3 and Out: Chicago Bears roll past Atlanta Falcons in 37-17 win

Chicago Bears running back Khalil Herbert looks to get by Atlanta Falcons safety DeMarcco Hellams during their game Sunday, Dec. 31, 2023, at Soldier Field in Chicago.

CHICAGO – The Bears ran out to a quick lead and never looked back, playing a complete game to earn a 37-17 win over the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday at Soldier Field. Here’s what you need to know:

Three moments that mattered

1. Finishing touch: Kyler Gordon put a bow on the Bears’ win when he intercepted a Taylor Heinicke pass with 3:58 left in the game. The Falcons’ trailed 30-17 and faced a fourth-and-17 from their own 18 yard line when Heinicke broke one tackle but threw a deep pass that Gordon picked off. Khalil Herbert went on to score on the Bears’ next possession.

2. Just got him: The Falcons came an arm tackle away from changing the game’s momentum at the end of the first half. Dee Alford returned a missed Cairo Santos field goal attempt from the back of the end zone and seemed like he was going to return it for a touchdown. Robert Tonyan made one last effort and forced Alford to fall, leaving it a 21-7 Bears lead at the half.

3. Lucky break: The Bears’ first scoring drive was almost derailed when Justin Fields fumbled the ball away at the Falcons’ 22 yard line. Luckily, Braxton Jones was called for a false start on the play and they replayed the down. Fields went on to score four plays later on a 7-yard touchdown pass to DJ Moore.

Three things that worked

1. Go DJ: Moore continued to show off his play-making abilities on a day where he set new career-highs in receiving yards and touchdown receptions. Moore finished with 159 receiving yards and one touchdown, giving him 1,300 season receiving yards and eight season receiving touchdowns. He previously had a career-high 1,193 receiving yards with the Carolina Panthers in 2020 and seven touchdowns with the Panthers last season.

2. Bend don’t break: The Bears defense stopped the Falcons from scoring early and gaining any sort of momentum. The Falcons drove to the Bears’ 31 and 24 yard lines, respectively, on their first two drives but came away with zero points after two missed field goals.

3. NYE INT(s): The defense went back to creating interceptions after failing to do so against the Arizona Cardinals the week prior. TJ Edwards picked off a pass late in the second quarter to give the Bears the ball in Falcons’ territory and then Tyrique Stevenson added an interception in the third quarter. Gordon and Stevenson each intercepted a pass in the fourth quarter.

Three things that didn’t

1. Lackluster first-half finish: The Bears offense had two chances to put the game away just before the first half and failed on both. They took over with 3:06 left in the second quarter and went three-and-out before getting the ball back on the Falcon’s 37 with 1:02 left. The Bears failed to gain a yard on that possession and missed a 55-yard field goal that was almost returned for a touchdown.

2. One bad play: The Falcons broke the Bears momentum briefly in the second quarter when Tyler Allgeier caught a screen pass and took it 75 yards for a touchdown. That play was the lone of the Falcons’ drive and made it a 14-7 Bears lead with 14:14 left in the quarter.

3. Missed second-half chances: The offense failed to keep up the momentum it built in the first half. The Bears drove deep into Falcons’ territory in the second half on its first five drives but scored on three field goals off those possessions. Herbert’s touchdown late in the game broke that streak after the Bears took over on the Atlanta 41.

What’s next?

The Bears travel to Green Bay next week to finish the regular season against the Packers. They’ll play either Saturday or Sunday, Jan. 7.

Michal Dwojak

Michal Dwojak

Michal is a sports enterprise reporter for Shaw Local, covering the CCL/ESCC for Friday Night Drive and other prep sports for the Northwest Herald. He also is a Chicago Bears contributing writer. He previously was the sports editor for the Glenview Lantern, Northbook Tower and Malibu Surfside News.