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Sunday, 12 October 2014

Chicago at Atlanta: Sunday's Game Preview

Two road games, two losses. The Atlanta Falcons are happy the game this weekend against the Chicago Bears is at home in the Georgia Dome.

The Falcons will try to regroup against a Bears defense that is still trying to find an identity. The Bears offense, on the other hand, has been solid with the play of Jay Cutler, Matt Forte and the receiving tandem of Bandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffrey. Can these two offensive juggernauts find a way to shut the firepower down? It could be a long day for each team and a 80 or more point game when all is said and done.

The two clubs have met 25 times, with the Bears holding a 13-12 advantage in the all-time series. Falcons head coach Mike Smith owns a 2-1 record against the Bears, including wins at the Georgia Dome in 2008 and 2009.

Here is the game preview and top matchups to watch in this contest, according to the team’s website.

Top Matchup: Falcons WR Julio Jones vs Bears CB Kyle Fuller

Entering Sunday's game, Jones ranks second in the league with 40 receptions for 552 yards (13.8 avg.). The last time he played in the Georgia Dome (Week 3), he shined with nine receptions for 162 yards and two touchdowns, which would be outstanding numbers against Fuller, who's tied atop the league with three interceptions this season. "He’s very talented," Jones said about Fuller. "He's a young guy, but very talented; we just have to go out there and make plays and be consistent."

Under the Radar Player to Watch: Falcons CB Robert Alford

Following the Week 5 loss, Alford admitted that he was disappointed with his performance against the Giants, but approached the practice week with a fresh mindset to learn from his mistakes and prepare for the very talented Chicago Bears wide receivers, including Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. "They are two great receivers," Alford said. "They're tall receivers, big receivers that like to be physical; we’ve just got to go out there and use our technique to our advantage."

On the Radar Player to Watch: Falcons WR Devin Hester

The question all week has been how will Hester react on game day, facing his former Bears teammates, following a remarkable eight-year career in Chicago, which included 19 return scores, 217 receptions for 2,807 yards and 14 touchdowns; the answer was easy. "I'm going to treat it like it's just another game," Hester said. "That’s the way I’m approaching it. I don’t want to go out there and force anything on Sunday. I’m going to go out there and play ball and have a good ball game." 

Number of the Game: 319

Falcons QB Matt Ryan has played against the Bears three times in his career (2-1), completing 65-percent of his passes (72-110). The last time Ryan faced Chicago, a road contest in 2011, he threw for 319 yards; he'll look for at least that much on Sunday, returning to the Georgia Dome, where he's unbeaten this season (2-0), combining for 734 yards passing and six touchdowns.

Three Keys to Victory:

1. Third-Down Success: For the season, the Falcons are 29 of 62 (47 percent) on third down, a stat they hope to improve on Sunday. "If you’re not converting third-downs, you’re not going to win football games," Ryan said. "It comes down to making plays when they present themselves."

2. Red Zone Work: The Falcons have been strong in the red zone in 2014, with the exception of Week 5, when they converted one of three opportunities (33 percent). Knowing the success they've had in the past and filled with playmakers on offense, including a powerful RBs group, Falcons fans hope their team comes away with more six-point plays than field goals in Week 6 and beyond.

3. Limit Explosive Plays: The Falcons defense allowed three explosive plays in Week 5, pleasing defensive coordinator Mike Nolan, who said if his guys can "take another step" in the right direction, facing the Bears, the team will find itself in a position to win its third game of the season, before taking to the road, not returning to the Georgia Dome, until Week 11 (Nov. 23) against the Cleveland Browns.


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