Bears comeback aided by Falcons’ inability to run clock down

Bears wide receiver Anthony Miller gets past Atlanta Falcons cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson for what proved to be the winning touchdown during the fourth quarter Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. Chicago won 30-26. (Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)
Caption
Bears wide receiver Anthony Miller gets past Atlanta Falcons cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson for what proved to be the winning touchdown during the fourth quarter Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. Chicago won 30-26. (Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

With 6:15 left to play in the fourth quarter in Sunday’s loss to the Chicago Bears, the Falcons were sitting on a 10-point lead. They began their drive at their own 15-yard line, with the goal of churning out enough yardage to salt away their first victory of the season

Instead, the Falcons ran little time off the clock and gave the ball back to the Bears twice. And the eventual result was a stunning 30-26 victory for the visiting Chicago Bears.

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On the first offensive series beginning at 6:15 to play, while holding a 26-16 lead, the Falcons ran the ball once, which resulted in a 1-yard pickup by running back Todd Gurley. The next two play calls were passes, with throws falling incomplete to receiver Calvin Ridley and tight end Hayden Hurst. The incompletions contributed to only 55 seconds running off the clock. The Bears were able to take over at their own 45-yard line with 5:20 remaining in the game.

Chicago only needed three plays to score a touchdown, which cut the game to a one-score contest at 26-23 in a short amount of time. And when the Falcons got the ball back with 4:21 left to play, the offense ran three consecutive passing plays. Each of the throws fell incomplete, which forced another punt.

Only 22 seconds ran off the clock. In two possessions, the Falcons ran off just 1:17.

“We just needed to get into that first first down and we weren’t able to do it,” quarterback Matt Ryan said. “You know, it’s a credit to them. Chicago played well in that fourth quarter. They did a nice job. We’ve got to find a way to get it done. We’ve got to find a way in one of those drives to get that first 1st down, to get a little momentum going, put them on their heels a little bit and secure that ballgame. We weren’t able to do it.”

Five plays later, and with 1:53 left to play, the Bears took their first lead of the game at 30-26. Ryan was unable to engineer the offense to a touchdown of the Falcons’ own after, with Chicago cornerback Tashaun Gipson securing the game-clinching interception.

Bears defensive back Tashaun Gipson Sr. intercepts Matt Ryan's pass -intended for Calvin Ridley (18) -  in the final seconds of the fourth quarter Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020, and secure the 30-26 come-from-behind victory over the Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.  (Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)
Caption
Bears defensive back Tashaun Gipson Sr. intercepts Matt Ryan's pass -intended for Calvin Ridley (18) - in the final seconds of the fourth quarter Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020, and secure the 30-26 come-from-behind victory over the Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. (Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Falcons coach Dan Quinn was asked about the decision to throw the ball five times on six plays while holding a lead.

“It falls on me in all spaces,” Quinn said. “I want to make sure we’re clear on that. But we’re all in this together. So when there’s a game, there’s things to do differently offensively, defensively, on special teams. We are all connected on it together, but at the end of the game, the results and setting up things for how it will go, that falls right through me.”

For the majority of the game, the Falcons' rushing attack was successful. Running back Todd Gurley ran the ball 14 times for 80 yards and scored a touchdown. Brian Hill totaled nine carries for 58 yards, which included a 35-yard touchdown. As a team, the Falcons averaged 5.8 yards per carry.

But in the fourth quarter, the Falcons accounted for only 9 of its 144 rushing yards.

Gurley was asked if the fourth-quarter play calling, specifically on those two drives that ended in three-and-outs surprised him.

“I have nothing to do with whatever the play call is,” Gurley said. “I go out there — whoever it is, me, (Hill), whoever. We let Dirk do his job, that is what it is. We can’t blame whatever, five passes on losing the game. We just have to do better.”

The Falcons were unable to close out last week’s game against the Cowboys, which saw the team hold a 39-24 lead in the fourth quarter. The team’s inability to finish games late, both offensively and defensively, has been the difference in this team holding a 2-1 record and its actual 0-3 mark.

Ryan, like the rest of his teammates who were interviewed after Sunday’s loss, didn’t have much of an explanation to offer as to how history repeated itself just one week later. But as it played out, the Falcons managed to become the first team in NFL history to blow two leads of 15 points or greater in consecutive games.

“We’ve got to find a way to improve in those situations,” Ryan said. “We haven’t been good enough as an offense the last two weeks, but as players, you go out there and you try and make the call come to life. That’s where we’ve got to put our focus. We’ve got to find a way in those situations to make a play, and it just takes one. This is a tough league, but a spark here or there can go a long way, and we’ve got to make one of those in these end-of-game situations.”