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Falcons, Bears square off on 'Sunday Night Football'

Ric Roc

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Falcons, Bears square off on 'Sunday Night Football'

October 16, 2009

ATLANTA -- Apparently, 30's the new 20 and Sunday Night's the new Monday Night -- as in Sunday Night Football.

The NBC telecast features the well-known and long time big-game commentator Al Michaels, and once Cincinnati Bengal wide receiver Chris Collinsworth has been added this year to replace legendary coach and analyst John Madden, who retired at the end of last season.

As was the case with ABC's Monday Night Football telecast, the Sunday Night Football telecast is the only game on it's time slot. And although Monday Night Football has shifted to ESPN, prior to the switch to the digital era, NBC would have had the only primetime game that didn't require a cable box or subscription to view.

Even the players seem to acknowledge the privelage that comes along with getting selected to play on the Sunday Night stage.

"It is a little bit more intense playing in those primetime games," said Falcons' Pro Bowl running back Michael Turner. "But that’s what makes the games fun. There are going to be a lot of people watching, families are going to be together watching Sunday Night Football, and we’re the only game that’s going to be playing at that time."

Said quarterback Matt Ryan, "I think that it’s going to be fun to play on Sunday night. None of us have looked past that game at this point to worry about the rest of the season, but it’s our first opportunity as a football team this year to play on a nationally televised Sunday night game so we’re excited about that."

The game is a rematch of sorts for both teams as one of Matt Ryan's signature moments during his rookie season last year happened in this very same building during an incredible come-from-behind victory in the game's final 11 seconds.

Ryan's performance in that game helped propel him to become the AP Offensive Rookie of the Year, and the events that transpired in that game have not been forgotten from either side.

As they often say, the Falcons were able to experience the "thrill of victory," and the Bears were left to suffer the "agony of defeat."

Said Chicago Bears wide receiver Rashied Davis, who scored the go-ahead touchdown for Chicago with 17 seconds remaining on the clock, "What if? ... If I had made the winning catch, I would have been on the front page of the [Chicago Tribune].

"But since I didn't, I was on the back page. There are a lot of circumstances beyond your control."

At the time of Davis' reception, the touchdown grab appeared to have given the Bears an unlikely victory in a game that Atlanta seemed to dominate throughout.

"We kind of felt like we had given the game away," said Falcons kicker Jason Elam, who nailed the eventual game-winner from 50 yards out.

"They went down there and scored on us and it looked like we were just going to give it away. We were able to, fortunately, get back in that one and I know that they probably went home just really deflated and feeling like they gave that one away."

The Chicago Bears (3-1) are coming off their bye week, so they have been allowed an extra week to prepare, as well as reflect.

Said Bears wide reciever Devin Hester, "We already looked at (last year's CHI-ATL game tape). It's a great motivating factor to start fast and finish strong."

Added Hester, "We still talk about the last 11 seconds on the clock and how we lost that game. It's a bitter taste in the back of our throats. We don't want to have that feeling again. We are going to take this week and prepare for it and hopefully come out with a (win)."

The game's story in large part will no doubt center around the famous young signal-callers for both teams, in Jay Cutler for the Bears, and Matt Ryan for the Falcons.

Four games into the season for both teams, the numbers are quite similar for the two quarterbacks, with the exception in INTs.

Jay Cutler has thrown for 901 yards, 8 TDs and 5 INTs; Matt Ryan has thrown for 977 yards, 7 TDs and 2 INTs. Ryan also owns the edge in completion percentage and quarterback rating, posting marks of 66.7 percent and a rating of 102.9, compared to Cutler's marks of 64.3 percent and rating of 89.3.

Falcons head coach Mike Smith acknowledges that given a quarterback of Cutler's unique arm strentgh and gunslinger's mentality, preparation for him this week has been admittedly tougher.

"When you have a guy like Jay that has a strong arm, a physical stature, and he can run the football it’s very difficult," Smith said. "We have to be very good with our rush lanes and we have to be disciplined on the back end, in terms of the timing of the plays."

With the Denver Broncos last year, Jay Cutler actually defeated the Falcons at the Georgia Dome in a thrilling 24-20 victory, but Coach Smith immediately dismisses any similarities or signs of weaknesses between then and now.

"That was to the Denver Broncos," said Smith. "And now we’re playing the Chicago Bears. He’s an outstanding quarterback."

Jason Elam on Cutler: "Jay Cutler is a phenomenal quarterback and I got to play with him while I was in Denver. He can do some pretty special things. He’s extremely strong. I got to play with (former Denver Bronco's quarterback) John Elway out there and he (Cutler) is right up there as far as arm strength, and that’s saying something."

Kyle Orton was the quarterback that last led the Bears into the Georgia Dome only to depart as tough-luck losers. Will a new face and voice in Cutler be enough to wipe away the memories and remove the scars?

Said Rashied Davis, "It was kind of sickening on the flight home. But what can you do?"

- Staff Writer


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