Published by Jerz on 9/15/2014
This game started out like a movie BEARS fans were all too familiar with. It was bad enough they were without starting offensive linemen Roberto Garza and Matt Slauson but the status of Pro Bowl receivers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery was up in the air until kickoff. The team was also down another receiver in former Niner Josh Morgan. I listened all week to fans of the team (and outsiders alike) as well as football “experts” and “analysts” that gave the BEARS absolutely NO chance of coming into Santa Clara (which is a beautiful facility, by the way) and beating the Niners. The BEARS immediately falling behind 17-0, in the first half, was a nightmare the team would soon wake up from.
The BEARS started the night receiving the opening kickoff and couldn’t even get to the 20 yard line. What followed was an immediate 3 and out and a blocked punt that gave the fired up home team a 1st and goal from the BEARS nine yard line. 2 plays later the Niners faced a 3rd and goal that the officials generously let them convert despite the play clock being at zero (which should have been a 5 yard penalty). Of course they scored a touchdown and were up 7-0 after 34 seconds. It created an almost instant “here we go again”. The BEARS eventually trimmed a 17-0 deficit to ten on the catch featured in the above photo courtesy of Brandon Marshall. This play would be huge in giving the BEARS some momentum going into the half. This game was a weird one because the referees were a bit more involved than the fans would’ve liked them to be (the Niners had 16 accepted penalties for 118 yards and the BEARS 10 for 58 yards) and the Niners were bitten by the turnover bug on 4 separate occasions. The BEARS couldn’t convert the first 2 into points (a Kaepernick pick and fumble) but the last 2 takeaways (picks by rookie 1st round pick Kyle Fuller) were crucial. Quarterback Jay Cutler and the rest of the offense almost looked shell shocked at times. Cutler only completed 10 of his 1st 20 passes but would complete 13 of his last 14 with 3 huge TD passes in the 2nd half.
The BEARS run game was non existent, for the most part, as the Niners held running back Matt Forte to 21 yards on 12 carries. Cutler actually led the team in rushing with 25 yards (all of which came on a 25 yard scramble when no one was open downfield). The BEARS were only 3 for 9 on 3rd downs, mustered only 216 yards of total offense and possessed the ball for only 26:09 (of a possible 60 minutes). Looking at these numbers, you’d think the BEARS were getting blown off the grid. What the offense WAS able to do was play mistake free football (zero turnovers) behind very efficient quarterback play coupled with a defense that responded well despite being put in very difficult situations.
The BEARS were able to rally to a 28-20 win on the road but it didn’t come without a cost. Chris Conte (pictured above) and Charles Tillman weren’t able to finish the game with injuries to their surgically repaired shoulder and triceps respectively and it’s not known for how long they’ll be lost for. Jeremiah Ratliff was lost to a concussion and will have to go through protocol to return to practice in preparation for the Jets in New York. The team has enough to deal with on the injury front as it is and may look to re-shuffle their roster (once again) as they get ready to face the defensive minded Jets. This was a HUGE win for the BEARS who didn’t want to go down (0-2) and more importantly gives them an advantage head to head against an NFC opponent (if they find themselves in the playoff hunt down the stretch). This could be the “signature” win Cutler critics say his resume’ has been lacking and is definitely a great building block going forward. Not to be lost in the win is the gutsy performances by Brandon Marshall (3 touchdown receptions) and Alshon Jeffery who many thought wouldn’t be able to go. Hopefully an extra day of rest (playing on Monday Night next week) gets them as close to full health as possible to victimize a Jets secondary still trying to figure some things out.
The BEARS have been fortunate to receive the type of pass protection they have with 2 starters out and Michael Ola and Brian de la Puente playing well in their absence. The BEARS will have tough sledding getting Matt Forte going against the front 7 of the Jets in the run game so I look for Cutler to take to the air. Martellus Bennett is quietly becoming a go to guy in the redzone for this offense and will only open things up for this offense with continued production. I expect the coaching staff to have this team well prepared and I have a feeling former Jet Santonio Holmes will make a few big plays to help the win gut out a tough one on the road in a hostile environment. I’m really interested to see how the defense responds after a solid game. The 4 takeaways were huge and they were “ok” versus the run giving up 129 yards on 27 attempts (66 by Kaepernick on 9 carries) and will have to button that up against a Jets team that likes to run it. Geno Smith is trying to work the kinks out (as he learns a new offense) and will give the BEARS chances to take the ball away. I expect this offense of the BEARS to get better each week and see them pulling out a 28-17 win on the road to move to (2-1)…