The Chicago Bears are out on the West Coast Sunday night for a showdown with the San Francisco 49’ers, but while the matchup is going to be a stern test, it can be a winnable game if the Bears play better than they did last week against the Buffalo Bills.
We’ll have keys for the game a little bit later this afternoon, but in the meantime, here are five players that will need to step up in a big way for the Bears:
LB Lance Briggs
Briggs was the subject of plenty of controversy last week, with his decision to miss practice for a restaurant opening and his alleged partying until 4am Saturday morning both contributing to the narrative that he’s a veteran just playing out the string. He didn’t do much to dispel the notion in the game either, completely vacating his gap several times on defense and allowing a 47-yard run to Anthony Dixon in the process.
If the Bears are going to win Sunday, Briggs has to be more disciplined than he was in that Buffalo game, and he’ll have to put the distractions of the past few weeks behind him.
RB Matt Forte
Forte rushed for 82 yards against the Bills (and ended up with 169 all-purpose yards in total, but this week he will need to be an even bigger force against the 49’ers. He’ll be in for a tough test over the middle of the field with Patrick Willis lurking, but with players like Aldon Smith and Navarro Bowman out of the lineup for the Niners, Forte has the potential to still have a big week…and the Bears will need him to.
WR Santonio Holmes
With Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery either limited or completely out of the game, Holmes is going to have to really show that he’s up to speed with the Bears’ game plan. He had two catches for 21 yards and was targeted five times against the Bills in Week 1, and all of those numbers could skyrocket with his status as the best healthy receiver the Bears have.
S Ryan Mundy
During the overtime period of Sunday’s loss to the Bills, Mundy was given a gap assignment by Briggs, missed it, and allowed Fred Jackson to scamper for the run that would ultimately set up the game-winning field goal. His first game as a Bear wasn’t all bad, but against a 49’ers team loaded with good wide receivers, and a quarterback who can run at any time, Mundy will have to be in top form at the strong safety position.
DT Jeremiah Ratliff
Speaking of run-stoppers who will need to be on top of their game, Ratliff is going to need a repeat of his Week 1 performance. He was all over the defensive line in that game, stopping up the Bills’ run game and making life miserable for them as they tried to get going. He has been a good addition to the Bears since coming over from the Dallas Cowboys last season, and he’ll need to be in top form again in this one.