The Chicago Bears’ season got off to a rough start on Sunday in a 23-20 overtime loss to the Buffalo Bills, but the football gods clearly have no sympathy for them as a road trip to the West Coast looms in Week 2.
The Bears will head to Santa Clara to help open the new Levi’s Stadium, as the San Francisco 49’ers show off their new digs for the world. The game, which will be NBC’s Sunday Night Football contest, will feature the 49’ers show-stopping blend of defensive prowess and aggressive offensive ability, and will be a huge test for a Bears team that was shown to be a step behind in their loss to the Bills.
While EJ Manuel and the Bills were able to use a combination of run plays and the read-option, the 49’ers are going to take everything to the next level. Colin Kaepernick is an elusive runner to be sure, but his strong arm was on full display as the Niners dismantled the Dallas Cowboys in a Week 1 romp. He went 16-of-23 for 201 yards and two touchdowns in the game, and he helped the team convert seven of the 12 third downs that they faced in the contest.
Kaepernick’s skillset was on full display even on the first drive of the game. With the Cowboys’ pass rush showing some surprising speed, Kaepernick was forced to move around the pocket, but he calmly completed two straight passes in the process, including a perfect strike to Vernon Davis over the middle for a score. On that play, Kaepernick shed two attempted tackles and threw the ball on the dead run, and that’s something that’s obviously really difficult to defend against.
The third down conversions that the Niners had against the Cowboys are another good example of what to look for when the Bears take the field Sunday. In those situations, Kaepernick would not only occasionally deploy the read option, but he also made several plays in checkdown situations, and that’s where a nickel corner like Tim Jennings or a linebacker like Lance Briggs is going to come in handy. Anquan Boldin and Stevie Johnson both ran several patterns over the middle of the field, and the Bears were frequently vacating those areas in their Sunday loss to the Bills.
If they can’t find a way to keep inside position on those routes, the 49’ers are going to rack up first downs on those short slant patterns.
Despite the bad tidings about the read option and Kaepernick’s ability to throw the ball to all areas of the field, there are some bits of good news for the Bears. With several of their main defensive players absent, the 49’ers seemed to have a tough time keeping the Dallas running game in check. DeMarco Murray ran roughshod over San Francisco on plays to the edges, and even up the middle he was picking up chunks of yardage.
In total, the Niners conceded five yards per carry to the Cowboys, and that’s something that a running back like Matt Forte can exploit. He looked great in his performance against the Bills, and if the Bears can establish their passing game early with Martellus Bennett and Santonio Holmes, then Forte could have similar success to Murray.
Even with that being the case, this still has the potential to be a long night for the Bears. Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller ran roughshod over them in Week 1, and Frank Gore and Carlos Hyde are going to provide a similar challenge this time around. The Niners’ running back is going to be tough to stop, but if the Bears can clean up some of the defensive mistakes that they made in Week 1, they may have a chance to make a big statement in this one.