The Bears took a tough loss against the Texans on Sunday night. Can they get back to their winning ways against the Niners? We're previewing the Monday night opponent.
Last Year: Finished 13-3, taking first place in the NFC West and advancing to the NFC Championship game before falling to the eventual Super Bowl Champion Giants, thanks partly to some special teams miscues at the hands of a concussed Kyle Williams, but more due to the 316 passing yards and two touchdowns of Eli Manning despite six Niners sacks. The man who picked up Williams' fumble? One-time Bear Devin Thomas.
This Year: PFR had to break out the ol' tie column as the Niners currently sit at 6-2-1, first place in the NFC West, after falling to a tie against the St. Louis Rams.
When Last We Met: If you want to remember this one, something's wrong with you. The Bears could only muster two field goals behind five interceptions (but 307 passing yards - I think in most standard fantasy leagues, that's a two-point performance, if you're lucky) as the Niners beat the Bears on Thursday Night Football in Jay Cutler's first season as a Bear, 10-6. Matt Forte had 120 yards through the air, and Greg Olsen and Devin Hester caught seven balls apiece (Olsen for 75 yards, Hester for 48). Frank Gore ran for 104 and a touchdown, and Alex Smith threw for 118.
Total Yardage: 11th
Total Points: 15th
Rushing Yardage: 1st
Passing Yardage: 28th
There are two things this offense runs behind: Frank and Gore. ... Wait, that's one thing. ... Either way, Gore (and backup running back Kendall Hunter) account for about 32% of the Niners' offense combined, on the ground (which is, you know, more use than a lot of other running backs). The other factor to the Niners' rushing is a pair of fairly mobile quarterbacks, between Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick. Smith's 4.6 yards-per-carry is pretty good, but it pales before Kaepernick's 8.4. Toss in Gore's 5.4 and Hunter's 5.0 (over 63 carries) and this is a team that knows how to run the ball behind a powerful offensive line (that is less Chilo Rachal, for obvious reasons).
Alex Smith looks like he'll be back on Monday night from his concussion, so the Bears will draw a passing game that's been much more careful with the ball than in years past. And much better as well - Smith's quarterback rating on the season is a 104.1. (For fun with numbers, ESPN's QBR has Kaepernick rated higher on the season. Commence your laughter, heartily.) The Niners also added a couple new receivers last season, most notably Mario Manningham from the Giants and Randy Moss to pair with Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis. After those four it's Ted Ginn Jr. and Kyle Williams, and first round pick AJ Jenkins has seen nothing but sideline.
Total Yardage: 3rd
Total Points: 1st
Rushing Yardage: 7th
Passing Yardage: 5th
We'll start by saying they've allowed only eight touchdowns through the air, the fewest in the league, as well as the league's fourth-lowest yards-per-rushing attempt and fifth-lowest net-yards-per-passing-attempt. Yeah... The defense isn't a bad thing at all, unless you're facing it. (Oh wait.)
Start up front with pass rushers Aldon Smith and Ahmad Brooks, we'll call it a 3-4 base and call it a day, because you know what 3-4 base looks usually have meant to the Bears in terms of stopping a pass rush. In seriousness though, Aldon Smith has benefited from some great play in front of him and some nice rushing holes to rip through. And in coverage, Patrick Willis and Navorro Bowman have been their usual consistent selves. On the backside, Dashon Goldson made his first Pro Bowl last season and hasn't really been off the pace this year, and Donte Whitner isn't too bad beside him on the strong side. At corner, the Niners have another first-time Pro Bowler in Carlos Rogers, who just came over from the Redskins prior to last season. I suppose fortunately for the Bears, he isn't DeAngelo Hall.
If the Bears do this...: If the Bears find new ways to stop or slow the pass rush, or get the ball out quicker, providing the player catches the ball, the Bears should be okay as long as they continue to execute down the field, something they haven't shown the capability to do consistently. Alshon Jeffery could be back on Monday, which would be a blessing lining up opposite Brandon Marshall. Aside from that, probably clamping down on the run and forcing Smith or Kaepernick to beat them (taking out their strongest weapon; Arian Foster only ran for about 3.5 per carry with plenty of stuffs).
If the Niners do this...: Well, Aldon Smith wearing Jason Campbell like a funny hat wouldn't be very funny. And of course if Frank Gore goes off, all bets are off - he had 131 in the Niners' win over the Seahawks three weeks ago and 97 last week against the Rams, so for being in the league since 2005 he's got something left in the tank. Like Matt Schaub, Alex Smith will do his best to not put the ball in harm's way, so staying turnover-free is big for the Niners.
Closing Thoughts: At least it won't be rainy out west; plus, I'd like to see what Campbell looks like after he has a full week to prepare as the starter. Also, I wouldn't mind seeing David Akers step onto the field again this year - he has been anything but good and consistent at this point in his career.