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Third Quarter: Defense, Turnovers the Difference


There was Coy Wire, helmetless, even after the officials had ruled that the Falcons had possession of the ball, wrestling at the Falcons' 2 yard-line with Bears tight end Greg Olsen for control.

Wire got it and ran towards midfield amid shouts from the crowd. If the score holds up, that tenacity will go a long way towards explaining a potential Falcons' victory.

The Falcons have forced three turnovers while giving up the ball only once on offense – a possession that did not result in a score. The latest being the fumble forced by Jonathan Babineaux and recovered by Wire. In fact, the Falcons forced fumbles on consecutive plays by Forte, though Forte recovered his own fumble after Curtis Lofton forced one on second down from the 1.

The Bears have converted an impressive 8 of 14 third downs (57 percent) to the Falcons' 3 of 9 (33 percent). Twice deep inside Falcons' territory, the Bears have turned the ballover.

The Bears have outgained the Falcons 218 yards to 168. In time of possession, Chicago holds more than a 10-minute lead.

So the defense is the reason why the Falcons lead 14-7 with 15 minutes left to play.

The defense bailed out Matt Ryan after he overthrew Tony Gonzalez – could it have been a mix-up on a route? – for an interception with 10:22 left in the third quarter.

It was a strange play. Brian Finneran stripped Zackary Bowman after Bowman made the interception. The ball went scooting in the direction of the Bears' end zone and Falcons' right guard Harvey Dahl flying down the field.

I wrote about the Falcons' offensive line last week and about how some NFL observers have minted Dahl as the league's meanest player. Falcons Head Coach Mike Smith likes to refer to the ball as "our" ball and he has spent the recent weeks explaining how recovering and preventing fumbles is on every player on the offense to keep the defenders between themselves and the ball.

So, if the Falcons could choose any player to be in the vicinity to recover a fumble, I reasoned, it would be Dahl. Running at top speed, Dahl dove on the ball, but it squirted away from him. Danieal Manning, who was giving away 103 pounds to Dahl, recovered it.

I guess logic doesn't always work out.

With 6:48 left in the quarter, an announcement was made in the press box that safety William Moore, who made his NFL debut last week in San Francisco after two injuries had sidelined him through the start of camp and then the season, had a hamstring injury. His return was listed as questionable.

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