Falcons beat Bears with big plays on special teams

AP photo by John Bazemore / Cordarrelle Patterson (84) heads to the end zone on a 103-yard kickoff return for the Atlanta Falcons in Sunday's home win against the Chicago Bears. Patterson set an NFL record with the ninth kickoff return touchdown of his career.

ATLANTA — The Atlanta Falcons are still under .500. Still in the thick of the NFC South race, too.

Younghoe Koo's 53-yard field goal gave Atlanta the lead with less than two minutes to play, and the Falcons overcame another impressive game from Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields to win 27-24 on Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Fields, an Atlanta-area native and a first-round draft pick in 2021, ran for 85 yards with a touchdown but injured his left shoulder on first play of the Bears' final possession, which followed Koo's kick. He remained in the game, and afterward he was awaiting results of X-rays and said he was "hurting a little bit."

"I don't know what happened, to be honest with you," Fields said. "I just landed on it, I think. ... I was hurting, but it was the last drive of the game. I tried to be there for my teammates."

Bears coach Matt Eberflus said he expects to have an update on Fields on Wednesday

Fields' pass for running back David Montgomery was intercepted by Falcons safety Jaylinn Hawkins with 1:07 remaining. A 26-yard run by rookie Tyler Allgeier allowed the Falcons, who rushed for 149 yards, to wind down the clock.

Fields completed 14 of 21 passes for 153 yards with one touchdown and one interception as the Bears (3-8), last in the NFC North standings, lost for the fourth game in row and the sixth time in their past seven.

Each team was led in rushing attempts by its quarterback. Marcus Mariota couldn't match Fields' dual-threat production, but the veteran ran and threw for touchdowns for Atlanta (5-6), which pulled within a half-game of the division-leading Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-5), who were off this week.

"It's big for the team, and we've just got to keep rolling," Hawkins said. "Everything counts."

Atlanta running back Cordarrelle Patterson, who played for the Bears for two years before signing with the Falcons in 2021, set the NFL record with his ninth career kickoff return for a touchdown. His 103-yard return in the second quarter broke a tie with Joshua Cribbs and Leon Washington for the mark.

Patterson's lost fumble after a 19-yard rush set up Fields' 4-yard touchdown run that gave Chicago a 17-7 lead. Patterson atoned for the miscue with his record-breaking return.

"Honestly, man, the fumble — the series before that — was in my head the whole time, you know?" said Patterson, who missed four games earlier this season while on injured reserve. "As a football player, you've got to move on to the next play. I was happy when he kicked me the ball because I had just had to go out and make a spark for my team. That's what I do."

Mariota had 13 carries for 25 yards, including a 10-yard run for a 24-17 lead in the third quarter. He threw for 131 yards, including a 2-yard touchdown to rookie receiver Drake London.

Koo's 40-yard field goal on the final play of the first half tied it at 17. He also made all three of his PATs, bouncing back from a rough night in Atlanta's previous game. Koo missed a pair of PATs when the Falcons lost 25-15 on the road to the Carolina Panthers in an NFC South matchup on Nov. 10.

Atlanta had also lost its previous game, with a late fumble allowing the Los Angeles Chargers to kick a field goal at the end of a 20-17 game.

"We overcame some adversity, some of our own doing in the first half and kept swinging," Atlanta coach Arthur Smith said of Sunday's win, saying of Patterson: "Really happy for CP. It's pretty cool when a guy breaks an NFL record. We obviously needed that play. It was a great team win."

Fields' ability to extend a third-and-12 play by scrambling before passing to Equanimeous St. Brown for a 14-yard gain set up Montgomery's 2-yard touchdown run to tie the game. According to NFL's Next Gen Stats, Fields ran 33.2 yards before completing the pass to St. Brown, the longest scramble on a third-down conversion in the league this season.

"He just keeps growing and growing and growing and getting better," Eberflus said.

Fields, who spent his freshman season at the University of Georgia before transferring to Ohio State, played this homecoming game after running for a combined 325 yards in his past two outings, setting a two-game NFL record for quarterbacks.

Fields said his goal is "just keep getting better. Take each day on its own and keep working to control what you can control."

Falcons defensive Ta'Quon Graham was carted off the field with a left knee injury in the second quarter and was ruled out, and tight end Kyle Pitts had an 18-yard catch early in the third quarter but left with a knee injury after a big hit by safety Eddie Jackson. Pitts jogged off the field before the team announced he was questionable to return.

Both teams are on the road next Sunday, with the Bears facing the New York Jets and the Falcons taking on the Washington Commanders.