The Bears need to commit to the running game and focus on short-yardage passes to beat the 49ers on Monday Night.
With Jay Cutler officially ruled out for Monday Night's game against the 49ers, the opportunity for Jason Campbell to step up and prove to the rest of the NFL that he deserves another chance as a starting quarterback could be there in front of a national audience. And while both the Bears and 49ers enter the contest with vaunted defenses , its fair to say the 49ers offense has been steadier and more productive than the Bears offense. How those offenses deal with their opponent's ferocious defense will likely be the difference in the game, and if Lovie's team gets off the bus like he always says they do, then Jason Campbell starting may be a blessing in disguise for the Bears.
One of the problems with Jason Campbell's game is his propensity to check down and make the safe throw, regardless of the situation. We saw it last week throughout the second half, with checkdown throws that were nowhere close to helping the team gain crucial yardage on second down, or convert a third down with a completed pass. His third down passes went: complete to Marshall for 18 (first down), a four-yard gain on 3rd-and-9, four straight incompletions, and an eight-yard gain on 3rd-and-16. To be fair, the last one was at the end of the game was four-down territory, but Campbell's short throws limited the offense and, even when completed, were still short of that darned yellow line.
But Campbell's short-yardage passing tendencies could be a major factor in a Bears' win on Monday Night. Take a look at the short-yardage (ball travels 15 or less yards beyond the line of scrimmage) passing numbers of all the 49ers opponents' this year except for the Jets and the Bills (those were giant blowouts and those two teams scored a total of three points). San Francisco losses and ties are bolded.
The Giants and Vikings both beat the 49ers, while the Rams tied them (and seriously should have won twice in overtime). All San Francisco wins were close games except for the Cardinals (24-3). Teams are committing to throwing the short ball against the 49ers, and having great success at, with only the Seahawks having a quarterback rating under 77. Conversely, Seattle was the only team to attempt more than six throws downfield against the 49ers, and had little to no success (2/11, 52 yards). So the 49ers, while great defensively, can be dinked and dunked to death by quarterbacks like Sam Bradford, John Skelton, and Christian Ponder. Why couldn't Jason Campbell do the same thing? Especially with a returning Alshon Jeffrey, who according to Ronk can solve a lot of the Bears offensive problems.
The other thing to look at is what the 49ers' opposition has done on the ground. Look at the team rushing numbers for those seven games, with 49er losses and ties bolded:
|Opp. Rushing Att/Yards||Turnovers (Opp-SF)|
So just looking at the rushing stats out of these seven games, we learn that the more a team runs the ball against the 49ers, the better their chances of winning. All three non-wins by the Niners this season saw an opponent run the ball thirty-plus times for at least 140 yards. The Seahawks lost by seven despite a great commitment to the run, but their passing numbers were awful that game (9/24, 122 yards total). So Lovie may need to give Tice the same speech he gave to Martz each of the past two seasons and focus on grinding out the game with his running backs. As Kay stated, even if teams are stacking the box against the Bears, Tice needs to be creative (i.e. smart) and mix things up play-calling wise. If Tice calls a good game and commits to the run, then the Bears can stay in this game and win it.
At this point you may be thinking, "okay, QB needs to be efficient and the Bears need to commit to the run, duh." But at least you can see that its possible against the formidable San Francisco defense. For the Bears to win they need both of those things to happen, and at least Tice has maintained a solid run-pass balance play-calling wise this season. I think (and call me
Gilbert crazy) that Campbell could be a perfect fit at QB for the Bears in this game as long as Tice remains committed to the run. The ground game has to be effective, but methodical drives with 3-4-5 yard plays can beat the 49ers. The Bears' defense will force some turnovers, and the turnover ratio is key (when the 49ers win the turnover battle, they win the game), but the offense needs to do what other offenses have proven capable at doing to beat San Francisco: commit to an effective running attack, and focus on high-efficiency short-yardage passes to move the chains and control the clock.