By Bryan Dietzler
After beating the Green Bay Packers just ten days prior to this game, you would have thought that the Chicago Bears would have had all the momentum and wherewithal to come in and win their game this Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers. On paper they were the better team and with the 49ers having a newer quarterback in the lineup and not winning a game on the road so far this season it appeared as if this game would be there for the taking for Chicago. But it was just not meant to be.
The 49ers came into Soldier Field and played a pretty tough game against the Bears and beat them 26-20 in overtime. The game featured a lot of mistakes and inefficiency by the Bears and these issues contributed to the Bears loss. There were problems with all three phases of the team in this game and the Bears proved to many that they just aren’t ready to make a playoff run or able to win as many games as some thought they would win to close out the season. There is still a lot of work for this team to do.
The following is a look five key factors that contributed to the Bears losing. There are some individuals that need special mention as well as some units that struggled or did well in the loss. Finally there is a recap of the Bears play in the game and where the might go from here.
Special Teams Failures-The Bears special teams did a good job and a bad job in this game. There was the blocked extra point that helped keep the game tied in the early going and that was a good play. There was also the kick return that gave the Bears excellent field position late in the fourth quarter to attempt to win the game. But then you had the holding call on Bryce Callahan’s punt return for a touchdown and Robbie Gould’s two missed field goals, including the critical one that would have won the game for the Bears and there was a mix of good and bad for the special teams. One thing if for sure, the special teams units played a big part in losing this game for the Bears. Something has to be done to tighten them up and get them to play better or the Bears will continue to lose these close games.
Defense, Not So Much-The defense played pretty well for the most part but had a couple of key breakdowns that allowed the 49ers to tie the game (at the end of regulation) and then eventually win the game (in overtime). Overall they played a decent enough game and tightened up against the run really well after having failed at that in the previous two games. Had the Bears defense tightened up on those two plays, much like they had done all game, the Bears would have won. The defense did slip a bit in this game and took a step back.
Passing Game Woes-The Bears came in with just a couple of receivers on the injured list and inactive for the game. They were Marques Wilson and Eddie Royal. Even without top receivers in the lineup quarterback Jay Cutler has been able to complete passes to the other receivers, his tight ends and his running backs and in this game he had a hard time doing it. It wasn’t like the 49ers were getting a ton of pressure on Cutler but they were covering his receivers well. Still, there were times when Cutler’s passes were errant and where he clearly didn’t connect well with his receivers. Something was a little bit off about him yesterday and it didn’t help the offense that he was playing “off key” yesterday.
The Pass Pressure-The Bears were able to get some decent pass pressure on Gabbert yesterday and while he didn’t throw any interceptions yesterday he was forced to throw some passes, in a hurry that fell incomplete or missed their mark. The Bears, all together, got four sacks against the 49ers, including two by defensive tackle Eddie Goldman as he had a solid game. The pass rush has been getting better over the past couple of games and the team will hope it continues to improve as they have some pretty decent passing offenses up ahead on their schedule so it will be important that they keep up the solid play. One thing to point out is that the Bears were able to get good pass pressure by just rushing four players as they didn’t blitz a lot in this game. It’s good when they can get pressure with just their front as opposed to having to send extra players.
Penalty Issues-The Bears continued their mistake laden ways (as a carryover from their game against the Packers on Thanksgiving) by committing several penalties in critical situations. There was the afore mentioned penalty on Callahan’s punt return for a touchdown along with several other key penalties that kept the Bears from moving the ball effectively or allowed the 49ers to keep the ball moving. The Bears have to tighten up their mistakes and not make so many in critical situations or at all. This is directly related to discipline and right now the Bears aren’t a very disciplined team.
Chicago had every chance to win this game and lost it due to mistakes in a few different areas. Special teams, in particular the kicking game, really let them down. The Bears could have won the game outright had they made just one of the two missed field goals. The could have put a lot of points on the board had they been able to move the ball into the end zone on offense with all the opportunities that they had throughout the game. But they just couldn’t move the ball effectively and just couldn’t punch it in.
The Bears defense, one of the best in the NFL against the pass, had a letdown in this game and did some things that they don’t normally do. The have a very athletic and strong secondary and they weren’t able to stop the Gabbert run or come down with good coverage on that long pass in overtime. The Bears defense didn’t tighten down when they needed to and it cost them the game. They allowed two touchdowns, which is about their average, to a team that wasn’t putting up a lot of points to begin with. The Bears were the better team heading into this game but walked out a lesser team than what we saw in Green Bay on Thanksgiving.
The Bears will play the Washington Redskins, at Soldier Field, next Sunday. As of right now the Redskins haven’t completed their Monday night game against the Cowboys but Washington is another one of these teams that are not playing that well and that the Bears should take advantage of but if the 49ers game is any indication this is going to be another tough game for Chicago. You can just about count them of the playoffs but they will still want to finish strong. Can they compete and beat the Redskins? A full preview of that game will be coming up at the end of this week.