The 2-0 Chicago Bears are coming off of a tight win against the New York Giants, winning 17-13. In their first two games of the season, they have shown potential, but have struggled to consistently perform. They come into week 3 facing the 0-2 Atlanta Falcons. Despite not being a top team in the league, the Falcons are the best team the Bears will have faced. Their performance this Sunday against the Falcons will prove whether they are a legitimately strong team in the 2020 season. Here are three keys to Sunday’s game for the Chicago Bears.
The secondary must be on point
So far this season, the Bears secondary has performed fairly well, albeit against poor offenses. Pro-bowl cornerback Kyle Fuller has allowed a completion percentage of 42.9% when thrown to, and opposite him, rookie cornerback Jaylon Johnson has allowed a completion percentage of 46.2percent. Slot cornerback Buster Skrine has been solid this year as well, posting a 60% opponent completion percentage.
However, these cornerbacks have a tougher matchup this week, facing off against Calvin Ridley, Russell Gage and Julio Jones (assuming he plays). This dynamic trio of wideouts has a combined 32 catches on 49 targets, and 5 combined touchdowns.
Even though Fuller, Johnson and Skrine have been successful so far in limiting passing offenses, they have a challenge coming up on Sunday. Jones, Ridley and Gage are all great receivers that quarterback Matt Ryan trusts and likes to target. The three cornerbacks must be ready for a true test against the Falcons.
Take advantage of the injury bug
A long list of NFL players suffered injuries in Week 2. The Bears were not one of the teams heavily impacted, as John Jenkins(thumb), Khalil Mack(knee) and Mario Edwards Jr.(glute) are the only Bears’ players questionable or out against the Falcons. However, the Falcons’ roster took a big hit, as 12 of their players were DNP or limited in Thursday’s practice.
Julio Jones still held out of practice with hamstring; Kazee, Foye, Matthews limited. Injury report pic.twitter.com/PRr7tErPJO
— vaughn mcclure (@vxmcclure23) September 24, 2020
Injuries have taken a big toll on the Falcons, particularly on their defense. This is an advantage for a Chicago Bears offense that has shown potential, but cannot find consistency. With key edge rushers Dante Fowler Jr. and Takkarist McKinley questionable for Sunday’s game, Mitch Trubisky will have more time to throw the ball. This is important for the shaky quarterback, as he is most likely to play well when he feels comfortable throwing the ball in the pocket.
The Falcons’ secondary is also beat-up, as cornerback Kendall Sheffield and safety Ricardo Allen are inactive for Sunday’s game. Safety Damontae Kazee is also dealing with an injury, and may not play. If the Bears offense can take advantage of this deteriorating secondary, they should not have too much trouble scoring.
The most important player on this injured list, however, is All-Pro wide receiver Julio Jones. He is widely regarded as one of the best wide receivers in the league and can cause serious damage. If he is inactive on Sunday, the secondary will have one less player to worry about and will have more flexibility in their decision-making.
Pressure the quarterback
One thing the Falcons have been successful with this year is limiting the opponent’s pass rush. Matt Ryan has only been sacked three times this year, and on average, has the 8th most amount of time to throw per drop back (2.5 seconds).
Much of the Falcons’ success in the passing game this season can be attributed to the pass blocking. This is why the Bears need to have a good pass rush to slow them down. With Robert Quinn and Khalil Mack coming off the edge, and Akiem Hicks plugging up the middle, the Bears should be getting a lot of pressure.
Surprisingly, the Bears have not been very successful at getting to the quarterback this year. They only have five sacks and 12 total QB pressures this year, ranking in the bottom half of the league.
If Mack, Quinn and Hicks can reverse this trend against the Falcons, whose starting Offensive Tackles are dealing with injuries, the Falcons’ passing will be less of a factor. By neutralizing the Falcons’ passing game, the Bears’ defense could help the team secure a week 3 victory.
This game will be the Bears’ first true test of the season, and will demonstrate if they have a shot at being playoff contenders this year. To win, their defense needs to step up against the dominant Falcons’ passing game by creating pressure and having shut-down coverage. If their offense can also exploit the depleted Falcons’ defense, the Bears will win another close one this Sunday.
Chicago Bears 23 – Atlanta Falcons 20
“From Our Haus to Yours”