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Bears-Niners Observations

The Bears won a game, could some building blocks be emerging?

NFL: San Francisco 49ers at Chicago Bears Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports

The Bears beat a terrible 49ers team but a win is a win and they have been scarce for Chicago.

The team used their M.O. of getting after the QB on defense and a smash mouth running game on offense to wear down a Niners team that cannot stop the run and, apparently, can’t pass when it’s snowing.

No one is going to get convinced that somehow the Bears are going to be much better down the stretch or that they have found the QB of the future in Matt Barkley but, aside from watching draft position, the games are only worth watching to see how young players are developing and there were definitely some signs of that Sunday.

The defense is coming along - The Bears did not record a sack for two straight games against New York and Tennessee but exploded back on Sunday with six sacks of Colin Kaepernick and Blaine Gabbert. The Niners have given up the fifth-most sacks in the league but that is still a good feat and it wasn’t just one player.

The Bears are one of two teams with three players that have at least six sacks (the other in Minnesota). Akiem Hicks (6), Leonard Floyd (7) and Willie Young (7.5) have been harassing opposing QBs and since Eddie Goldman came back, he’s been getting on the action along with Pernell McPhee.

Another defender coming on is Nick Kwiatkoski - Kwiatoski got a couple chances earlier this season and flashed but didn’t jump off the screen. Now, however, being thrust into the lineup due to the suspension of Jerrell Freeman and the injury to Danny Trevathan, he seems to be catching up to the NFL game. Kwiatkoski finished Sunday with nine tackles, two tackles for loss and two pass break ups. He showed power and awareness and the ability to get off of blocks. While the jury might be out on the other fourth round picks, Kwatkoski looks like he could be a player.

Hate to be the bearer of bad news - Matt Barkley probably isn’t the answer at QB. I’m not saying he can’t be, but it’s unlikely. Barkley has played all right after bouncing back from a very rough first half against the Titans and an awful debut back in the Green Bay game.

Barkley was highly heralded coming out of high school and he’s just never quite lived up to the potential. He has the makings of a very good back up quarterback but I’m just not seeing all the tools of a franchise signal caller.

Also keep in mind that the Titans and the 49ers rank 28th and 29th in Football Outsiders’ DVOA, which is a big formula that ranks a defense against an average and adjusts for opponents.

Both teams also rank near the bottom in pass defense DVOA (26th for Tennessee, 24th for San Francisco). Bottom line, he’s been performing well against bad defenses.

The thing is, the Bears don’t have a ton of tough defenses left on the schedule, by normal ranks or by DVOA. The Lions are 15th in traditional rankings and second-to-last in DVOA, the Packers are 13th in traditional rankings and 17th in DVOA, Washington is 23rd in traditional rankings and 25th in DVOA. The Vikings remain the toughest opponent, defensively, on the schedule, ranking third in yards per game and sixth in DVOA. Yet by the time the Bears meet them in Week 17 they could have their playoff spot wrapped up and have little to play for, although with the tight NFC North race that seems unlikely.

Barkley’s performance merits watching but keep in mind the level of defense he is carving up (if he carves them up).

What caught your eye Sunday?