By Bryan Dietzler
In part one of my preview of this Sunday’s Chicago Bears versus the Atlanta Falcons game, we looked at the Bears offense and how it matched up against Atlanta’s defense. Now, we will look at how the Bears defense stacks up against one of the most potent offenses in the NFL. Will the Bears be able to come up with big plays against a big play offense? Can they outlast a unit that was one of the NFL’s best last season?
Defense is where the Bears will shine against Atlanta. The front seven is healthy and should be ready to get after quarterback Matt Ryan, last year’s NFL MVP. With potential superstars such as Akiem Hicks, Leonard Floyd, and Eddie Goldman poised to rush the passer, the Bears should be able to throw a wrench in Atlanta’s passing game. As everyone knows, it starts up front and this is where the Bears have an advantage.
The Falcons offensive line is good on the right side with Alex Mack and Ryan Schraeder but Wes Schweitzer is a question mark. If the left side of the Bears’ line, which includes Hicks and Willie Young/Pernell McPhee, can get through and get to Ryan Chicago’s secondary will get some relief. If Chicago’s front seven can disrupt the passing game, the Bears will have a much better chance of winning.
The Falcons have arguably the best wide receiver in football with Julio Jones. Jones is a big target with sure hands and good speed. He’s going to be a matchup nightmare for Chicago’s secondary. The Bears may have to double cover Jones to shut him down. However, if they do that leaves guys like Mohammad Sanu and Taylor Gabriel out there to catch the ball.
Stopping Atlanta’s passing attack will be difficult but not impossible.
The latest depth chart shows that Prince Amukamara and Marcus Cooper, Sr., are supposed to be the starting cornerbacks Sunday. However, Amukamara missed practice and may not play on Sunday.
If he does play, both starters have experience and are capable in coverage. The question is, can they withstand the weight of what will be thrown at them? Expect whoever lines up against Jones to get some help from the nickel cornerback Bryce Callahan leaving the other to take on Sanu. They will have to be near perfect in coverage on this day.
The cornerbacks will need safety help and it will be interesting to watch what happens at that position. We know what new starting strong Quintin Demps can do but what about starting free safety, Eddie Jackson? He’s a rookie with no NFL experience but a lot of talent. This is going to be a huge first test for him and while he might stumble he will get better. He is going to have a great NFL career.
In most pass happy offenses, there is a tight end that can catch and block. The Falcons have second-year man Austin Hooper to fill that role. Hooper had mediocre numbers last season (19 catches for 271 and three scores) but is a threat to bail Ryan out should he need it. The Bears will stick an outside linebacker like Floyd on him or have Jackson keep Hooper contained. They can’t let him beat them.
Atlanta is not a one-dimensional pass-only team. They have a strong rushing attack which is led by running back Devonta Freeman. Freeman is one of the best running backs in the NFL and with a new contract, he’s going to try to prove that is worth the money they paid him. The Bears will have to work hard to stop him but they can do it.
Chicago’s linebacking corps is good and when everyone is healthy they are one of the best in the NFL. Every Bears’ starting linebacker should be available for this game including Danny Trevathan. Look for this group to have an active game as they should be able to contain the Falcon’s rushing attack and force Ryan to beat them through the air.
Chicago’s defense is going to have to step up big to help the Bears win this game. If they can keep Jones and Freeman under control and get some consistent pressure on Ryan they will make their chances of winning this game much better. This defense can deliver and they represent the Bears best hope of beating Atlanta this Sunday. Let’s hope they are up to the challenge.
Next Up: In the third installment of our preview of the Bears vs. Falcons game, we will look at special teams, coaching philosophies and make a final score prediction.
Please check me out on Twitter @bdietzler or look for me on Facebook.
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