49ers @ Bears
Final Score: Bears 19, 49ers 10
Writer: Mike Miklius (@SIRL0INofBEEF on Twitter)
This one started out with some sloppy play, which was appropriate given the constant rain falling over Soldier Field; seriously, they were squeegeeing the field before the game and a field goal attempt was penalized when someone tried to dry part of the field with a towel. The first quarter saw a Bears punt followed by a Deebo Samuel fumble and then a Justin Fields interception. San Francisco found the endzone in the second quarter, and we went to the break with a 7-0 score. This is nothing new for Bears fans. After a San Francisco field goal to open the second half, the 49ers fell silent. Meanwhile, the Bears started to wake up, thanks to some help from a parade of San Fran penalty flags. First was a Dante Pettis touchdown after San Francisco was called for a face mask on a failed Bears third down. On the Bears’ next drive, another Niners penalty kept the drive alive and led to another touchdown pass: this time to Equanimious St. Brown. The Bears found the end zone one more time–after a Trey Lance interception–and they held on to win 19-10. It should be noted that both of these defenses played aggressively and should be considered strong units as you set your line-up for next week.
San Francisco 49ers
Trey Lance: 13/28, 164 Yards, 1 Int | 13 Carries, 54 Yards, 1 Fumble (Recovered)
Let’s go ahead and put an asterisk next to this outing for both quarterbacks. If you were a Trey Lance truther, this one shouldn’t scare you away given the torrential rain. That being said, there are some issues to figure out and there will be growing pains. Lance started well, hitting Deebo Samuel on his first pass for a short gain. He then snuck forward to pick up a first down on the next play followed by a nice shot to Brandon Aiyuk. Lance stood in a crowded pocket with Bears rushers all around him. He hung in and confidently hit the wide-open Aiyuk for a 31-yard gain. On the next drive, Lance had Tyler Kroft open deep but missed him with a wobbly overthrow as defenders closed in. On the Niners’ next drive, Lance’s one attempt on third down was again coming from a collapsing pocket and was underthrown. His best pass of the day was probably his throw to Ray-Ray McCloud on the ensuing drive. Lance had a clean pocket and threw a well-placed ball right where it needed to be. The drive was the Niners’ lone touchdown.
His worst throw was probably the interception. Late in the game, Lance didn’t see a safety with eyes on him and threw the ball to a receiver short left. It was jumped and the Bears took over. Overall, I saw a passer who is still learning and getting comfortable. Lance missed a few throws he could’ve had but also made some good plays as well. As a runner, Lance was impressive. He did well to avoid rushers and keep plays alive. Lance’s running is clearly going to be a factor and a big reason you start him in fantasy this year. Just be prepared for a fair share of mistakes when he drops back against good defenses.
Elijah Mitchell: 6 Carries, 41 Yards
Jeff Wilson Jr.: 9 Carries, 22 Yards | 2 Targets, 2 Receptions, 8 Yards
Kyle Juszczyk: 2 Targets, 0 Receptions, 0 Yards
Elijah Mitchell started for San Francisco and he was running well early. His first carry went for 16 as he followed good blocking up front. Mitchell is fast and proves problematic for opposing defenses if he gets some open space to work with. On the third drive, Mitchell was again running well with two more big carries to get the Niners moving. Unfortunately, this was the last time we would see him; Mitchell left the game with a knee injury and his day was done. Mitchell was the clear workhorse while he was in and could have had a big day if not for his missing most of the game. Keep an eye on his status this week and be ready to pivot. Mitchell’s backups should be available on waivers.
Jeff Wilson was next in line, and he was serviceable as the new lead back. He never found much space, but could still be in line for the lead role if Mitchell is expected to be out. Keep an eye on this situation–Wilson and rookie Tyrion Davis-Price are both names to watch.
Wide Receiver/Tight End
Deebo Samuel: 8 Carries, 52 Yards, 1 TD | 8 Targets, 2 Receptions, 14 Yards | 1 Fumble (Lost)
Brandon Aiyuk: 1 Carry, 7 Yards | 2 Targets, 2 Receptions, 40 Yards
Jauan Jennings: 6 Targets, 4 Receptions, 62 Yards
Ray-Ray McCloud III: 2 Targets, 1 Reception, 20 Yards
Ross Dwelley: 2 Targets, 1 Reception, 11 Yards
Tyler Kroft: 2 Targets, 1 Reception, 9 Yards
Deebo Samuel was clearly the engine of the Niners’ offense, and he did all he could to drag this team forward. Despite all the offseason clamor that Deebo is not a running back, he was used exactly like he was last year: as an RB/ WR hybrid. Deebo is what all ‘gadget’ guys dream of becoming. Samuel ran hard on every catch and was schemed effectively into the running game. His lone mistake was a fumble, and that only happened thanks to an excellent play by one of the Bears’ corners. Deebo is the same monster he was last year, and those who drafted him should be excited.
Brandon Aiyuk made a big catch early, but he was otherwise quiet on the day. On his first reception, he was lined up on the right side and ran a slant across the middle. Aiyuk’s defender ran into another player and he was wide open for a catch and run, resulting in a 31-yard gain. His only other target came halfway through the fourth quarter in desperation time. I expect Aiyuk to be a regular part of this offense when things are running more smoothly, and I think a home game against Seattle is just what the doctor ordered.
Jauan Jennings had a nice day, but most of it came on one big play. He was lined up in the left slot and took off down the field on a fly route. The corner–rookie Kyler Gordon–was watching Trey Lance and didn’t seem to notice his receiver running away from him. Lance made a nice pass and Jennings easily hauled it in. Personally, I expect Jennings’ role to shrink once George Kittle is healthy again and he is not on my radar here with Samuel, Aiyuk, and Kittle ahead of him.
