Falcons Lose Running Back

The Bears are getting a break by playing Atlanta without Jamal Anderson. The former all-pro was ruled out for the rest of the season Monday after spraining his left knee against the Arizona Cardinals. It was the second time in three years that a knee injury brought an early end to Anderson's season. He missed 14 games in 1999 with a torn ligament in his right knee.

Anderson had an MRI exam on the knee Monday, and Falcons coach Dan Reeves then announced the 1998 All-Pro wouldn't play again this season.

Anderson, eighth among active running backs with 5,330 yards, led the Falcons to the Super Bowl in the 1998 season, then went down with a right knee injury in the second game of the next year.

Anderson rushed for 184 yards in his first two games this season and caught a 94-yard touchdown pass from Chris Chandler in last week's victory over the Carolina Panthers.

Not only will Atlanta not have their star running back in Anderson the team will also be without the services of starting receiver Tony Martin, who is out with a shoulder injury.

Despite Atlanta's injury problems Dick Jauron doesn't think the Bears are playing a team that lacks confidence. The Falcons are 2-1 with their only loss coming in overtime against the 49ers.

"The Falcons are obviously a very good football team and could easily be 3-0," Jauron said. "They lost their first game in overtime and won their next two. They pose a huge challenge to us. We're looking forward to it.

"The loss of Jamal Anderson is a loss. What a tremendous player, particularly two years ago. Last year they lost him for most of the year and now to lose him again is tough. I thought Maurice Smith played an outstanding game. I don't see us playing a team that loses a whole lot in that area. I think they'll stick with their offense, which has been very successful for them and we'll have our work cut out trying to stop them."

Maurice Smith, playing in place of the injured Anderson on Sunday, ran for 80 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries as the Falcons improved to 2-1. Smith, who didn't carry the ball in Atlanta's first two games, also went 79 yards for a touchdown on a short pass.

Falcon quarterback Chris Chandler is leading passer in the league with a 126.5 rating. However, Chicago also has to prepare for the possibility all-purpose QB Michael Vick could lead a few series.

"It certainly poses problems," Jauron said. "They are very different. Chris Chandler is pretty mobile. In the tapes that I've seen he's moved well when he's had to move. But that's not his choice, that's not what he wants to do. He's very effective in the pocket, a very bright guy, a very experienced guy. He knows what's going on. He delivers the ball with great timing in their offense. They use the play-action well and they run the ball well so it is effective and he throws the deep ball extremely well.

"Michael Vick is as good an athlete as I've seen. I can recall, I believe it was two years ago, the national championship game against Florida State when, with all of those great athletes on the field, he looked like the best athlete on the field. Then the action I've seen him in this year, he looks like that same guy. He's very difficult to get a hold of. You have to have a plan for him, you have to anticipate you're going to see him in the game and you'd better be ready."

Atlanta has been successful in setting up their passing game by running the ball. That presents matchup problems for defensive coordinator Greg Blache, who had high praise for Chandler.

"They're running the football well, and that's forcing people to try and play some eight-man boxes to stop the run. It's opening up their play-action pass," Blache said. "He's (Chandler) being very sharp in his throws. He's only thrown one interception. He's protecting the football. He's an experienced quarterback. He's been around for a long time, and consequently he's got that knowledge and experience working for him. He's staying healthy. This guy's been a good quarterback for a lot of years. His problem has been trying to stay healthy. Looking at him on film, it's been very impressive. And it's been nothing that you can say, 'Well, he's doing this different or he's doing that different.' He's hot right now, and that's the worst thing in the world. You get a guy that gets hot on you, it's like if you've ever played poker or golf with a guy that gets hot, it's scary. And the guy's hot right now."

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