Falcons’ defense steps up in win over Bears

Matt Ryan, Michael Turner, Tony Gonzalez, Roddy White and the rest of the Falcons’ potent offense may get more attention, but Atlanta can thank its defense for the team starting the season 4-1.

The Falcons beat the Bears 21-14 on Sunday night, as Atlanta’s defense forced three turnovers and stopped Chicago on a 4th-and-6 attempt from the 10-yard line with only 34 seconds remaining. The Falcons also held Matt Forte to only 23 yards on 15 carries.

But while Atlanta’s defense deserves credit for its effort on Sunday night, this game was more about Chicago squandering opportunities. Jay Cutler threw an interception to kill a potential scoring drive in the first quarter and then Forte cost the Bears another opportunity with a fumble at Atlanta’s 1-yard line in the third. The Bears moved the ball at will at times, but often shot themselves in the foot with turnovers or costly penalties.

For two teams that are supposed to contender for a playoff spot in the NFC, this wasn’t a very cleanly played game on either side. The Falcons turned the ball over twice and would have added another had Ryan not pounced on a Turner fumble in the second quarter. Neither team was very impressive and while Atlanta won, I can’t say the Falcons are definitively better than the Bears are after this performance.

Chicago may have found its franchise quarterback in Cutler, but all of a sudden the Bears can’t run the ball. There’s no excuse for Cutler (34) to gain more rushing yards than Forte (23). Forte has definitely taken a step back from his breakout rookie year, which may be a result of all the changes Chicago made to its offensive line this offseason. Either that, or Forte is just running with less decisiveness this year than he was in 2008.

Atlanta has its own issues in the running game. Turner had a nice touchdown run in the fourth quarter, but he finished with only 30 yards on 13 carries. Granted, Chicago’s defense had a lot to do with that, but Turner hasn’t run well all season save for his performance last week in a win over the 49ers. Defensively, the Falcons have issues at cornerback and things didn’t get better tonight after Brian Williams suffered a knee injury in the second half.

There is a lot to like about both of these teams. Save for the first quarter interception, Cutler was excellent once again and gave the Bears a chance to win at the end. The Ryan-to-Gonzo connection looks unstoppable on third downs and once again produced a touchdown. Both defenses are tough, physical and can cause turnovers.

But when you see a team like the Saints destroy the Giants on Sunday and then watch the game tonight, it’s clear the Falcons and Bears have a long way to go.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

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