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Smith "He's going to get an opportunity this week to step in and compete for a position"


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The Falcons secondary was abused in the preseason by San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers and Baltimore backup John Beck. The team was so uncertain about its cornerbacks that it traded for Tye Hill on Sept. 1 and signed Brian Williams to a one-year contract on Sept. 6. Williams came in and helped stabilize the position, but he was lost for the season Sunday when he suffered a knee injury during Atlanta's win over Chicago. Hill, Chevis Jackson and rookie Chris Owens will get a chance for more playing time in the secondary. Williams, who will undergo major reconstructive surgery, tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee and suffered additional structural damage. He was placed on injured reserve and will miss the remainder of the season. Now it appears the Falcons, barring any last-minute, trade-deadline moves, are set to go with some of the young corners who were struggling so mightily during the preseason.

With Williams out, Brent Grimes likely will start outside at the left cornerback position. When Williams left the game against the Bears, he was replaced in the nickel package by Jackson, who was promptly beaten by Greg Olsen for a touchdown. "We've got some guys that we feel are ready to step up into that role," coach Mike Smith said. Jackson was the main nickel back last season. He's in his second year from LSU and played in all 16 games in 2008, when he had 31 tackles and returned an interception 95 yards for a touchdown. "He's got a lot of snaps," Smith said. "He played like 600 snaps in 2008 in our sub package." Jackson lost his playing time when Williams was added. "Chevis handled this very, very well in terms of not getting much playing time," Smith said. "Personally, he was disappointed. ... Chevis accepted it. Now he's going to get another opportunity to play." Hill, a former first-round draft pick from Clemson, has been inactive for the first five games. "Tye has been working very diligently to learn our defense," Smith said. "He's going to get an opportunity this week to step in and compete for a position." Hill was taken 15th overall in the 2006 draft by St. Louis. The Falcons were able to get him for a seventh-round draft pick in 2010. Hill's stay in St. Louis was marred by injury. NOTES, QUOTES

—On four trips inside the Atlanta 20-yard line, the Bears came away with only one touchdown. The Falcons got an interception, a fumble recovery and a timely offside penalty on a fourth-and-1 to help them out. "Turnovers down in the red zone are huge," Falcons coach Mike Smith said. "They probably had a field goal in hand on those three occasions, and we were able to stop them." Thomas DeCoud came up with an interception to stop a drive. Jonathan Babineaux caused a fumble in the fourth quarter that was recovered by Coy Wire. The Bears' last drive stalled at the 6-yard line on downs after left tackle Orlando Pace jumped offside. —The Falcons went to their no-huddle offense when they were having trouble moving the ball against the Bears and got instant results. "It's something we discuss each week," Smith said. "We tell our guys on Saturday evening our plans." The no-huddle produced two first-half touchdown drives. "We had plans to get to it, based on the situation of the game," Smith said. "It came at the right time for us. Matt (Ryan) and the offense did a very good job." —Running back Ovie Mughelli (calf) was out against the Bears, and running back Jerious Norwood (right hip flexor) left the game and did not return. Jason Snelling had to start at fullback, and backup Michael Turner at running back. The offense was able to keep moving, but the special teams were hurt.

"Jason is a very integral part of our special teams, as well as Ovie Mughelli," Smith said. "It puts stress on the rest of the roster. We'll have to continue to make adjustments in regards to the rest of the roster." —The Falcons have not allowed a sack since the season opener. During the streak, Ryan has dropped back 123 times without being sacked. He was last sacked by Jason Ferguson with 9:06 left in the third quarter against Miami. "(Offensive coordinator Mike) Mularkey and his staff have done a wonderful job of keeping our quarterback clean," Smith said. —The Falcons have been hurt by running quarterbacks over the past two games. Jay Cutler led the Bears in rushing with 34 yards on three carries. He had a key 30-yard scramble late in the game to help the Bears tie the game 14-14. San Francisco's Shaun Hill led the 49ers with 53 yards on four runs. "The thing that we have to work on improving is our rush-lane integrity," Smith said. "We don't want to give those quarterbacks the opportunity to gain those cheap yards." Dallas quarterback Tony Romo, who faces Atlanta this week, likes to move around, but he has run only 10 times for 53 yards and one touchdown.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

PLAYER NOTES —LB Mike Peterson registered his first sack in a Falcons uniform, giving him 20.5 for his career. —TE Tony Gonzalez, with his first catch of the contest in the second quarter, improved his streak of consecutive games with a reception to 136. It's the third-longest active streak in the NFL. —RB Michael Turner was held under 100 yards rushing for the fourth time this season. However, it was his first game not rushing for more than 50 yards. He did have a rushing touchdown, giving him six for the season. —QB Matt Ryan completed 19 of 33 passes for 185 yards, his lowest output of the season. His passer rating of 68.4 was also his lowest of the season. —WR Roddy White had a touchdown reception for 40 yards. He had four catches for 46 yards. —WR Michael Jenkins had two catches for 15 yards. He also dropped two passes.REPORT CARD VS. BEARS PASSING OFFENSE: C-minus — Matt Ryan has his worst game of the season. He skipped a couple of passes off the turf and was behind on a couple of throws. He seemed to get into a rhythm and become comfortable late in the second quarter when the Falcons went to the no-huddle attack. RUSHING OFFENSE: D-minus — Michael Turner had 30 yards rushing on 13 carries, with a long run of 11 yards. Turner did score what turned out to be the game-winning touchdown on a 5-yard run with 3:06 left in the fourth quarter. PASS DEFENSE: D-minus — Chicago's Jay Cutler torched the secondary for 300 yards, but he treated the Falcons to a couple of reckless passes that were intercepted. The Bears had five receivers who averaged more than 10 yards per catch. RUSH DEFENSE: B-plus — The defense slowed down Matt Forte, who was coming off a 121-yard rushing effort. Atlanta also caused him to cough it up inside the red zone. SPECIAL TEAMS: A — Eric Weems set the offense up with good field position with a 62-yard kickoff return in the fourth quarter. The coverage units gave up some yards to Devin Hester and Johnny Knox, but they didn't allow the Bears to score a touchdown in the return game. COACHING: A — The Falcons coaches continue to mask the glaring weaknesses in the secondary, which will now become even more pronounced with the absence of veteran Brian Williams. The move to go to the no-huddle when the offense was getting stuffed was brilliant.

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