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Game Preview: 49ers-Bears

Could this be a letdown spot for the Bears against a surging 49ers squad?

San Francisco 49ers v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

While the Bears successfully turned their fortunes around at Soldier Field this year and defended their home turf to the tune of a 7-1 home record, their road record is a more pedestrian 3-3.

Now with just two games remaining, they have two chances to get above the .500 mark and finish with a winning home and away record.

First up is a trip to San Francisco Santa Clara, where the Bears have had their troubles before.

San Francisco was a house of horrors for the Bears from the 1980s until Candlestick’s demolition a couple of years ago. Luckily, since the 49ers now play in Santa Clara at Levi’s Stadium, some of those horrors are long ago forgotten.

The 49ers, like the Giants, are having a rough season but have been playing better of late, will the Bears take care of business, or lay another egg on the road?

San Francisco 49ers

SB Nation site: Niners Nation

Game Day/TV/Time: Sunday, 3:05 p.m. CT, FOX

Record: 4-10

Last week: 26-23 win over the Seattle Seahawks in OT

Bears all-time record against: 34-31-1 (including postseason)

Historical match ups: The last time the Bears traveled to Santa Clara was Sept. 14, 2014 for the opening game in Levi’s Stadium.

Despite jumping out to a 17-0 lead and eventually a 20-7 lead, the 49ers lost to the Bears 28-20 as Jay Cutler led Chicago to 21 fourth quarter points and threw four touchdowns.

Last meeting: The Robbie Gould Revenge Game.

Dec. 3, 2017, the Bears hosted the 49ers. The 1-10 49ers came to Soldier Field and despite holding Jimmy Garoppolo and San Fran out of the endzone, the Bears couldn’t outscore their former kicker. Gould made five field goals, including one with :04 left to win 15-14.

Offense: The 49ers come in ranked 22nd in points and 13th in yards.

With Garoppolo on IR they are led by Nick Mullens (64.5 pct. cmp./1,754 yds./10 TD/6 INT) who has gone from undrafted practice squad player to surprising starter.

Mullens has been effective as a starter, going 3-3. He’s been throwing to breakout TE George Kittle (72 rec./1,154 yds./4 TD), WR Kendrick Bourne (33/355/3), FB Kyle Jusczyk (29/309/1) and RB Matt Breida (26/255/2). Dante Pettis (24/446/5) and Marquise Goodwin (20/366/4) remain deep threats and effective weapons, although without the heavy targets of some of the others. Overall, the 49ers passing game is ranked 15th in yards.

The San Francisco rushing attack is ranked 10th in yards. Led by Breida (149 att./794 yds./3 TD), they have been effective running the ball. Alfred Morris (95/317/1) is also contributing a little bit.

Defense: The 49ers rank 26th in points allowed but are 12th in yards allowed.

They’re 12th in passing yards allowed and 14th in rushing yards allowed. They’ve allowed the third-most passing touchdowns and the 13th fewest rushing touchdowns.

The 49ers have the fewest defensive takeaways in the league with just five.

They are led by DeForest Buckner (11 sacks/16 TFL/19 QB hits) Ronald Blair (5.5 sacks/8 TFL/12 QB hits) and Arik Armstead (3 sacks/6 TFL/12 QB hits) up front.

Behind them are LBs Fred Warner (105 TKL/6 PD/1 FF/ 1 FR) and Elijah Lee (44 TKL/2 PD/1 FF).

The 49ers have been decimated by injuries, especially on the defensive side of the ball.

In the backfield of the defense are Richard Sherman (32 TKL/4 PD/1 FR), Antone Exum (35 TKL/5 PD/1 INT/1 FF) and Jaquiski Tartt (42 TKL/1 INT/2 PD).

Injury report: The 49ers listed eight players on their Wednesday injury report:

Did not participate: T Joe Staley (not injury related), LB Mark Nzeocha (groin)

Limited: RB Matt Breida (ankle), DB Antone Exum Jr. (hip), C Weston Richburg (knee), LB Malcolm Smith (achilles), S Jaquiski Trutt (shoulder), CB K’Waun Williams (knee)

Key match ups: It’s pretty straightforward for the defense: shut down the running game and pressure Mullens.

Mullens is not a scrambler or much of a threat to run at all (see his 17 attempts for -14 yards) so if the Bears can slow down Breida and make Mullens beat them from the pocket, you have to like the defense’s chance to win.

In the defensive backfield, Roquan Smith, Danny Trevathan and Sherrick McManis are all likely to have to line up across from George Kittle at some point. Kittle is the main receiving weapon and defending him is paramount. Kittle has all the great TE features: size, speed and hands.

If they don’t let him get downfield or make huge plays, the rest of the 49ers receivers aren’t big threats.

For the offense, it’s about giving Mitchell Trubisky time, the San Francisco secondary has been really banged up so there will be guys open, but the 49ers’ main threat is DT Buckner.

What to watch for: Can the Bears shake off their habit of sleepwalking through some of these road games early?

This game reminds me a lot of the Giants game, although I think that the 49ers are a lot more banged up, but they are getting the most out of the players they have and play very well at home.

San Francisco has played well of late and all of their wins have come at home. The Bears have better overall talent, but this game could stay closer than it appears.

Key stats: The 49ers have 5 turnovers on defense, the Bears have 35

San Francisco hasn’t had a defensive takeaway since Oct. 28. The Bears have had 18 since then.

Mullens likes playing at Levi’s Stadium: He’s thrown 7 TDs to 3 INT at home vs. 3 TD to 3 INT on the road

Kittle has 39 more receptions than the next closest 49er

The Bears have allowed 20.7 points per game on the road, vs. 17.5 at home. The Bears have played two more home games than road games

The pick: Bears 31, 49ers 24 - I think this game is going to be closer than we want but ultimately the Bears will win. To see my analysis and pick of the betting lines for the game click here to read my piece on Sports Bet Collective.

What do you think the Bears need to do to win? Is this a trap game?