- The 49ers came out mixing it up but it was evident form the beginning that they were going to be much better running the ball and before long that’s what they concentrated on. The blocking up front in terms of this aspect of the game was excellent.One of the questions of the day was whether, with Jerrell Freeman and Danny Trevathan out, Nick Kwiatkowski and Jonathan Timu would be able to stop Carlos Hyde and the 49er running game. The answer as far as I could see was “no”. Thought Kwiatkowski made the occasional play, both linebackers were generally were well blocked and they certainly struggled to play downhill and attack the line of scrimmage. Yards per run.
- The blocking was not excellent when it came to the pass rush and the Bears got good pressure on Colin Kaepernick. The Bears had 5 sacks and 4 quarterback hits through three quarters on Kaepernick. They had six for the game including the one for a late safety on Blaine Gabbert.
- The 49ers had Timu spotted as a weakness in coverage right off the bat and they were targeting him by sending the running backs out wide as receivers. It looked to me like it might have worked better on a day when the passing game was clicking. That might be womething we see other teams do in the future.
- Akiem Hicks had 10 tackles and two sacks and was all over the place. He kept the Bears in the game almost single handedly in the first half.
- Colin Keapernick has been performing at very high level. It’s hard to say that his performance today was consistent with that. Kaepernick entered the game with 8 TDs compared to just 2 INTs and his passer rating was 96.0.The problem is that neither team threw the ball much in the first half so Kaepernick was largely reduced to a runner. Of course, he’s athletic and he did a decent job of that.
In the second half when both teams threw the ball more, Kaepernick’s accuracy was pretty awful. He either missed, underthrew or overthrew a number of wide open receivers in the snow and cold weather. I’d say he took a step back. At the end of the third quarter, the 49ers had -21 yards passing and Kaepernick was 1 of 5 for 4 yards. He was replaced by Blaine Gabbert in the fourth quarter.
The Bears might have won this game doubly by losing if Kaepernick had looked good. Not would it have put them into a position to draft ahead of the 49ers in 2017 but Kaepernick’s performance would have been one more reason for the 49ers to believe that he’s their future answer at quarterback and it would have given them one more reason not to draft one in the early rounds.
As it is, the question of what the 49ers will do at the quarterback position next year remains up in the air.
- There were pre-game reports that Willie Young might not play due to a knee injury. But he did play and, like the rest of the front seven when it came to the pass rush, he played well doing his part to get pressure on Kaepernick. He had a sack.
- Like the 49ers, the Bears came out running the ball against one of the worst run defenses in the league. It seemed evident from the beginning that was the plan.Of course, the problem with that plan, as with the 49ers, is that you have to execute. The Bears were constantly finding themselves in situations where it was third and long due to penalties and mistakes.
- There was almost no passing for almost the entire first half. Then the Bears went into the two minute drill and suddenly they come to life, pass their way down the field and take the lead at half time by scoring a touchdown making it 7-6. Apparent this is Matt Barkley’s specialty and they should run the offense like that all the time.
- Perhaps the best quality that Barkley possesses is that he seems to know where the ball needs to go and he gets rid of it quickly to the right spot most of the time. Barkley doesn’t hold on to the ball long. It was hard to say after the first half that he showed that again today just because there was so little passing. But where they did throw, especially I the second half, he generally looked like he did when he was at his bet last week.I thought outside linebacker Willie Young’s quote on Barkley was interesting. Young was a seventh round pick and a long shot to be in the league as long as he has been.
“Guys like me are few and far between. But if we get an opportunity, the only thing we know how to do is take advantage of it. Whatever happens after that, happens. I play on the edge. I honestly feel like [Barkley] played on the edge also.”
Despite that, I have to believe that Barkley’s physical limitations probably will keep him as a backup in the NFL and my impression is that is what the Bears see him as. But if they have only found a solid back up, at least it puts them one step closer to having a plan for the position as a whole.
- After dropping last week’s game winning touchdown and then another easy catch for a big gain early in the second half, you had to wonder if Josh Bellamy was going to collapse under the weight of his own failures. But he didn’t. He came back to make a nice catch on the same drive that he dropped the ball, setting the Bears up on the 49er 11 yard line. He then made several nice catches on the next drive, one of which brought them to the 49 six yard line. Both drives resulted in touchdowns.
