Wednesday, September 14, 2011

NFL Game Rewind Notes - Week One - Falcons at Bears

Each week I'm going to be watching a few of the previous week's games on NFL Game Rewind, and learning what happened in the games I didn't get to see.  I'm watching the games to help keep me informed as an NFL writer, but it made sense to post some notes up here as I watch each game and help you all understand what happened beyond the box score.

I chose this game because while I expected the Bears to win this game, I expected the game to be much closer than the 30-12 final score, and expected the Falcons to score more than six offensive points.  Then I looked at the box score, and saw the Falcons ran the ball just 14 times compared to 52 passes, and I had to see this game....

  • Bears first drive was just a few third down completions before the Falcons were able to tighten up the zones as the field shortened and held the Bears to just three points.  Pass rush didn't look great, but not a horrible opening drive for your defense.
  • The Falcons first drive went the same way.  Short passes that saw the coverage get tighter as they moved down the field for a trey of their own.
  • The next Bears drive ended after a three and out, though it should have been extended by a roughing the passer penalty that should have been called but wasn't.
  • Matt Ryan started the game off 7 for 7 before he threw a pass he shouldn't have on second and two that was picked off by Brian Urlacher.
  • I didn't realize how flat the crowd was to start out the game until they erupted after the Matt Forte huge catch and run off the screen.  The interception followed by the touchdown just three plays later really set the the tone for the game early.
  • Now I'm starting to understand how the Bears won this game.  The falcons got the ball back after the touchdown and started moving it down the field before Michael Turner fumbled the ball back to the Bears.  The Bears just took over the momentum of this game early on.
  • It would have just been a harmless three and out when the Bears took over, but Eric Weems didn't field the subsequent punt, and it rolled down to the Falcons own four yard line.
  • The Falcons then saw Ovie Mughelli go to the locker room, and suddenly Michael Turner was left without his Pro Bowl fullback infront of him.
  • Ryan was then sacked on third down and, after a quick muff, Devin Hester returned the ball to the Falcon 30 yard line.  The offense didn't do much with the ball from there, but the Chicago defense and special teams earned them three points with a short field goal.
  • Kellen Davis has shown up early in this game and made it clear why the Bears were willing to trade away Greg Olsen.  Their offense doesn't demand a great both way tight end, and Davis is a huge target and a pretty good receiver.
  • The Falcons started driving on the next drive until a tipped screen pass on first down set their offense entirely off rhythm and they had to punt.
  • Johnny Knox has looked good catching a pair of crucial first downs to extend Chicago drives.  Knox is clearly the receiver that Cutler trusts.
  • Chicago does a great job in the first half of running the clock down after getting a lead on the Falcons. They had a five minute field goal drive at the end of the half that left the Falcons with just one timeout and less than a minute to fail to score before the half ended.
  • They also had a great red zone play call before that field goal, but Cutler overthrew a wide open Kellen Davis, who could be fantasy relevant this year.  They were going to him often in the first half of this game.
  • The Falcons come out with a great drive to start the second half, but they don't close the deal, not putting the ball in the end zone after a first and seven.  They needed to get a touchdown there, but the Bears defense kept it a two score game with some very good defensive plays.
  • The Bears ice the game on the next drive after a pair of big plays from Matt Forte and Devin Hester.  Forte had a great run on second down to pick up 27 yards and put the Falcons defense on their heels.  Then Martz followed it up with a brilliant play call, play action faking a run in the same direction as Forte's big run on the previous play and throwing a screen back to the other side to Hester.  Hester then does his Devin Hester thing and runs it down to the one, and should have scored.  The Bears scored on the next play anyway, and got up by 23-6, a three score game with seven minutes left in the third.
  • On the next third down, Ryan scrambles around in the pocket and puts the ball on the ground in an attempt to keep his balance, but loses the ball as he does and Brian Urlacher comes in, scoops it and runs the ball in for a score.  
At that point the game was over.  The Falcons would score on an interception returned for a touchdown on a batted screen play, but the offense would continue to be smothered by the Bears defense.  Any time during the game that the Falcons would get something going, the Bears would get a big play and shut the offense down.  

I felt from the final score that I would need to see this game, but after watching it I realized that it was a fairly predictable game.  The Falcons are a great team, but they are much better at home on the Georgia Dome turf.  Soldier Field is always beat up, and it slows every team down that comes in there and forces them to play Bears Football.  The Falcons game plan was to go downfield, but the turf and the Bears' defensive scheme stifled that early, and the Falcons fell so far behind that they had to keep trying it late.

Strangely, adding Roy Williams and using Kellen Davis more have made the Bears into a much more diverse offensive team.  While they have no elite receiver, they run so deep that it is hard to match-up with all of them while attempting to also cover Matt Forte.  As long as Jay Cutler avoids his tendency to have Brett Farve like awful interception games at times, this Bears team will be tough to beat at home, where the defense has an advantage.

-Fred "Big Derf" Tobin

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