Thursday, November 12, 2009

Bears will try to keep Niners at bay

The 49ers were an up-and-coming bunch just a few weeks ago. They won five of their last seven games last year with new coach Mike Singletary at the helm, giving them some momentum heading into the offseason. Then they started the season with two wins, both against NFC West rivals. Word out of Candlestick was that Singletary hadn't taken off his pants once! Not once!

But now, San Fran is ... down-and-going? I'm pretty sure that's not the opposite of up-and-coming, but we'll go with it. Frank Gore missed three games with an injury. Singletary made a quarterback change, with Alex Smith replacing Shaun Hill. They lost five of six since that 2-0 start to fall to 3-5. In fact, the only game they won in that stretch was against the lowly Rams.

With the Bears struggling on a weekly basis to stay within 20 points of their opponents, Thursday night's affair isn't exactly a clash of the titans. More of a battle of badness. Probably not what NFL Network had in mind when they made this their first Thursday Night Football game of the year.

With that said, there is some level of drama in this affair: one team will leave the field with very little hope for any sort of real success this season, while the other will keep themselves alive in either the Wild Card (Bears) or divisional race (49ers).

This will also mark the first time that Singletary, a Bears linebacker from 1981-92, has faced his former team as a head coach.


Containing Frank Gore. It's nearly impossible to stop him completely (though he's not having anywhere near the year that he did last year), but the Bears need to keep him from running wild. There's no doubt that he's the star of their offense; force Alex Smith to beat you, and you should win. Gore has averaged 83 yards in his two games against the Bears, and didn't find the end zone in either contest.

Scoring more points than they do. I know, you're probably thinking, "But that's the essence of every head-to-head competition! What a stupid key!" But I say to you: "I know, but I just wanted to include this key so that I could point out this statistical oddity: halfway through the season, the 49ers have scored precisely the same number of points as they've allowed (174). Even weirder is that the team they're tied with, Seattle, has done the same thing (167)! Weird!" So there.

Finding a linebacker who can keep from getting hurt for at least 12 seconds and can cover Vernon Davis. Davis, a 4th year tight end, completely dominates the receiving statistics for San Francisco: he's caught more than twice as many passes as any Niner receiver, and has seven TDs while Jason Hill has the next-most with two. Somebody's gotta get a body on Davis, especially in the red zone.

Some semblance of balance. Who would have ever thought the Bears would have a game in which they threw the ball 47 times and ran it only 12? I realize the Cardinals built up a big lead and the Bears had little choice but to go to the air, but their first seven plays from scrimmage were passes. They can't continue to ask Jay Cutler to be Peyton Manning. They have to at least make opponents think they might--just might--run the ball every once in a while.

Where'd he come from?

QB Alex Smith, Utah
RB Frank Gore, Miami
WR Arnaz Battle, Notre Dame
WR Michael Crabtree, Texas Tech
TE Vernon Davis, Maryland
LB Patrick Willis, Mississippi
OT Tony Pashos, Illinois
G David Baas, Michigan

1 comment:

  1. Frank Gore finally got a few carries last night, and had over 100 yards and a touchdown. I think the 49ers should play to their strengths, and running the football has been the bread and butter the last few years with Gore.