ATLANTA — If there was ever a must-win game in October, this was it for the Atlanta Falcons.
Now, they've put themselves in a major hole.
The Falcons were totally outclassed Sunday in a 27-13 loss to the Chicago Bears, their third straight defeat even more crushing because they won't play another game at the Georgia Dome until nearly Thanksgiving.
"We have to look at everything," coach Mike Smith said. "Nothing is off the table for what we have to do to get better."
Chicago's Jay Cutler threw for 381 yards and a touchdown. It was the second-highest passing total of his career, surpassed only by a 447-yard effort at Cleveland in 2008.
Matt Forte ran for a couple of TDs after the Falcons, down 13-3 at the half, rallied to tie the game late in the third quarter.
But the Atlanta comeback, highlighted by yet another long scoring play for Antone Smith, was deceiving. The Bears dominated most of the way, outgaining the Falcons in total yards (478-287) and controlling the time of possession with more than 36 minutes.
Matt Ryan was 19 of 37 for 271 yards, including a late interception, though he seemed like a one-man team at times.
His receivers sure didn't help the cause, dropping at least seven passes. The depleted offensive line surrendered four sacks. The Falcons rushed for just 42 yards on 13 carries.
The loss was a huge blow for the Falcons (2-4), who 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.
Not a good omen for a team that has lost 10 of its last 11 on the road.
"We've got a tough stretch coming up," Ryan said. "We can't worry about it. We can't complain about it. We've got to find a way to get it done."
The Bears (3-3) are doing just fine away from the Windy City.
Chicago snapped a two-game losing streak with its third victory in four road games this season, though there were so many Bears fans at the Georgia Dome that this seemed almost like a neutral site.
"We travel well," receiver Brandon Marshall said. "We gave them something to cheer about."
After the Falcons tied the game at 13, the Bears quickly regained control. Cutler unleashed a towering pass to Alshon Jeffery that went for 74 yards. On the next play, Forte took it in for a 6-yard touchdown.
The Falcons went three-and-out, and Chicago finished them off with a 15-play, 87-yard drive. Forte capped the march down the field with a 9-yard scoring burst up the middle.
Jeffery had five catches for 136 yards. Marshall chipped in with six receptions for 113 yards.
"We came into it knowing we were going to have to get some chunks," said Cutler, who had six completions of at least 19 yards. "We couldn't just dink it."
The Bears' defense also came up with a monster effort, especially since all three starting linebackers and one of the top backups were out with injuries.
With the score tied at 3, Chicago pulled ahead on a seven-play, 79-yard drive. Cutler went to Marshall for the biggest play, a 47-yard pass to the Atlanta 3. On the next play, Cutler passed to Josh Morgan for the touchdown.
Robbie Gould's second field goal, a 28-yarder with 2 seconds left in the half, came after Cutler directed an 83-yard drive.
The Falcons showed some life in the third period. Third-stringer Smith took a short pass 41 yards for his fifth touchdown of the season — all of them coming on efforts of at least 38 yards.
Smith's big play was about as good as it got for the Falcons, even though Matt Bryant booted a 54-yard field goal to tie the game. Bryant also connected from 52 yards in the opening quarter.
By the fourth quarter, the Chicago defenders were whipping up their fans at the Georgia Dome, sending them into raucous chants of "Let's go Bears!"
NOTES: Falcons LG Justin Blalock, who had missed the previous game with a back injury, returned to the lineup. ... Atlanta return specialist Devin Hester didn't do much against his former team. He had one catch for 23 yards, along with 54 yards on punt and kickoff returns. ... Chicago was missing starting LBs Lance Briggs (rib), D.J. Williams (neck) and Shea McClellin (hand), along with Jonathan Bostic (back), who had been projected as Briggs' replacement on the weakside.