So...Monday night. Not memorable for anyone with any vested interest in the Bears. Very much so for the opposition and their fans, as the 49ers steamrolled the Bears on MNF, dominating in all 3 phases. Except for Podlesh regaining his leg, which is one the the few minor pluses that can be taken from that game.
But what happened? How does a 7-2 team get that badly embarrassed in such a huge game?
The answer, in simple terms, is the loss of their starting QB, Jay Cutler. But not for the reasons you might think.
You see, both teams' respective starting quarterbacks, the Bears' Cutler and the Niners' Smith, suffered a concussion last Sunday (Week 10). That left their respective statuses in doubt for Monday night. And that's where things get interesting...
Both teams (allegedly) had proper plan B's for just that scenario. The Bears, after last season's post-Cutler freefall, went out and signed Jason Campbell, he of 70 (now 71) starts in the league, he of the carefulness with the ball, while the 49ers had last year's second rounder, Colin Kaepernick, in tow, slowly being worked into the offense as a wildcat-type player, supposedly having a high ceiling as an NFL QB.
On Tuesday, Lovie Smith (and Cutler, etc.) ruled Jay out of the MNF game, naming Campbell (obviously) as the starter. This had a small side effect, however: the 49ers now knew that they would be going up against Campbell, not Cutler.
On the other hand, Alex Smith was not ruled out of the game until Monday morning, meaning the Bears would have to prepare for both possibilities, weighted in some way, but prepare for both, nevertheless. Given the differences between the Kaepernick and Smith, the gameplan would have a few changes, depending on who ended up playing.
So the 49ers knew to gameplan for Campbell, whereas the Bears likely split practice 50/50 (or 70/30, etc. "split" is the key here) between gameplanning for Smith vs. Kaepernick. Which brings up another point:
Campbell had 70 starts. That's more than 4 full seasons worth of tape, including some as recently as last year. That's more than enough tape to go back and figure out tendencies, style, and the like, given the slim chance Campbell did anything to change his ways. The Bears, however, had next to nothing on Kaepernick. Instead of 70 games, there were maybe 70 plays in Kaepernick's NFL career, and most of them were runs by the mobile guy. So in addition to splitting gameplan time between prep for Smith and Kaepernick, the Bears had little, if anything, off which to base their gameplan for CK (they likely resorted to college tape), whereas the 49ers had a treasure trove of intel on Campbell.
On offense, the Bears were practically shut down. Why? Because the 49ers knew Campbell isn't as mobile as Jay Cutler. They knew that if they blanketed BMarsh, Campbell, being the safe QB he is, wouldn;t take the risk and put it up for him. They knew he likes to check down, and they had that covered. Couple that with Tice's inexplicable aversion to running the ball (or infatuation with throwing it), and you have a recipe for disaster. Throwing the ball is hard when you can't run, and running the ball is hard when you don't actually run the ball. That, plus the 49ers already stellar defense, ended up in the Bears' accumulating less than 150 yards of offense.
On defense, the Bears did not know what to expect from Kaepernick. They knew he could run...and that's about it. They didn't expect that he would throw with the precision that he did on the first few drives. They expected a young player who would make his share of his mistakes, and boy, were they ever wrong. The Bears wanted CK to make the right throws, easy enough, but to make them well, which isn't always as easy. (Though Vernon Davis on Major Wright? Is there anyone who can throw a ball gonna miss that, let alone an NFL QB?) Kaepernick showed why the 49ers took him in the second round last year, and he did it against one of the top defenses in the league (and possibly, at season's end, one of the best in NFL history).
A team won't win a game getting beat in 2 out of 3 phases, though the ST battle was a virtual scratch, but for Devin Hester losing a couple dozen yards on that one return...
So there you have it. The Bears were outplayed on Monday night, to put it lightly, and I believe the aforementioned reasons at least contributed to that debacle. Perhaps the Bears were underprepared, but the circumstances were hardly conducive to anything else.