The Falcons’ defense, which had given up an 8-minute, 32-second touchdown drive on its previous series, needed a stop to secure the victory after Koo’s field goal.
Hawkins came up with an interception with 1:06 to play. Bears quarterback Justin Fields’ pass intended for running back David Montgomery was high and went through his hands and into the waiting arms of Hawkins.
“I was just reading the quarterback the whole time,” Hawkins said. “I was just shuffling and shuffling. When the ball was in the air, I was like, ‘Go make a play.’”
The Falcons improved to 5-6 and picked up a half-game on the Bucs (5-5) in the NFC South. The Bears dropped to 3-8.
“We needed this one,” defensive tackle Abdullah Anderson said. “We really needed this one.”
Falcons coach Arthur Smith was elated that the two-game losing streak was stopped.
“Overcame some adversity, some of it our own doing in the first half and kept swinging,” Smith said. “Really happy for CP (Patterson). Pretty cool when a guy breaks an NFL record. We obviously needed that play, so it was a great team win.”
Fields, who played at Harrison High, Georgia and Ohio State, was 14-of-21 passing for 153 yards and a touchdown pass to go with the crucial interception. He had a passer rating of 84. He rushed 18 times for 85 yards and another TD.
Fields was sacked four times, which was a season high for the Falcons.
Falcons quarterback Marcus Mariota stayed under control and led the team on the game-winning field-goal drive. He completed 13 of 20 passes for 131 yards and a touchdown. He finished with a passer rating of 100.2.
The Falcons converted a big fourth-and-2 at Chicago’s 44 with 3:30 left. Patterson busted up the middle for 6 yards. They added 3 more yards on the ground to get to the 36 and into Koo’s field-goal range. They took a shot to the end zone, but Olamide Zaccheaus looked up for the ball late.
“We just wanted to make a play,” Mariota said of the fourth-down run. “We were hoping for it. We appreciate the confidence from Art to allow us to do that, and CP made a great play.”
Falcons tight end Kyle Pitts left the game with a knee injury and did not return.
Thanks to a spark from Patterson’s record-breaking kickoff return, the Falcons were tied 17-17 at halftime.
Patterson’s kickoff return helped the Falcons dig out from a 10-point deficit. Koo added a 40-yard field goal at the second-quarter buzzer to tie the game.
The Falcons trailed 17-7 when Patterson posted his ninth career kickoff returned for a touchdown. He’d been tied with Leon Washington and Josh Cribbs with eight.
Patterson went up the middle and dodged defenders as he moved outside of the left hash marks around the 30-yard line.
He turned on the afterburners around the 50 and then outraced Chicago’s Elijah Hicks on his way to the end zone.
Zaccheaus came over and placed an imaginary crown on Patterson’s head.
“I was happy when he kicked me the ball,” Patterson said. “I just had to make a spark for my team. That’s what I went out there and did.”
Patterson, a first-round pick by the Vikings in 2013, has been selected to four Pro Bowls as a kick returner.
Chicago led 17-14 after Patterson’s return late in the second quarter.
The defense got a stop to set up Koo’s field-goal attempt.
Patterson’s touchdown made up for a fumble on the first play of the previous Falcons’ possession. The Bears turned his fumble into a 29-yard touchdown drive to make it 17-7. Fields scored on a 4-yard run.
“The fumble the series before, that was in my head the whole time,” Patterson said. “As a football player, you have to move on to the next play.”
The Falcons’ offense got off to a fine start as it put together a 10-play, 75-yard touchdown drive that took 5:23 off the clock to start the game.
Mariota tossed a 2-yard touchdown pass to rookie wide receiver Drake London to make it 7-0 with the PAT.
It was the fourth time this season the Falcons scored a touchdown on their opening drive. They also scored a touchdown in the opening drives against the 49ers, Chargers and Seahawks.
The kickoff coverage unit then gave up a 55-yard return to Velus Jones, and the Bears had a short field.
Seven plays later, Chicago wide receiver Darnell Mooney broke wide open off the line of scrimmage, and Fields tossed a 16-yard touchdown pass to make it 7-7.
Cornerback Dee Alford ran into a pick by Bears wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown.
After an exchange of punts and another one by the Falcons, the Bears added a 41-yard field goal from Cairo Santos to make it 10-7.
Patterson broke free for 19 yards, but Bears rookie safety Jaquan Brisker came up from behind and popped out the ball. Cornerback Jaylon Johnson recovered it and returned it 28 yards to Atlanta’s 18.
After Fields scored, Patterson had an answer for the Falcons.
The defense had a three-and-out to start the third quarter. After an exchange of punts, Mariota scored on a 10-yard run after faking it to Patterson with 1:48 left in the quarter to put the Falcons up 24-17.
Fields guided the Bears on a 13-play, 75-yard touchdown drive to tie it at 24. Montgomery scored on a 2-yard touchdown run. The Bears converted four third downs in the drive of 3, 3, 12 and 5 yards. All were passes.
On third-and-12, Fields had 11.03 seconds to scramble around and find St. Brown for 14 yards. The Falcons missed Fields three times. Falcons rookie Arnold Ebiketie missed Fields when he scrambled to his left and then when he came back to his right.
The drive took 8:32 off the clock.
Bears defensive tackle Trevis Gipson was injured with 11:48 left in the second quarter. Falcons defensive end Ta’Quon Graham went down with a left knee injury with 5:23 left in the second quarter. He was carted off the field.
Pitts left the game in the third quarter after a knee injury. He went down in pain after a hit. He recovered, popped up and ran off the field.
Smith had no injury updates.
The Falcons will play Washington at 1 p.m. next Sunday at FedEx Field in Maryland.
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The Bow Tie Chronicles
Atlanta Falcons 2022 schedule
Sept. 11: Saints 27, Falcons 26
Sept. 18: Rams 31, Falcons 27
Sept. 25 Falcons 27, Seahawks 23
Oct. 2 Falcons 23, Browns 20
Oct. 9 Buccaneers 21, Falcons 15
Oct. 16 Falcons 28, 49ers 14
Oct. 23 Bengals 35, Falcons 17
Oct. 30 Falcons 37, Panthers 34 OT
Nov. 6 Chargers 20, Falcons 17
Nov. 10 Panthers 25, Falcons 15
Nov. 20 Falcons 27, Bears 24
Nov. 27 at Washington, 1 p.m.
Dec. 4 vs. Pittsburgh, 1 p.m.
Dec. 18 at New Orleans, TBD
Dec. 24 at Baltimore, 1 p.m.
Jan. 1 vs. Arizona, 1 p.m.
Jan. 8 vs. Tampa Bay, TBD