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Chicago Bears

Arkush: Bears must win ground war to beat Falcons

Running backs, not quarterbacks, have to be the difference

FILE - In this Thursday, Aug. 31, 2017, file photo, Chicago Bears quarterback Mike Glennon (8) warms up before an NFL football game against the Cleveland Browns, in Chicago. Coming off an epic Super Bowl collapse, the Atlanta Falcons are eying big things starting with their opener against the Bears on Sunday, Sept. 10. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh, File)
FILE - In this Thursday, Aug. 31, 2017, file photo, Chicago Bears quarterback Mike Glennon (8) warms up before an NFL football game against the Cleveland Browns, in Chicago. Coming off an epic Super Bowl collapse, the Atlanta Falcons are eying big things starting with their opener against the Bears on Sunday, Sept. 10. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh, File)

CHICAGO – Can the Bears beat the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday at Soldier Field?

What were the odds on Kansas City knocking off the Patriots on Thursday night in Foxboro?

The problem for the Bears, of course, is Mike Glennon doesn’t appear to be Alex Smith, and they have no receivers likely to imitate Tyreek Hill.

On the other hand, the Chiefs have no one to match Jordan Howard, and I’m not positive Tarik Cohen won’t have a few Kareem Hunt moments before the season is over.

On the other side of the ball, Justin Houston took the game over for Kansas City in the fourth quarter in New England, and like Houston, Leonard Floyd is a Georgia alum with some similar assets.

Glennon has to stay within himself, focus on efficiency, not explosion and above all else take care of the football.

If Dowell Loggains will stick like glue to his club’s strengths – give Jordan Howard the ball at least 20 times on the ground, 10 or so more carries for Cohen and make the passing game go through the tight ends and Cohen and Howard as well, with short, safe ball control tosses, he can accomplish two things.

It will keep the Falcons’ offense off the field and hopefully put some points on the board.

That’s the game plan. The key to making it work is Hroniss Grasu and Cody Whitehair – we’d love to see Kyle Long, but it just doesn’t seem likely – have to handle Grady Jarrett and Dontari Poe inside, and Charles Leno has to start earning some of his new riches with at least a standoff against the NFL’s best pass rusher in 2016, Vic Beasley Jr.

The Falcons occasionally will move Beasley around, and if they do flip him over on Bobby Massie, Loggains has to have a plan to get Massie some help in what would be a bad matchup for the Bears.

What made Atlanta’s defense special late last year on their run to the Super Bowl was the speed and athleticism of Beasley, Deion Jones and DeVondre Campbell at linebacker and Keanu Neal at safety, but that isn’t the worst matchup in the world for the Bears with Howard’s vision and power and Cohen’s quickness and ability to get lost in traffic.

The Falcons were only 17th in the NFL against the run last year and 26th in average gain allowed per rush.

That’s a matchup the Bears have to win to have a chance.

On the other side of the ball Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan is the NFL’s reigning MVP, Devonta Freeman is the league’s second leading scoring running back over the past two seasons behind only David Johnson, and Julio Jones is the best receiver in the world.

The Bears’ answer to “Matty Ice” has to be Floyd and company with nonstop pressure all day long. The Falcons were only 24th in the NFL last year in quarterback sacks allowed per pass attempt.

Jake Matthews, Andy Levitre and Alex Mack are as good from left tackle into center as any team in the league, but on the right side guard Wes Schweltzer and tackle Ryan Schraeder aren’t special, so the big leap in play the Bears are hoping for from Eddie Goldman and Jonathan Bullard are a must for the Bears to slow Freeman and Tevin Coleman, and get to Ryan.

With Prince Amukamara unlikely to go, Kyle Fuller and Marcus Cooper will have to work overtime on Jones, Mohammed Sanu and Taylor Gabriel.

The only chance to limit Jones – nobody stops him – is to bracket him with a corner and a safety, which makes the lesser-known Gabriel ultra dangerous in the slot.

Welcome to the bigs, rookie safety Eddie Jackson.

There are multiple reasons the Bears are one of the biggest underdogs of the weekend, but they can compete with Atlanta if they make the game a street fight, win the one-on-one physical matchups and refuse to get into a track meet.

• Hub Arkush is executive editor of Pro Football Weekly. Write to him at harkush@profootballweekly.com, and follow him on Twitter @Hub_Arkush.

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