A look at four keys for the Bears to beat the San Francisco 49ers.
1. Play physically and impose their will
The 49ers are an absolute mess this season. They can’t defend the pass. They can’t defend the run. They can’t pass the football. And they can only marginally run the ball. But other than that, they’re great! This is the first game since the Detroit one in Week 6 that I would call a “should-win” game for the Bears, so it’ll be interesting to see how they respond. They were unable to close out the Lions back then. The Bears just need to take charge and execute — which includes playing physical at the line of scrimmage and securing tackles — and they should win.
2. Focus on defending the run
Don’t look now, but the Bears are the second-ranked pass defense in the NFL. Led by Tracy Porter, a much improved Kyle Fuller, and a surprising rookie in Adrian Amos, the secondary has been locking down on opposing wide receivers and tight ends. The Bears are only ranked 22nd in the league in sacks, so the high ranking against the pass has more to do with the secondary doing its job than the pass rush. But for as good as the Bears are against the pass, they’re woeful against the run, ranking 29th overall — which also contributes to the higher pass ranking, because opponents don’t need to throw as often. The Bears shouldn’t be as concerned with defending the pass considering Blaine Gabbert will be slinging the ball around for the Niners, and they should be more focused on defending the run.
3. KISS: Run the ball until it’s stopped
Keep it simple, stupid. The Bears don’t need to get cute here. The Niners are 25th in the league defending the run and 28th against the pass. They can’t play defense, so the Bears should largely be successful in whatever they try to call. The Bears have the ability to take their chances down the field, and I believe that offensive coordinator Adam Gase should mix up the play calling, but the Bears can dominate time of possession by keeping it simple and moving the chains with a balanced running attack.
4. Take care of the ball
The Bears and Niners have about even turnover margins, which is a huge part of every game. As previously noted, there’s no reason to expect the Bears to lose this game based on talent and coaching alone. But no game is a gimme in this league and the 49ers’ best path to success is taking the ball away from the Bears. It’s important for the Bears to play a clean game, limit penalties and turnovers, and keep the ball in their possession for as long as possible.