- Credit the Bears patchwork offensive line for doing a decent job protecting Barkley. He was only sacked once.
- One of the younger players that has caught the Bears attention is tight end Daniel Brown, an undrafted free agent with the Ravens last year. Brown is a pass catching tight end who is a converted wide receiver. He had 3 catches for 24 yards last week in place of Zach Miller and 2 catches for 13 yards this week. Perhaps his best play was when he drew a pass interference call in the endzone that set the Bears up on the 49er one yard line near the end of the half. They scored the touchdown.You get the impression that the Bears think they’ve found something in Brown (he played in 54 of the 81 snaps last week) but its too early to tell whether he will pan out. So far so good.
- Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnston, Laura Okmin were your announcers. I thought that Johnston did a good job of providing insight into what was really a dog game no matter how you look at it. Kudos to this team for not simply phoning it in.
- It wasn’t a good game for Bears special teams. It started on the opening kick off where the 49ers returner bobbled the football but still got beyong the 25 yard line and didn’t get better from there.A blocked punt resulted in the 49ers getting the ball on the Bears 4 yard line. Fortunately the 49ers are as undisciplined as the Bears are and an unsportsman-like conduct penalty pushed them back to the 19. The 49ers settled for a field goal. Paul Lasike also dropped a kick off that ended up leaving the Bears deep in their own territory near the end of the first half.
- The Bears didn’t do too badly with only 5 penalties. But the 49ers had far too many with 11 and some, like the pass interference in the end zone that set up the Bears first touchdown, were very damaging
- Jordan Howard entered the game leading the league with 7 dropped passes this season. So its good news that he didn’t drop any today that I thought he really should have had. Despite making some good catches as mentioned above, Bellamy still had two bad drops. That really has to stop.The 49ers had some awful drops in the second half as well.
- A fumbled kickoff return by Deonte Thompson gave the ball to the 49ers the ball at the Chicago 37 yard line. This was immediately following the blocked punt that handed the 49ers a field goal. So not a good sequence. Other than that, turnovers weren’t much of a factor this game except that the Bears, one again, didn’t get any.
- I thought it was interesting that the 49ers came out “cold” in this game in more than one way. After playing well against the Dolphins last week, head coach Chip Kelly chose to keep them in sunny Orlando where the temperatures were in the 80s to practice all week. Meanwhile, the Bears were practicing in game conditions at Halas Hall. You have to wonder if Kelly’s decision to keep the team in the warm temperatures in Florida factored into the team’s slow start in this game as it was laye din some ugly winter weather.
- There were over 13,000 no shows for this game and frankly it looked like it was more than that on television. I guess that’s hardly surprising in cold weather with two of the worst teams in the NFL facing off.I’ve seen it suggested that the Bears don’t care that much about the low attendance because the tickets are already sold. I don’t know what the split is with the Chicago Parks District but I have to believe that the lost revenue from parking and concessions is significant.
You can bet your life that they care about that.
- For those of you who are looking to see if John Fox gets fired after the season is over, you can stop. He and Ryan Pace look to me like they’re joined at the hip. Yes, I know that statistically Marc Trestman’s Bears did better but Trestman lost the locker room and that had more to do with his departure than anything else. All indications are that’s not the case with Fox and unless something changes, he’s not going anywhere.
- The Bears are actually a better team than the 49ers when healthy. But you could argue that mediocre teams need seasons like this to get better. With all of the injuries that the Bears have sustained, they are probably going to end up with a higher draft pick than their roster would otherwise dictate. In the end, whether you are elite or not depends on your ability to get impact players. And those are much easier to find at the top of the draft.
- I don’t like suggesting it but there were indications that the 49ers flat out gave up late in the third quarter and into the fourth quarter in this game. There were a lot of lapses in concentration, a lot of drops, a lot of bad defense being played out there. You have to wonder how much of the problem with that team is simple lack of heart.Fortunately the young Bears don’t seem to have that problem. They seem to hang in and play hard no matter the situation. In this case it served them well as they played a team that had been playing well in tough weather and played better than they did.