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Friday January 27th, 2023 8:26PM

QB Fields returns home as Bears, Falcons match run games

By The Associated Press
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CHICAGO (3-7) at ATLANTA (4-6)

Sunday, 1 p.m. EST, FOX

FANDUEL SPORTSBOOK NFL LINE: Falcons by 3.

AGAINST THE SPREAD: Bears 4-5-1; Falcons 6-5.

SERIES RECORD: Bears lead 15-13.

LAST MEETING: Bears won 30-16, on Sept. 27, 2020, in Atlanta.

LAST WEEK: Bears lost to Lions, 31-30: Falcons lost to Panthers, 25-15.

BEARS OFFENSE: OVERALL (21), RUSH (1), PASS (32), SCORING (T-25).

BEARS DEFENSE: OVERALL (15), RUSH (28), PASS (10), SCORING (21).

FALCONS OFFENSE: OVERALL (27), RUSH (4), PASS (30), SCORING (12).

FALCONS DEFENSE: OVERALL (31), RUSH (18), PASS (32), SCORING (27).

TURNOVER DIFFERENTIAL: Bears even; Falcons even.

BEARS PLAYER TO WATCH: QB Justin Fields ranks sixth in the NFL in rushing with 749 yards and is second to Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson at 7.2 per carry. Fields is on a historic run. He had 178 yards rushing against Miami two weeks ago — the most by an NFL quarterback in a regular-season game since at least 1940 — and followed that with 147 last week. With 325 yards, Fields has the highest two-game total by an NFL quarterback, surpassing the previous mark of 268 by Jackson on Oct. 13 and 20, 2019. He also became the only QB in the Super Bowl era with multiple rushing touchdowns of 60-plus yards in the same season, after scrambling 61 yards against Miami and dashing 67 yards for a score last week. Fields’ 555 yards the past five weeks are the most in a five-game span by a QB in the Super Bowl era.

FALCONS PLAYER TO WATCH: QB Marcus Mariota has firm public support from coach Arthur Smith, but the team’s two-game losing streak has led to increased questions as to why rookie Desmond Ridder has not appeared in a game. Smith said he did not consider playing Ridder, a third-round pick from Cincinnati, in last week’s loss at Carolina. Mariota completed 19 of 30 passes for 186 yards with two touchdowns and one interception and led the team with 43 rushing yards. He accepted blame for “playing a little bit outside of myself” and taking five sacks. The Falcons remain a game behind first-place Tampa Bay in the weak NFC South. Smith may be more likely to give Ridder an opportunity if Atlanta falls further behind the Buccaneers.

KEY MATCHUP: Falcons run defense vs. RB David Montgomery. With RB Khalil Herbert placed on injured reserve on Tuesday, Montgomery must reclaim the lead running back role and take pressure off Fields. Herbert was second to Fields on the team with 643 rushing yards and was averaging 6.0 yards per carry. Montgomery has averaged only 3.8 yards per carry while running for 434 yards.

KEY INJURIES: Herbert (hip) was hurt returning a kickoff late in last week’s game. ... CB Jaylon Johnson has been dealing with an oblique injury. ... TE Cole Kmet (thigh), OL Teven Jenkins (hip), DB Kindle Vildor (ankle) and RB David Montgomery (personal) missed practice on Wednesday. ... LB Matt Adams (calf) was activated from IR. ... Falcons CB A.J. Terrell (hamstring) and OL Jalen Mayfield (back) returned to practice on Wednesday. Terrell has missed three games and Mayfield hasn’t played this season and was designated to return from IR. ... Backup S Erik Harris (foot) was limited on Wednesday. Backup TE Feleipe Franks (calf), also the team’s third QB, did not practice Wednesday.

SERIES NOTES: The Bears have won three of the past four in the series, including the past two in Atlanta. ... The Falcons’ previous home win over the Bears was a 21-14 decision in 2009. ... The Falcons took a 23-17 win at Chicago in 2017. ... Atlanta won five straight games over Chicago from 1972-77. ... The Bears won five straight over the Falcons from 1985-93.

STATS AND STUFF: The Falcons are 3-2 at home and the Bears are 1-4 on the road. ... The Bears are averaging a league-leading 201.7 yards and became the first team in the Super Bowl era to run for at least 225 yards in five straight games after finishing with 258 yards last week. ... Kmet is tied with Baltimore’s Mark Andrews for second among NFL tight ends with five touchdown catches, trailing only Kansas City’s Travis Kelce (eight). All five have come in the past three games. ... Rookie LB Jack Sanborn had his first two sacks last week. ... K Cairo Santos has made all 14 field-goal attempts, though he has missed 3 of 20 extra points, including one last week. ... Falcons RB Cordarrelle Patterson played for Chicago in 2019-20. ... Patterson has rushed for five TDs in six games. He returned last week after missing four games following knee surgery. ... RB Tyler Allgeier ranks fourth among rookies with 443 rushing yards. ... WR Drake London has three TD catches. London's 38 catches for 407 yards each rank third among rookies. ... TE Kyle Pitts has TD catches in two of his past three home games.

FANTASY TIP: Kmet has emerged as a leading target for Fields — and a surprising fantasy producer among tight ends. The Bears rank last in the league in passing, making it easy to overlook Kmet's five TD receptions the past three weeks. Kmet has 11 catches in that span, including four for a season-high 74 yards and two TDs last week.

___

AP NFL coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

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