Bears-Falcons Breakdown

Both teams come to Soldier Field in need of a victory. The Bears don't want to start a losing streak with a hot Vikings team right behind them, while a loss for the Falcons could spell the end to their playoff hopes. Take a look at the game plans, key matchups as well as reaction from players and coaches.

BEARS GAME PLAN
The Bears had their second-most productive passing game of the season last week but lost 21-9, so they will be even more adamant about getting back to what helped them win eight games in a row - a strong running game. The Bears ran just 18 times last week after 11 weeks in a row of at least 28 running plays. They shouldn't have much trouble running against the Falcons, who are No. 22 in rushing yards allowed and No. 31 in average gain per rush allowed.

The Bears have to stay out of third and long offensively. The offense converts just 28 percent of their opportunities, which keeps their defense on the field too long.

"We've got to do a lot better job on first and second down to put us in manageable third downs," said QB Kyle Orton.

Defensively, the Bears want to get a push up the middle from their four-man DT rotation so they can force Falcons QB Michael Vick to one side or the other and then try to contain him.

"Once he gets outside the pocket, he creates," said defensive coordinator Ron Rivera. "Now you give him two opportunities and that's either throw the ball or run the ball. If we can keep him in the pocket we will feel much more comfortable because at least we'll know where he is."

MATCHUPS TO WATCH

  • Bears MLB Brian Urlacher vs. Falcons QB Michael Vick. The last time they met, in 2002, Urlacher sacked Vick twice.

    "We're a fast defense, we feel like we can run with anybody," Urlacher said. "Maybe not as fast as him, but if we have enough guys get to the ball we should be able to get him down."

  • The Falcons' three-headed running attack of RB Warrick Dunn, QB Michael Vick and RB T.J. Duckett, which is No. 1 in the NFL in rushing yards and average gain per rush, vs. the Bears' No. 9 run defense that was gashed for 190 yards by the Steelers last week.

    "We need a team like this to come in now after we played the run the way we did," said head coach Lovie smith. "We know we're a lot better team than that. But you need to get back and play a team that will do that. We know that we'll get a chance to redeem ourselves with the run because they'll run it and run it and continue. That's what they like to do. We're anxious for that challenge. We know we can play a lot better than we have."

    FALCONS GAME PLAN
    Stay in your gap, stay in your gap, stay in your gap. Atlanta's defensive players need to hear those words in their sleep. If one player steps the wrong way, the rest of the scheme can break down. That's the difference of what was happening in the first and second halves last week against the Saints and Antowain Smith.

    With so many young players on defense, the Falcons are prone to make mistakes, but the team already is facing an uphill battle in adjusting to bitterly cold temperatures. It helped to have a slight freezing ran fall at practice Wednesday, but those conditions won't compare to those at Solider Field.

    Turnovers will be the difference in this game, so Vick must be overtly aware of Urlacher when he scrambles.

    MATCHUPS TO WATCH
    Falcons LCB DeAngelo Hall vs. Bears WR Muhsin Muhammad. The Falcons know every nuance of Muhammad, whom they consider one of the league's tougher opponents. Like any fast player affected by cold temperatures, Hall will need to adjust, but if Kyle Orton overthrows any balls to Muhammad that are still inbounds, you can bet the second-year corner will turn on some reserves to chase them down for the pick. Muhammad is at his toughest when he can use his six-foot-2, 215-pound frame.

    "I think I've made a lot of money on jump balls," Muhammad said. "That's kind of been my deal is to kind of body a guy like you would in basketball and go up for a rebound."

    Falcons FB Justin Griffith vs. Bears MLB Brian Urlacher. Nobody can block this guy alone. Griffith might need some help in protections, but he will not shy from engaging contact with Urlacher on run blocks. Urlacher, however, is faster and more athletic, so Griffith has to be sure he uses precise technique.


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