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Chicago Bears at Atlanta Falcons Game Preview

| October 9th, 2014

There are a lot of reasons not to like the Chicago Bears after their disastrous fourth quarter in North Carolina. There are a lot of reasons to think the media/fan negativity is entirely warranted. This team may continue struggling to mount drives. They may continue to make horrible special teams errors. They may continue giving up yardage in huge chunks. So with that…

Why do I like the Chicago Bears this week?

I always like the Chicago Bears.

IN ELEVEN QUESTIONS…

(1) Having seen the success the Panthers had late, will Falcons defensive coordinator Mike Nolan continue his attempts to compensate for his ineffective front four by utilizing extra personnel to pressure Cutler? Against the Giants, this left gaping holes in the middle of the field and Eli Manning dissected the Falcons. Expect Matt Forte to settle underneath the Falcons secondary and provide check downs for Cutler all afternoon.

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(2) Can Desmond Trufant recover from his dismal performance against the Giants with the wide receiver talent increasing Sunday? Trufant is constantly left on an island with receivers, specifically in the red zone. If I am Jay Cutler this is a week to unleash the vertical passing game and allow Marshall and Jeffery to make plays even when they seem to be covered.

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(3) Do the Bears have any hope of stopping Julio Jones? The answer is unequivocally no. The Falcons line up  Jones everywhere and run him on as creative an array of routes as you’ll see designed for a premier wide receiver. He’ll run a go from one side, a slant from the other and a shallow cross from the slot on three consecutive plays. Will the Bears deploy Kyle Fuller on Jones for the entirety of the game? Doubtful. Jones is too good to isolate in man over the full sixty minutes. I’m having a hard time not envisioning a 10-catch, 140 yard performance.

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(4) The shame of the Panthers punt “return” touchdown was it overshadowed just how good a punt it was from Pat O’Donnell. O’Donnell is turning into a weapon for the Bears but will Marc Trestman even entertain the idea of punting to Devin Hester? If he does, if Devin Hester fields a punt, I might be motivated to write a “Fire Trestman” column on my train ride back from New Haven, Connecticut Sunday night out of pure rage. High punts to the sideline. Kick offs out the back of the end zone. Next.

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(5) One thing that surprised me when watching Falcons tape is how often they want to pound the ball into the end zone with Steven Jackson when they get deep. Will the Bears be able to keep their discipline and look run with those receiving weapons looming down around the goal line? Ryan is one of the league’s most productive and accurate passers in the red zone. Their strength in the run game down there is a big reason why.

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(6) When you watch the Falcons now, they remind you of the Saints. That is never more evident then in their dynamic screen game. Will the Bears be prepared to keep up with their speedy, versatile backs in coverage? When Lance Briggs sees Devonta Freeman or Antone Smith on the field he better make sure all eleven defenders are aware of them once the ball is snapped.

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(7) The Giants pass rush came alive and chased Matt Ryan from the pocket endlessly. (Falcons offensive line is a shambles right now.) Will the Bears pass rush do the same? If they don’t, Ryan will rip their secondary apart.

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(8) Falcons have only four sacks on the season but Osi Umenyiora showed signs of coming alive against the Giants. (That sentence still feels odd to me.) Who doesn’t remember Osi and Justin Tuck teeing off on Jay Cutler in the Meadowlands in 2010? Can Ola handle Osi? I don’t expect it to be a man-to-man battle for too long but Ola will have to win physically at some point.

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 (9) Another surprise watching the Giants/Falcons tape. The Giants offensive line – the entirety of the Giants offensive line – pushed around the Falcons front. Rashad Jennings gashed the Falcons straight up the gut and seemed to have most of his success attacking the right side of the Falcons rush, where Umenyiora seems to strictly line up. With the Falcons scoring a zillion points every time they play in Atlanta, can the Bears rushing attack limit their possessions and keep the ball out of Ryan’s hands?

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(10) Safety discipline is going to be a massive factor Sunday for both teams. Can the Bears safeties play with discipline? They will be tested several times by Devin Hester running a go route. They must take proper angles to Jones and White when they catch the mid-level slant. They must be aware and tackle in the screen game. When Matt Ryan drops deep in the pocket he wants to hit home runs.

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(11) The complaint used to be Jay Cutler over-targeted Brandon Marshall. Now Marshall’s complaint is he’s not seeing enough of the ball, presumably because he is being schemed out of the offense by Marc Trestman. If Trestman is actually scheming Marshall out of the offense it is very, very silly. Will the Bears make sure their best offensive player has an impact Sunday?

FINAL SCORE PREDICTION

Falcons score. They score a lot. But the Bears are desperate for a win and Jay Cutler gets it done in a shootout. Brandon Marshall catches 10 passes for 133 yards and 2 touchdowns.

Chicago Bears 34, Atlanta Falcons 33

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