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Analysis: Why the Bears present the best red-zone opportunity for the Falcons offense

The Falcons have struggled to convert in the red zone this season, but the Bears are ranked last in the NFL when it comes to red-zone defense. 

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — If there were ever a time for the Atlanta Falcons offense to prove itself in the red zone, it is Sunday against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field.

The Bears red-zone defense is ranked last in the NFL, allowing opponents to score touchdowns on 72.5% of their attempts in the red area this season. The Falcons, on the flip side of the ball, are in the bottom half of the league inside the red zone, but not last. Atlanta's offense ranks 26th with a 48.8% touchdown conversion rate in the red zone.  

"Just continue to work on it, get better at it," Falcons quarterback Taylor Heinicke said. "Hopefully, we can turn those field goals into touchdowns this week."

Those field goals would be in reference to the five Falcons kicker Younghoe Koo made last Sunday in Atlanta's 29-10 victory over the Indianapolis Colts. Three of them were set up because the Falcons stalled out in the red zone.

The offense, meanwhile, scored two touchdowns, both of which were from beyond the enemy's 20-yard line.

"Clearly, you'd love to have seven touchdowns," Falcons head coach Arthur Smith said, "but there are other things that sometimes you're playing different scenarios."

Fair. The Falcons' final two visits to the Colts' red zone did come in the fourth quarter when Atlanta held a double-digit lead. Smith admitted to keeping his calls more conservative at that point in the game in order to ensure the Falcons kept their advantage.

Below is a look at every Falcons drive from Week 16.

Table inside Article
Drive Quarter Start Finish Result How
1 Q1 ATL 25 IND 24 Touchdown 5 plays, 75 yards
2 Q1 into Q2 ATL 3 ATL 31 Punt 4 plays, 28 yards
3 Q2 ATL 27 ATL 34 Punt 3 plays, 7 yards
4 Q2 ATL 14 *IND 4* Field Goal 14 plays, 82 yards
5 Q2 (Drive ends with 0:05 left in half) ATL 25 IND 29 Field Goal 8 plays, 46 yards
6 Q3 ATL 25 IND 31 Touchdown 8 plays, 75 yards
7 Q3 into Q4 ATL 25 IND 23 Field Goal 12 plays, 52 yards
8 Q4 ATL 38 ATL 45 Punt 3 plays, 7 yards
9 Q4 50 *IND 17* Field Goal 6 plays, 33 yards
10 Q4 IND 18 *IND 7* Field Goal 6 plays, 11 yards

Putting up points in seven of the 10 series is an accomplishment.

However, there's potential for more, and the Bears present that opportunity with the red zone being one of their weak spots on defense. The issue for the Falcons could be getting there.

"How the numbers are done and everything else, I gotcha," Falcons offensive coordinator Dave Ragone said. "But when you watch them and you study how they play, they're a really good defense for a reason."

Chicago has the No. 1 rush defense with opponents averaging just 80.7 rushing yards per game.

Through the air, however, may be where Atlanta can make its move. Chicago has the No. 25 pass defense with opponents averaging 237.5 passing yards per game.

"As long as we get it to the 30-35, we feel good with Koo. He's a great kicker," Heinicke said. "As long as we don't hurt ourselves, we feel like we have a good shot of doing stuff in the red zone."

Related notes:

-- The Falcons have had more touchdowns than field goals in seven games. They also had more field goals than touchdowns in seven games. There was one game in which the totals matched. So, really, there's no consistent skew there.

-- There has only been one game this season in which the Falcons had a 100% red-zone conversion rate, and it was their Week 1 win over the Carolina Panthers. There have been three games in which the Falcons had a 0% red-zone conversion rate, and those were their Week 3 loss to the Detroit Lions, their Week 13 win over the New York Jets and their Week 16 win over the Colts. So, again, one result does not consistently equate to another.

-- The Falcons have 287 points total. Koo is the leading scorer with 113 points, off 23 extra points and 30 field goals. The Falcons' 28 touchdowns leads the way with 168 points. The other six points come from a safety and two 2-point conversions.

Take a look as the Atlanta Falcons put in the work in Flowery Branch for the game against the Chicago Bears.

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