Can Marcus Mariota and the offense get back on track?
Given that the Falcons defense is struggling in many facets, the offense has to be able to be productive and take advantage of the opportunity it’s being given to put points on the board. Last week against the Chargers and Panthers, this offense made entirely too many mistakes, ones that they simply couldn’t recover from.
At this roster’s current state, there’s very little margin for error, so even the smallest mistakes are magnified and prove crucial in terms of wins and losses at the moment. This coming Sunday, Coach Arthur Smith will ask for a much cleaner game from quarterback Marcus Mariota and the offense in order to get back on the winning side of things.
How does this Falcons offense match up against the Chicago Bears and their defense?
In the trenches
This Bears defensive line has gone through quite a few changes so far this season, and they’re looking to retool a line that was once considered a strength. After trading Robert Quinn to the Philadelphia Eagles, the Bears defensive line is featuring a few journeymen on an even front (including former Falcons great Mike Pennel). However, the group has seen some solid play from DT Justin Jones, and they’ve acquired former 2017 1st round pick Taco Charlton in efforts to provide much needed depth at defensive end.
This Falcons offensive line has been a bit of a mixed bag this season. Injuries certainly have made an impact with Elijah Wilkinson and Matt Hennessy being placed on injured reserve, but center play has been just as concerning. Drew Dalman really struggled last week against both the Panthers and the Chargers, so he really needs to put together a good game against the Bears considering that the left guard spot has literally turned into a revolving door due to injury.
The positive side of things is that there has been solid to good play at both tackle positions, and Chris Lindstrom has been putting together an All-Pro type of season at right guard. Solid play from Dalman should give the Falcons the advantage.
The skill positions
The Bears took a major hit at the line backer position with the trade of Roquan Smith to the Baltimore Ravens. As a result, Nicholas Morrow is now the leader and signal caller of the defense. Undrafted free agent Jack Sanborn is also seeing more snaps at WILL as a result of the trade. Safety Eddie Jackson leads the defense in tackles as well as interceptions, and I really liked Jaquan Brisker coming out of Penn State, as he has 3 sacks on the season himself. There are pieces here, but not many.
The running back trio of Cordarrelle Patterson, Tyler Allgeier, and Caleb Huntley are making quite the case of being one of the best RB groups in the league currently. All violent, decisive and explosive runners, they can be a nightmare for defenses as they all can be used at any point in the game to keep the pressure on defenses. I can never say enough about Kyle Pitts and Drake London, but at this point, it’s about Mariota’s ability to get them the ball when the opportunity presents itself. However, against this Chicago defense, Coach Smith will be wise to get his running back corps heavily involved.
This is one of those games where, on paper, this Falcons offense should really have a good game against the Chicago Bears. However, lots of this will depend on the type of game Marcus Mariota has, as well as how the offensive line performs.
It is quite clear that the Bears will stack the box to attempt to take away the Falcons’ strength early as to force Mariota to beat them in the air. I would not be surprised at all to see Coach Smith go to play action early and attempt to give Mariota some easy looks to get him into some sort of rhythm in the passing game, which could make a huge difference in this game. If Coach Smith chooses to go this route, it would also be wise to get his playmakers like Kyle Pitts and Drake London involved early to show the Bears that they have to account for more than just his running back group.
If Mariota shows some success there, that will effectively back the defense off a little and keep them a bit more honest, so Smith can go back to his wheelhouse that’s the running game. Again though, this hinges on how Mariota rebounds from last week. If he can put together a solid and mistake free performance, the Falcons stand a chance of pulling out a win. Whether I have confidence that will happen or not is a different question altogether.