Three things I liked and three not-so-much from the the Falcons’ 30-26 loss to the Bears Matthew Tabeek
I don't think the dust will settle around here until the Falcons can pick up a win. Regardless, here are six things I think heading into Week 4 for what could be a season-saving road game against the Green Bay Packers on next Monday night.
1. Running down Hill: Maybe you haven't been paying close attention to the Falcons running game, but I have - and I like the direction it's heading in. The Falcons are running the ball more each week and that's a good thing, in my opinion.
vs. Seahawks: 21 attempts for 72 yards at Cowboys: 34 attempts for 113 yards vs. Bears: 25 attempts for 144 yards
Against Chicago, Todd Gurley carried the ball 14 times for 80 yards and a touchdown. Brian Hill added nine carries for 58 yards and a 35-yard touchdown, the longest of his career and the longest by a Falcons runner since Tevin Coleman had a 43-yard touchdown in Week 15 in 2018.
Hill also had a 22-yard reception while Gurley had one catch for 2 yards, marking the first time the Falcons have had two running backs with at least 75 yards from scrimmage and a rushing touchdown in the same game since Devonta Freeman and Terron Ward did it in Week 4 of 2015.
2. Denied by Dennard: For the most part, I liked how the Falcons defense played through three quarters against the Bears, and one player who stood out to me was cornerback Darqueze Dennard. I thought Dennard was solid in pass coverage and he was also in on six tackles, too.
But the biggest play Dennard made came on a critical third-and-6 play with 6:21 to go in the third quarter when he ripped an apparent touchdown out of the hands of Bears receiver Allen Robinson in the corner of the end zone and came up with the interception.
The pick was Dennard's first as a Falcons player and his first since 2017. The Falcons were 19th in the league after forcing just 20 turnovers combined in 2019. So far this season the Falcons have intercepted two passes and recovered three fumbles through the three games. On the flip side, Atlanta has given the ball away three times - two interceptions and a fumble.
3. The hits keep comin: The Falcons have tallied six sacks totals - which isn't a huge number by any means - but that doesn't mean they aren't getting to the opposing quarterback or affecting things in the pocket.
In fact, the Falcons have managed to hit the opposing quarterback 22 times so far through three games and that's actually the fourth-best total in the league right now. Here are the top five teams:
Steelers: 39 Eagles: 30 Seahawks: 23 Falcons: 22 Washington: 21
Grady Jarrett currently leads the Falcons with 2.5 sacks and three other players - Dante Fowler, Takk McKinley and Charles Harris - each have one sack. Deion Jones has a half-sack.
NOT GREAT, BOB
4. Fourth-quarter floundering: The fourth quarter hasn't been pretty for the Falcons so far in 2020. How bad has it been? Well, chew on this stat (if you can stomach it) comparing the 2019 defense to the 2020 through the first three games:
2019: 15 total points allowed in the fourth quarter
at Vikings: 0 vs. Eagles: 8 at Colts: 7 Average: 5.0
2020: 46 total points allowed in the fourth quarter
vs. Seahawks: 10 at Cowboys: 16 vs. Bears: 20 Average: 15.3
To sum it up, the Falcons allowed a total of 15 points in the fourth quarter through the first three games in 2019. In 2020, the Falcons defense is surrendering an average of 15 points in fourth quarters so far.
5. Red flags in red zone: The Falcons defense was somewhat better in the red zone against the Bears but the unit's performance once teams get down inside the 20-yard line hasn't been great through three games. Here are how opposing offenses have fared so far:
vs. Seahawks: 4 for 4 (100 percent) at Cowboys: 5 of 6 (83 percent) vs. Bears: 2 for 4 (50 percent)
In short, the Falcons' opponents have scored 78 percent (11 of 14) of the time in the red zone so far this season.
6. The injuries are piling up: Based on the fallout from the Cowboys game and the injury reports throughout the week, we knew there was a good chance some notable names were going to be on the inactive list for the Bears game. Still, that list had to be tough to look at for most Falcons fans.
If you had told any Falcons fan back in August that all of those players would be out heading into the third game of the season, I'm sure there would have been more than a few gasps and groans. Well, that was the reality for the Falcons on Sunday and, unfortunately, they're not alone when it comes to being hit with the injury bug.
Making matters worse, the Falcons suffered some more injuries on Sunday. According to one report, Falcons kicker Younghoe Koo is expected to miss time due to a strained groin. Receiver Russell Gage (concussion) and defensive tackle Grady Jarrett (hip) also left Sunday's game.
EARLY PEEK AT THE PACKERS
Last season the Packers made it to the NFC title game, won their division and went 13-3. Yet no one was really talking about them a whole lot during the offseason - other than Pete Prisco of CBS Sports, who has been screaming from the mountain tops that Green Bay is the best team in the NFC. And through three games, it looks like Prisco is right.
The Packers might be the most complete team in the NFC right now. Not only is the Pack 3-0, they are averaging 40.7 points per game, piling up 459.7 yards of offense per game and they've scored more than 35 points in all three wins, too.
43-34 win at Minnesota Vikings 42-21 win vs. Detroit Lions 37-30 win at New Orleans Saints
In short, Aaron Rodgers is playing as well as he's ever played, he's making smart decisions and taking care of the ball, the Packers offensive line is playing well and Green Bay is running the football effectively with Aaron Jones, too. Even without top receiver Davante Adams, the Packers went into New Orleans and downed the Saints on Sunday night, which is never an easy assignment.