Yesterday's win against the now-1-and-11 Niners staved off any hopes of the second overall draft pick falling into the Bears hands, and that's okay, honestly. Sure, having the higher draft pick would be nice, especially as having the prime choice of picks or ammunition to trade down for more picks, but in the midst of a rebuild, you have to trust the GM to hit on as many possible picks as possible. The other part with winning these games is that, maybe, just maybe, somebody steps up and reduces the list of needs.
Though being a three-win team isn't much better than a one-win team at the twelve-game mark. And the two teams gave us the expected result - a sloppy game in sloppy weather where one team managed to temporarily put out the dumpster fire en route to a blowout win on the scoreboard. Okay, nobody had the second part of that, but it happened because Jordan Howard stayed gainfully employed for the entire game and Matt Barkley either got bit by a radioactive spider or found a phone booth with a spare costume in it or something (something like finding a bad defense to play against?). And, oh yeah, the defense set the tone early by shutting down Colin Kaepernick's ability to throw - or at least, whatever the weather hadn't already shut down.
But it took a while for things to get going; admittedly, I spent the first quarter setting up house decorations while the TV, so I was relieved to come back to the game full time and not have missed anything of consequence - a couple of silly penalties on both sides and the Niners passing up a 50 yard field goal chance in the snow on 4th and 9 to punt 26 yards to pin the Bears at their 5. On 4th and 12 from their own 14, Pat O'Donnell had a punt deflected and returned 25 yards to the 4 yard line - which was brought back to the 19 on excessive celebration because the Niners thought they scored. They were, of course, held to a field goal on the ensuing drive. After Deonte Thompson fumbled the very next kick return away, the Niners added another field goal after a nine-play drive of nothing but runs. Both teams were extremely hesitant to put the ball in the air - only 33 pass attempts the entire game. Of course, Matt Barkley would get that ball rolling.
In the two-minute drill, Barkley hit Deonte Thompson twice, then found Cameron Meredith for 28 yards, then hit Meredith again for 17 yards. A toss to Daniel Brown was ruled defensive pass interference in the end zone (a possible break; there was a hand on the back-side hip, but hard to say if it impacted Brown's ability to make a play). Jordan Howard punched in the game's first touchdown and the game went to half.
The Bears churned out the opening drive of the second half for a touchdown, as Barkley rode Jordan Howard into manageable 2nd and short and 3rd and short to keep plays open. 2nd and 4 resulted in defensive holding drawn by Josh Bellamy, who had a very up and down game - more on that later. 3rd and 6 resulted in a deep throw to Meredith for 22 yards. 3rd and 7, Barkley found Bellamy deep for 24 yards. 2nd and 8 resulted in a weird fake-reverse shovel pass to Daniel Brown for 7 yards, and Jordan Howard finished the drive with a touchdown.
The Bears weren't done yet, as the next drive it only took them four plays. Barkley to Bellamy picked up 22 yards to the SF 37. Barkley to Bellamy again took them 31 yards to the 5. Howard took it from there, powering forward through tacklers to the end zone for his third touchdown of the game.
Another series of three and outs brings us to the end of the third quarter with the Bears looking to add on. Barkley found Thompson for 31 yards, but it was brought back by what looked like a push-off at live speed for offensive pass interference (yes, there was some doubt as to the OPI, but live speed, it looked right). Bellamy picked up another 28 yards on two catches this drive, but after Barkley was sacked for the only time this game, the Bears punted.
But the game wasn't over yet, and the Niners subbed in Blaine Gabbert (yes, he of the 44 yard scramble and the 71 yard overtime throw to beat the Bears last season). Faced with 2nd and 5 from their own 8 yard line, Gabbert backed up into his own end zone. Unfortunately for him, it was Leonard Floyd on the pursuit, who picked him the safety and his second sack on the game (7th of the season).
- So much to unpack here, but let's give some kudos to the Bears for not handing in their uniforms before the game started. They played a bad team as a bad team, and they found a way to win the game they should have won, and did so convincingly. On another note, that Niners team is in a weird, bad place.
- Josh Bellamy is frustrating. He led the game with 93 yards on 4 receptions and yet he should have had at least another 50 yards and a touchdown with two infuriating drops. The Twitterverse focused on Bellamy leaving his feet perhaps "unnecessarily," but how about the "hits him in the hands, bounces into his chest, and still bounces away" part.
- (Another thing: The Bears' receiving corps is officially all UDFA at this point, with Marquess Wilson leaving in the first half. The Bears are working with Jordan Howard, shoestring, scotch tape and four empty cans of soda and they still put up the most points they have all season. That includes the offensive line, which even saw Whitehair have to leave with an ankle injury.)
- Hey, Dowell Loggains can keep the ball on the ground when he absolutely has to. Howard was a 32 carry workhorse yesterday for 117 yards to go with those 3 touchdowns. A great game, especially considering the inclement conditions.
- Matt Barkley was mostly on point, at least as "on point" as 11/18 for 192 yards (also factor in Bellamy's drops) can be. The weather caused some issues, but the Niners also left the Bears' receivers with windows that Tim Tebow could hit. Barkley wasn't really challenged with coverages or pass rush and one deep completion to Bellamy was a 50/50 ball that either Bellamy or the defensive back could have hauled in; Bellamy pulled it away. All things considered, though, Barkley has outperformed expectations of a third string/fourth choice emergency quarterback through two games.
- For what the garbage stat is worth, Jay Cutler, Brian Hoyer, and Matt Barkley each have one "quarterback win" this year.
- Speaking of pass rush, the Bears did a great job on Kaepernick and Gabbert. Kaep got away a couple times, but the Bears still picked up 6 sacks on the day, including two by Floyd and two by Akiem Hicks (Eddie Goldman and Willie Young picked up the other two). Floyd is really developing as a pass rusher and Hicks has been a huge add this year, also adding 10 tackles to the stat sheet.
- Nick Kwiatkoski had 9 tackles, but also had two really good batted down passes. John Timu was credited with a pass defended as well, but that's because you can't give separate credit to a helmet.
- Pat O'Donnell's day wasn't awful, just a little thrown off by a deflected and returned punt. Somebody wasn't lined up right on the punt block. The other punts were all generally solid, including a 52 yarder.
- Niners. 2.7 yards per play, 6 passing yards, and 11 penalties for 106 yards. They gave back a full two-thirds of what they gained in the game. No, you probably aren't going to win many games doing that. The Bears, meanwhile, only had 5 penalties for 40 yards (minimal damage in comparison) and were three of four in the red zone.
So what did we take away from this game? One, that the players won't settle for a draft pick that they may not even be around to benefit from next season. Two, that the Niners are really bad. Three, the Bears had an opponent that they could beat convincingly and they did so. It doesn't mean that this team doesn't have work to do - no, there's a lot of work that has to be done, but maybe some of the snaps of these last few games earns somebody a spot on next year's roster as depth.
What did you take away from yesterday's game?