This piece is part of a running series in which former NFL quarterback and Falcons analyst Dave Archer will provide insight on a few key moments from the previous game. *
Every week, Falcons analyst Dave Archer will break down the key moments of the game. This week Archer takes aim at the 88-yard touchdown to Austin Hooper, the Falcons struggle to run against the Bears and a reason to be excited about the performance of the Falcons pass defense.
On Bears running game:
For the most part Atlanta did a good job of leveraging the runner, and what I mean by that is they applied pressure from the inside out, and then had people over the top so there's no place to go. The unknown that ended up unfolding was Tarik Cohen ends up being the star of the game for the Chicago Bears.
He had the ability to use his speed to get outside the leverage. On his biggest play, the 46-yard run, he cut back all the way against the grain and Brooks Reed, who was one of the stars of the defense for Atlanta, came too flat and didn't keep his leverage to the outside. But when you look at the number, 125 yards rushing, that's very deceiving. One play accounted for 46 yards.
Atlanta pretty much sealed up the Chicago running game other than that, and that was one of their main goals coming into the game. That forced Glennon to try to make some plays, and ultimately the back seven played well in coverage, limiting explosive plays. I thought Marquand Manuel's substitutions, using all his defensive linemen was key. Remember, you go into this game with none of these guys having played a full half in the preseason, let alone a full game, so I thought the rotation was key. I thought that allowed them to stay fresh and physical up front.
On the 88-yard Hooper TD:
The first part of that play was Matt Ryan buying time. When you look at the play, Chicago had lined up incorrectly and they were trying to adjust as the ball was snapped. They got good pressure on Ryan, but they lost the two-high safety look they had been using, which was corralling anything deep down the middle or deep down the sidelines. In that situation, they lined up incorrectly with no one covering near the hashmark and that allowed Hooper to get open in the deep middle.
So Ryan, buying the time allowed Hooper to get where he needed to get to. And the great eyes of a veteran quarterback also helped get Hooper open on that play. From the start, Matt was looking at Julio and helped draw two defenders to him, including the one deep safety they had on that play. That left Hooper wide open after Matt bought time with his feet.
On Hooper's ability to run after catch:
The fun began after made the catches. Most people don't think of Hooper as a run-after-catch guy, and he proved everyone wrong with the big stiff arm to Quintin Demps, a real good tackling safety, who he spiked to the ground. And he used the stiff arm again on the 40-yarder on the next possession.
I thought Austin Hooper emerged as a guy that you watch on tape and say 'wait a minute, we're going to have to get number 81 covered, and oh by the way there's Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu, Taylor Gabriel and everybody else'.
On Brooks Reed's performance:
What Brooks Reed brings to the table is two-fold, and you don't have a lot of guys like this. First of all, one of the reasons Dan Quinn likes Brooks Reed is his toughness at the point of attack. There were a number of times in the game where he sealed the edge. He was able to set the edge, which turned the runners back inside so the linebackers could make plays. That's number one. Then, he can also play in the sub package where he can rush the passer. He had two sacks today, and I think the thing that's key about Brooks Reed, there's not any flashy moves that he brings to the table, but he's relentless.
He continues to come after you. You look at both of his sacks today, and initially the secondary took care of its job and Brooks was continually coming after the quarterback, he didn't give up on the rush. And of course, he makes the hit to win the game in the backfield for the Falcons.
On Falcons' struggles in the running game:
There were two reasons the Falcons struggled in the running game. Number one: Chicago is a big front. They're a three-four defense and all three of those guys upfront are 310 pounds plus. They made it tough at the point of attack, especially Akiem Hicks. There were a number of plays where they did not get him blocked. And if you're spending that much time trying to get those three guys blocked, their linebackers are going to be able to fill, be gap conscious and potentially be at the line of scrimmage to really snuff out runs.
And what stops a running back more than anything else is, can you stop his feet? And Chicago did a great job, forcing both Tevin Coleman and Devonta to stop their feet, restart, bounce one way or the other. And Chicago runs well themselves, so they were able to come up and make plays.
And let's be honest. There were several moments where Atlanta got whipped up front. I thought Wes Schweitzer had a tough time handling some of that up front. And in turn, the outside guy Ryan Schrader, who was trying to help to the inside and also do his job, he struggled a little bit as well. So those will be some areas they will have to fix. I think this film will be a great learning experience for Wes and the entire line because they got to play during the preseason, but did they all play as a unit together? Did they have those backs behind them, that get to the line a little bit quicker?
This film will be a great learning tool and an opportunity to look at things together. And matchups are different every week. Green Bay is completely different. They're not nearly as big up front. So it's all about experience and learning in this league. You've got to learn and move on. There's no question, physically Atlanta's line can get the job done.
On Matt Ryan's performance:
Yesterday was a day that you could have easily thrown some interceptions or turned the ball over. He was hit in the backfield a number of times. He brings a toughness to the table. The Austin Hooper touchdown, for instance, he got bounced around by three players as he let it go. So there are the leadership qualities we've always admired about Matt, but it's his continued work on taking care of the ball and not force the game, let the game come to him.
He didn't try to force anything down the field. He did a really good job of letting the game come to him. I think it frustrated Chicago that he didn't throw the ball into coverage. And ultimately he was able to break them down by something you wouldn't expect out of Ryan, a scramble play to find his tight end for an 88-yard touchdown.
On Falcons pass defense:
We saw them bend, bend, bend, but that's okay because they're a predominantly zone team. But what I loved about it, and what I was really admiring about the defense, is they're really young in the back seven, yet you didn't see any frustration. You didn't see them break coverage and they didn't give up any big plays. They made Chicago earn everything they could get.
Give Chicago credit, they made some plays to get back in the game. But you love that maturity in a young team that doesn't break down and get frustrated and then give up something over the top. A lot of the teams that run the ball try to grind you down physically and mentally to get you to give up something big. Atlanta didn't do that.