Jay Cutler threw for 381 yards and a touchdown, and Matt Forte rushed for 80 yards and scored twice as the Chicago Bears snapped their losing streak with an emphatic 27-13 victory over the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday afternoon.
Willie Young picked up two sacks in the game, and Jared Allen picked up his first sack with the Bears as the team evened their record at 3-3 on the season.
After the Bears were unsuccessful on their first drive of the game, the Falcons methodically made their way downfield. Stephen Jackson got things started with a first down run on the first play, and then tight end Levine Toilolo took advantage of a soft coverage by the Bears for another first down. The Bears were able to stop the bleeding finally as Chris Conte knocked down Julio Jones short of the marker, but the Falcons booted through a field goal to make it a 3-0 lead.
On the Bears’ next drive, they had a couple of good plays, including Jay Cutler hitting Alshon Jeffery for a key conversion on third-and-15, but Martellus Bennett dropped a pass on another third down play, forcing the Bears to punt it away again. The Falcons weren’t able to take advantage of the situation either, as Stephen Paea knocked down a Matt Ryan pass and Kyle Fuller forced a fumble by Jones to make the Falcons punt the ball away late in the first quarter.
As the first quarter wound down, Cutler and the Bears moved down the field, and got into the red zone as the quarter ended. Matt Forte caught a screen pass for an early first down, and when Cutler was slammed into the ground after a false start penalty on Santonio Holmes, the Bears got a first and goal as the clock hit zero on the frame.
As the second quarter started, Brandon Marshall couldn’t hold onto a ball in the corner of the end zone on second down, and on third down a pass from Cutler fell incomplete as a diving Forte couldn’t quite haul in the shoestring catch. Robbie Gould was able to chip in the short field goal however, and the Bears tied things up at 3-3.
After Roddy White and Devin Hester each picked up first downs for the Falcons, their next drive sputtered out. Fuller broke up a pass intented for Jones on second down, and on the next play Paea grabbed Ryan to get a sack for the Bears on third down, forcing yet another Atlanta punt.
Taking advantage, the Bears pushed the ball upfield, getting a huge 47-yard completion to Marshall to set up a first-and-goal from the five-yard line. After two unsuccessful plays (and Jordan Mills’ third penalty of the afternoon), Cutler got some time in the pocket thanks to a nice blitz pickup by Forte, and he found Josh Morgan on a shallow drag route across the middle of the field, and the receiver tumbled into the end zone to make it a 10-3 Bears lead about halfway through the quarter.
With Tim Jennings breaking up a third down pass, the Bears got the ball back just before the two minute warning. Cutler got the Bears away from their own end zone with a completion to Jeffery down the right side of the field, and then two straight screen passes to Forte got the Bears another first down. A Cutler sack put the drive in doubt, but he found Marshall on a slant toward the left sideline for another first down.
Two plays later, Cutler slid for another first down on a 2nd-and-1 play with about 20 seconds remaining in the second quarter. Forte then caught a screen pass to get down inside the 10-yard line, and the Bears quickly called their third time out with 14 seconds remaining. Unfortunately for the Bears, a pass to Bennett wasn’t converted, and Cutler had to throw the ball away on third down after Mills couldn’t hold his block. Gould drilled home another short field goal to put the Bears up 13-3 as the half came to an end.
With the second half underway, the Bears lost another key member of their defense as Chris Conte was helped off the field following a collision with his own teammate over the middle. Jones then beat Fuller over the middle for a first down, and Toilolo grabbed a 13-yard gain of his own. Antone Smith then finished off the drive emphatically as he caught a screen pass from Ryan and scampered 41 yards for the touchdown to get Atlanta back within three points at 13-10.
After Cutler was hammered on a throw to force the Bears three-and-out, the Falcons moved the ball down the field again. A couple of plays moved the Falcons into Chicago territory, but thanks to a big hit from Darryl Sharpton on White, the Falcons were forced to settle for another Matt Bryant field goal to tie things up at 13-13 with about six minutes remaining in the third quarter.
With the Bears’ offense looking for a spark, Jeffery provided them one. After the Falcons didn’t provide safety help over the top for their corner on the right side of the field, Jeffery hauled in a 74-yard completion to put the Bears at the five-yard line. Forte then rushed right up the middle on the next play, and even though Ra’shede Hageman blocked the extra point, Chicago still took the lead at 19-13 with a little over five minutes remaining in the quarter.
The Falcons ended up with a quick three-and-out thanks to another stellar defensive play by Fuller on Jones, and the Bears’ offense went to work late in the quarter. Marshall snared a 13-yard reception for the first play, and then two plays later Forte rushed for another one. Bennett finally converted on another third down catch for a big gain as the third quarter came to a close with the Bears knocking on the door.
Jeffery picked up another third down conversion to start the fourth quarter, and the Bears continued chewing up clock and making plays. The receiver then had a touchdown negated a few plays later when he stepped out of the back of the end zone, but the team picked him up. Bennett caught a pass and dragged defenders to the 9-yard line, and on third and goal, Forte ran a draw play up the middle of the field and bulldozed his way into the end zone. A Bennett two-point conversion catch gave the Bears a 27-13 lead with about 10 minutes remaining in the game.
On the Falcons’ next drive, the Bears’ pass rush finally came through in a big way. Jared Allen picked up his first sack for the Bears, and on the next play Ryan Mundy knocked down a deep pass from Ryan to force a Falcons punt. The Bears couldn’t quite take advantage though, with Cutler forced to slide short of the first down marker with about five minutes remaining in the game.
On the Falcons’ next possession, White snagged a first down catch, but that’s all that Atlanta could muster. Willie Young burst around the edge on third down, and sacked Ryan for a huge loss. On the fourth down and long play, Ryan’s pass was intercepted by a diving Demontre Harris to give the Bears the ball back. They were once again forced to punt it away though, giving Atlanta the ball back with 2:36 remaining.
The Falcons did get a first down on their next drive, but once again the Bears stood tall when they needed to. Young picked up another sack on second down, and Devonta Freeman was tackled just short of the first down on the next play. On fourth down, Will Sutton batted down a pass at the line of scrimmage, and the Bears ran out the clock as they evened their record at 3-3.
The Bears will next take the field against the Miami Dolphins at Soldier Field next week.