Grizzly Details: Bears' Third Down Prowess Key to Sunday's Win | NBC Chicago
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Grizzly Details: Bears' Third Down Prowess Key to Sunday's Win

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    ATLANTA, GA - OCTOBER 12: Kyle Fuller #23 of the Chicago Bears knocks the ball away from Julio Jones #11 of the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome on October 12, 2014 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)

    The Chicago Bears’ offense has been sputtering for the last few weeks in the second half of games, but things took a turn for the better on Sunday as they withstood a push from the Atlanta Falcons in a 27-13 victory.

    With about three and a half minutes remaining in the third quarter, the Bears got the ball back thanks to a great knockdown of a pass by Kyle Fuller. After a penalty on Senorise Perry on the punt, the team was backed up to their own 13-yard line, and Bears fans collectively held their breath.

    What happened next should give the team a big surge in confidence. They converted four straight third-downs on the scoring drive, and in the process they bled eight and a half minutes off the clock. The big play came on a third-and-goal play from the nine-yard line, which in just about any offense in the league is a passing down. The Bears instead opted for a draw play right up the middle, and when Matt Forte bulldozed his way into the end zone, the team had a sizable lead that they would never relinquish.

    The play was a perfect microcosm of what the team had been doing so well in the second half of the game. Whenever the Falcons would get them in a third-down situation, the Bears would find a soft spot in the defense and exploit it. They did it three times via the pass on that late third quarter drive, and with seven points on the line on the fourth opportunity, they threw the change-up. It was a perfectly executed play, and it will be one that fans should keep in mind if the Bears make the postseason.

    Fuller Once Again Shines in Tough Assignment

    Losing Charles Tillman for the season was a big blow for the Bears, but having Kyle Fuller playing in his place has been a godsend. He had three interceptions and two forced fumbles coming into Sunday’s game, and his coverage skills have been useful in shutting down some really good receivers like Michael Crabtree and Kelvin Benjamin.

    On Sunday, Fuller faced one of his biggest tests in Atlanta’s Julio Jones, and he passed it with flying colors. Jones did have four catches for 68 yards in the game, but he was targeted 12 times, and Fuller was responsible for ensuring that his solid day didn’t become a great one.

    One such play came late in the first quarter. After Stephen Paea batted down a second down pass, the Falcons had a third down chance, but when Jones caught the ball, Fuller was able to pound it loose and prevent Atlanta from converting. He had another solid play to break up a second quarter pass from Ryan that set up a Paea sack on third down, and finally he had the key pass breakup on third down toward the end of the third quarter that led to the key Bears drive of the afternoon.

    That ability to not only force turnovers, but also to provide solid coverage against some of the league’s best wide-outs has earned Fuller a lot of national attention, and Sunday’s game merely cemented that reputation even further.

    Mills’ Poor Game Masked by Victory

    On the first play from scrimmage in the game, Mills was whistled for a false start. On the Bears’ next possession, Mills lost his block on Jonathan Massaquoi, and Jay Cutler was sacked for a five-yard loss. On the third drive of the afternoon, Mills was flagged for an illegal formation penalty. On their fourth drive, he was penalized again for a false start penalty, his third flag of the afternoon.

    Undisciplined line play is something that the Bears have really tried to cut back on over the past few seasons, and even though Mills did clean up his act in the second half of the game, he’s got to start showing some serious improvement in his sophomore season. His pass-blocking isn’t his strong suit, but at the very least he has to show more mastery of snap counts in hostile road environments, and even though it didn’t cost the Bears a win Sunday, it’s something worth keeping an eye on as the season wears on. 

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