A Chicago defense with three fill-in starting linebackers held the Falcons to 12 first downs and 287 total yards, setting the stage for Jay Cutler's big day.
The Bears held out four linebackers, including the three starters, with injuries. Backups Khaseem Greene, Darryl Sharpton and Christian Jones were the replacement starters.
"Unbelievable job," said Cutler of the linebackers after Chicago's 27-13 win over Atlanta. "As many guys as we lost toward the end of the week, we asked some of these young guys to step up, some guys who don't have a lot of NFL experience. To play as well as they did, it's a testament to how hard they work and to how well the coaches have instructed them."
Linebackers Shea McClellin (hand), Lance Briggs (rib), D.J. Williams (neck) and Jonathan Bostic (back) did not play. The Falcons, held to 42 yards rushing, couldn't take advantage of the fill-ins.
Greene said linebackers coach Reggie Herring told the group to "play fast" and "be calm."
Cutler threw for 381 yards and a touchdown and Matt Forte ran for 80 yards with two scores for the Bears.
Cutler's only touchdown pass was for 3 yards to Josh Morgan. He stretched Atlanta's defense with deep passes to Brandon Marshall, who had six catches for 113 yards and Alshon Jeffery, who had five catches for 136 yards — including a 74-yarder.
"Jay was able to drop balls in places that only he and a few guys can," Marshall said. "I'm just proud of our offense for bouncing back and buckling down."
Forte had a 6-yard scoring run one play after Cutler's long pass to Jeffery in the third quarter. Forte added a 9-yard touchdown run in the fourth, when the Falcons were shut out.
"When you don't score in the fourth quarter, it's tough to win, especially the way this game went," said Falcons coach Mike Smith.
Chicago (3-3) snapped a two-game losing streak with its third victory in four road games.
The Falcons (2-4) have lost three straight. Atlanta rallied from a 13-3 halftime deficit to tie the game late in the third quarter on Matt Bryant's 54-yard field goal. The Bears scored the final 14 points.
Here are some things to know about the Bears' road win over the Falcons:
BIG DAY FOR CUTLER: Cutler had his biggest passing game in six years and the second-biggest game of his career. He threw for 447 yards at Cleveland in 2008. "If we can keep mixing it up like that and running the ball effectively, we should be good," Cutler said.
SEE YOU IN SIX WEEKS: The Falcons now play their next four games away from Atlanta, so the loss was their last chance to gain momentum at home for the long stretch. The Falcons, who play at Baltimore next week, won't have another true home game until Nov. 23.
Three of the next four are on the road, with the only designated home game actually the longest road trip of all — a game against Detroit at London's Wembley Stadium.
This isn't good news for an Atlanta team that has lost 10 of its last 11 on the road.
ANOTHER BIG PLAY: Antone Smith, 29, remains a feel-good story for the Falcons. The backup running back had four catches for 64 yards, including a 41-yard touchdown in the third quarter.
Smith now has five touchdowns this season, all on big plays: 38, 41, 48, 54 and 74 yards.
GOING DEEP: Cutler, who had six completions of at least 19 yards, said the game plan emphasized the vertical passing game. "We came into it knowing we were going to have to get some chunks," he said. "We couldn't just dink it. We'd have to get some chunks."
DROPPED PASSES: Falcons receivers dropped at least seven passes from Matt Ryan, who completed 19 of 37 attempts for 271 yards with one interception and the one touchdown pass to Smith. Tight end Levine Toilolo and starting receivers Roddy White and Julio Jones had drops.
"It was a tough day at the office," Toilolo said. "I feel like I let my team down a bit, but I am willing to work to make sure it doesn't happen again."
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