It's a match-up that doesn't look great for the Bears on paper. The 49ers have a potent rushing attack that the Bears somewhat improved rushing attack may not be able to match. But before we worry too much about that, let's get to know the opponent.
David Fucillo (@NinersNation) of Niners Nation took the time to answer some questions about the head coach, the personnel, and give us some injury updates. Make sure to check them out for up-to-the-minute coverage of SF.
1. It feels like we constantly hear about Jim Harbaugh's tenure in SF, whether it is the team reportedly trying to trade him, him wanting to leave, or fans being upset. Besides the pleated Wal-Mart khakis, can you give some insight into why this relationship seems so tempestuous for a coach who has been to three straight NFC Championship games and 1 Super Bowl?
Jim Harbaugh is an intense personality. He is competitive to a fault, and while that has built the 49ers into a Super Bowl contender, it also may have led to some tough working relationships. And considering how close this team has come the last three years, I would expect some tension. He is a guy who does not seem to enjoy talking to the media too much, but he is a charismatic individual so his media sessions often can be entertaining, and draw attention.
There has been plenty of chatter about Harbaugh wanting more money or more power, looking at other job options. Harbaugh has denied all this, and he and Jed York have both said they have tabled contract negotiations until the end of the season. If the 49ers win the Super Bowl, I think he signs a sizable extension. If the 49ers do not win the Super Bowl, I honestly have no idea what happens.
2. As mentioned in the previous, this team has been on the brink for several years in a row. How long do you think that window is open for this current group, and do you think they stay this successful if Harbaugh does go somewhere?
The championship window for this team will depend on how the last two draft classes develop. The 49ers put together a very strong 2011 class that includes starters like QB Colin Kaepernick, OLB Aldon Smith, CB Chris Culliver, C Daniel Kilgore, FB Bruce Miller, NT Ian Williams. They then more or less struck out in 2012, with only right guard Joe Looney remaining from that class (and he'll be replaced by Alex Boone soon). In 2013, they employed a strategy that brought in some immediatey contributors, but also invested in injured players they could effectively redshirt. Eric Reid was the biggest contributor, with TE Vance McDonald getting a lot of on-the-job learning, and Corey Lemonier helping replace Aldon Smith during his rehab last year (and now suspension this year). In 2014, the 49ers once again drafted some injured players, but also have found potentially strong candidates to contribute this year, including DB Jimmie Ward, RB Carlos Hyde, CB Dontae Johnson, WR Bruce Ellington, OLB Aaron Lynch and ILB Chris Borland.
All of this is to say, with the 49ers having locked up Colin Kaepernick to a big deal, the team will have to do a better job hitting on draft picks. They need to hit on the inexpensive options because their free agency options will be more limited moving forward.
If Harbaugh were to leave, the talent is there, but it really would depend on the coach who replaced him. The 49ers had talent under Mike Singletary, but he was just an awful head coach. If the 49ers had to replace Jim Harbaugh, it really would all depend on the guy they found to replace him.
3. Can you give us a new addition to the 49ers lineup, be it offense or defense, that has you really excited for the future of the team?
I'll give you two, one on each side of the ball. On offense, Carlos Hyde has 49ers fans really fired up. Frank Gore remains the lead back, but Hyde looks like the guy who will firmly take over the lead back role in 2015. Hyde looked solid in training camp, and then put together a great display during his seven carries against the Cowboys. I don't think he surpasses Gore on the depth chart this year, but I have to think he earns more and more work as the year rolls on.
On defense, defensive back Jimmie Ward is the big name from the draft, but fourth round pick Dontae Johnson is making a name for himself in the secondary. The rookie cornerback has quickly climbed the depth chart to become one of the primary backups on the outside. When both starting cornerbacks got hurt last week, Johnson joined Perrish Cox in the starting lineup. Johnson gave up a touchdown late, but otherwise did a solid job in coverage. He will return to a primarily reserve and special teams role once Brock and Culliver are healthy, but he is proving he can be a player in this league.
4. Any noteworthy injuries that Bears fans should be aware of?
Anthony Davis, RT: The 49ers right tackle missed the entire preseason due to offseason shoulder surgery. He was back practicing late in the preseason, with plans on starting Week 1, but a hamstring injury has slowed him down. He did not practice Wednesday, and odds are pretty good he will not play. Jonathan Martin would start in his place. After a slow start in the preseason, he has actually come on quite well the last few weeks, and is a capable fill-in for Davis.
Tramaine Brock/Chris Culliver, CBs: Against the Cowboys, Brock suffered a sprained toe that is being described as turf toe, while Culliver suffered a concussion. Turf toe can linger, so it is hard to know what exactly to expect with Brock this weekend. Culliver is going through the concussion protocol, so again, we probably won't know if he is cleared until Saturday at the earliest. Perrish Cox is the first cornerback off the bench right now, with Dontae Johnson right behind him. The 49ers will also activate Chris Cook as the third outsider corner option.
5. If you could pluck one player off of the Chicago Bears roster, who would it be, and why?
For this particular week, I might also have to make it Robbie Gould. 49ers kicker Phil Dawson had a strong 2013 season, but his 2014 is not off to a good start. He struggled early in the preseason, and then missed a relatively simple 37-yard field goal against the Cowboys in his lone field goal attempt. It was only one regular season game, but with the importance of the mental side of kicking, who knows what that means.
Normally I'd say either Brandon Marshall or Alshon Jeffery. I think the 49ers have a strong wide receiver corps, but I would never turn down either of those guys. If I had to pick one though, it would be Jeffery (injury this week, aside). He is younger and cheaper, and considering the 49ers picked wide receiver A.J. Jenkins ahead of Jeffery, I wouldn't mind seeing the 49ers re-do that one.
5a. C'mon - give us a score prediction.
I'll go 31-17. I really think the 49ers offense has the firepower to put up a big number on the Bears defense. The Bears offense has its own strengths on offense, but I don't think it's enough to get them the win. But I do see a high scoring game
Thanks again, David. Best wishes in weeks 3-17.
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