NFL Nation: Bears

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

Apologies that this reaction isn't very rapid, but I'm still in Raymond James Stadium and just finished writing about the Buccaneers and Panthers.

They're both 4-2 and I haven't forgotten there's another team with that same record in the NFC South. With an amazing ending against the Bears, the Atlanta Falcons took a huge step in the rebuilding process under coach Mike Smith.

If there was any doubt about if the Falcons are for real, it should be gone now. Heck, it should have been gone last week when the Falcons, with rookie quarterback Matt Ryan, went into Lambeau Field and won.

The skeptics still might have said Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers was banged up and several other Packers were injured. But you really can't rain on Atlanta's period after what the Falcons did against the Bears.

There's no disputing Chicago (the Bears entered the day in first place in the NFC North) is a good team and they have a great defense. But Ryan sure didn't look like a rookie.

This victory made the Falcons more legitimate than they've been in a long time. They've already won as many games with Smith as they did all of last year. If someone wants to try to minimize this victory, they'd be a fool.

There's no longer any question that the Falcons are for real. Next challenge on the list of proof? Winning an NFC South game.

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