My beloved Bears, stung by their sub-par performance against the Cardinals on Monday night two weeks ago, appear to have blood on their minds as they prepare to battle the San Francisco 49’ers today at Soldier Field.
For two weeks, the defense has seethed over the ease with which the Cardinals scored on them in the first half of that dreadful Monday night game. On top of that, the loss of All-Pro safety Mike Brown to a foot injury for the rest of the year seems to have renewed their focus and steeled their resolve – all in all bad news for the gents on the other side of the ball today.
It’s not that the 49’ers don’t have a quality offense. San Fran QB Alex Smith has shown flashes of brilliance in his young career, although the quality of his receiving targets has been somewhat lacking. Frank Gore is a serviceable professional running back who hits the hole hard and has deceptive speed. While it’s not likely that the 49’ers will be able to run effectively on the Bears, Gore is good enough to keep the Bear’s front 4 honest enough not to pin back their ears and rush the QB with wild abandon, intent on putting Mr. Smith under the sod.
But unless the D-line comes down with a collective case of trench foot, look for Smith to be running for his life most of the afternoon. In this respect, Smith has proven himself mobile enough that he will probably be able to hurt the Bears at times. Whether it will be enough to overcome the 49’ers porous defense and wretched special teams is doubtful.
Dead last against the pass and not much better against the run, the Niner’s will have to pin their hopes on Rex “The Wonder Dog” Grossman having a second straight horrendous game in order to stop My Beloved’s offense. Wonder Dog admitted after the Cardinals game that his decision making was atrocious. Look for Rex to take shallower drops and shorten the passing game. With TE Desmond Clark almost 100% recovered from a sprained foot, expect the tight end to figure prominently in the offense – especially on first and second downs.
We can also plan on seeing more of Cedric Benson. There were murmurs around Halas Hall that Benson may take over the entire 3rd quarter running back chores. If so, he may have the game of his pro career. Benson needs 15-20 carries a game in order to get into the flow of the offense and contribute what he is capable of doing. And with CB’s blocking and pass catching improving all the time, it will be harder to keep the 2005 1st round pick out of the lineup for much longer – especially when you consider what they’re paying the guy. Benson can be a very good pro; perhaps even a top tier running back. And I have a feeling if Thomas Jones continues to struggle, Benson may be slotted in at running back for a start sometime soon.
As for special teams, I would look for another long return from “The Windy City Flyer” Devin Hester. The Niners are dead last in punt return coverage and if they give the kid a crack, he’ll be gone before you can say “Tony Bennett.”
For the non-Bears fan, it will be easy to lose interest along about half time. I expect the Bears to be up by at least 2 TD’s by then with San Fran fading fast. This may be one of those games where what appears to be a mismatch on paper, fully lives up to its billing as a slaughter.
Final: Bears 34 – 9 with Smith getting sacked at least 5 times. Wonder Dog redeems himself. And Lovie Smith smiles before the game is over.