as questionable for the game.
So far Chicago has committed to be more balanced on offense in 2020, and this bears out in the number of passing attempts (64) versus rushing attempts (60) through two games. Look for the Bears to continue the trend in running the football, utilizing the trio of David Montgomery, Tarik Cohen, and Cordarrelle Patterson to pace the league’s 12th ranked rushing offense in total yards.
If ever there was a game for Allen Robinson to get untracked for the season, this would be the ideal scenario. Teams are completing an astounding 77 percent of their passes against the Falcons for a total of 744 yards through two games. The Falcons also do not have an interception to date. The Falcons secondary is also decimated, with rookie starting cornerback A.J. Terrell placed on the reserve-COVID-19 list, and starting safety Ricardo Allen out with an elbow injury.
When the Falcons Have the Ball
Where the Falcons defense giveth, the Falcons offense taketh. Atlanta comes into the game with the second-ranked passing offense with 351 yards per game, including six touchdowns in the air against only one interception. Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan continues to play at a high level, currently ranked ninth in quarterback rating at 110.
The Bears secondary will be thoroughly tested Sunday afternoon, provided Atlanta All-Pro wideout Julio Jones can play. He is currently questionable with a hamstring injury. Even if he doesn’t play, the Falcons boast the league’s top receiver in Calvin Ridley, who has 239 yards and four touchdowns on the season. Look for the Falcons to test Bears rookie cornerback Jaylon Johnson, who has impressed in the early going, albeit against lesser caliber receivers than the Falcons present.
The Falcons rushing offense has been less than dynamic, ranked 28th in the league. Todd Gurley II is averaging only 3.34 yards-per-carry and roughly 60 yards rushing per game. The Bears rushing defense improved to 10th in the league with 213 total yards allowed. Part of that improvement was a result of the season-ending knee injury to Giants running back Saquon Barkley early in the first half. Still, this is a game where Akiem Hicks, Bilal Nichols, and Roy Robertson-Harris need to prove they can contain the Falcons running game nonetheless.
Atlanta is hungry for a win and will play fast and will play with an edge. Jones will play despite the hamstring injury, and Ryan and the Atlanta offense will prove too much for the Bears defense to contain. Trubisky and the Bears offense will not be able to keep pace.