Justin Fields: 8/17, 121 Yards, 2 TD, 1 Int | 11 Carries, 28 Yards
This one started out rough. Like I said for Trey Lance, take the results with a grain of salt given the weather conditions. The first drive saw Justin Fields overthrow David Montgomery on a designed screen pass and the three-and-out was completed with a sack. Fields took a deep drop back but his offensive line collapsed before anyone could get open. It looked like he was eyeing tight-end Ryan Griffin, but Griffin didn’t look back quickly enough and Fields didn’t feel comfortable throwing to a receiver with his back to him. He chatted with Griffin afterward to get back on the same page. I like this about Fields: he knows what he’s looking for and isn’t afraid to correct it. The quarterback needs to be the leader, and this is just a little thing that bodes well for me.
On the Bears’ next drive, we saw the worst throw of the day. Fields was looking for Darnell Mooney and threw the ball across the middle despite a swarm of defenders–one of whom caught it. I saw Cole Kmet open to Fields’ right and it seemed like he rushed his decision given the constant pressure, which included an arm in his face as he released the ball on that throw. It needs to be seen if this is who Fields is, or if this was a factor of the weather and the 49ers’ dominating front seven wreaking havoc. Either way, the Bears essentially abandoned the pass in the first half and were happy to play the field position game, repeatedly running on third and long plays.
Fields woke up later in the game, including a good drive to end the half. He started to run more, picking up 20+ yards and almost hitting Byron Pringle on a deep shot right before halftime. In the second half, Chicago found their groove. On a third and long, Fields dropped back but didn’t see anything open. Two rushers quickly closed in and Fields managed to dodge them as he scrambled to his left. The defense eventually broke down, and everyone lost sight of Dante Pettis–who caught a wide-open pass and ran 51 yards to the end zone. Fields made the throw while running and had to get the ball clear across the field. It was an excellent ball and shows what Fields can do. The next Bears touchdown came on play action when Equanimious St. Brown started out blocking before making his way up the field. The defense lost sight of him, and Fields hit him to grab the lead. My big takeaway is how well the Bears’ coaches adjusted from the first half–when they essentially abandoned the pass–to the second half when they schemed up just enough to steal this game. Justin Fields, like Trey Lance, has the tools to succeed. He just needs some time to develop more and there will be bumps along the road.
Khalil Herbert: 9 Carries, 45 Yards, 1 TD | 1 Target, 1 Reception, -2 Yards
David Montgomery: 17 Carries, 26 Yards | 4 Targets, 3 Receptions, 24 Yards
While the workload today was excellent for David Montgomery, I am overall worried about his rest-of-season prospects. Montgomery was running into a brick wall early and often as the Bears struggled to get anything going in the first half. That being said, Montgomery had a great catch-and-run on a shovel pass from Justin Fields. He is good at winning one-on-ones in space and he again showed how hard he is to bring down–assuming five guys weren’t meeting him in the backfield. Montgomery was the clear number one and will go as far as this offense allows. So why worry? Well, Montgomery lost a lot of work to Khalil Herbert.
Khalil Herbert spelled Montgomery, taking a series here and there to let his backfield mate rest. Herbert ran well, starting with gains of eight and four yards on his first series. He broke a big 12-yard run on his next series and overall looks like a quicker back than Montgomery. I mentioned this last season, but it brings a question back to the front of my mind: is Herbert better than Montgomery? I think this should be a 50-50 split, and it may be just a matter of time until that happens. Montgomery is on the last year of his rookie contract and Herbert might be a bigger part of the team’s future plans. Herbert feels like a must-add to me and would be an immediate RB2 if anything happens to Montgomery. For now, I could see this being a messy split with the team riding the hot hand. That being said, Montgomery is still the lead dog.
Wide Receiver/Tight End
Dante Pettis: 1 Target, 1 Reception, 51 Yards, 1 TD
Byron Pringle: 2 Targets, 1 Reception, 22 Yards
Equanimeous St. Brown: 3 Targets, 1 Reception, 18 Yards, 1 TD
Darnell Mooney: 3 Targets, 1 Reception, 8 Yards
Ryan Griffin: 2 Targets, 0 Receptions, 0 Yards
Cole Kmet: 1 Target, 0 Receptions, 0 Yards
This whole passing offense was a mess today, and I can’t get too angry at Darnell Mooney for basically being a no-show in the box score. He looked good running his routes, and he saw some deep targets. The problem is Chicago was willing to ditch the pass in the first half, reaching the break with only 19 passing yards and no receptions by a wide receiver or tight end. By the time the offense woke up, it was basically too late. I will still roll with Mooney next week but beware of a tough Green Bay defense waiting ahead with some strong corners. I won’t be shocked if we see another low output.
Dante Pettis had the catch of the day for Chicago on a broken play. After the snap, Justin Fields was chased around the backfield, and the defense eventually all shaded away from Pettis, following David Montgomery. Pettis waved his arms and Fields hit him with a nice throw. Pettis ran free, thanks in part to a nice downfield block by Equanimious St Brown. Pettis is a name to watch, but not someone I’m starting yet.
Equanimous St. Brown made a nice catch of his own but on a designed play. On a third-and-two, the Bears ran play-action with ESB initially blocking. He then turned up the field as the defense bit on the fake, and it was an easy touchdown catch. This play represents what I hope the Bears’ offense can become. I give ESB credit for playing hard and doing the little things–like blocking downfield on a teammate’s touchdown catch–to help the Bears win. He is the team’s number two weapon and should have the occasional big day when things are going well.
Cole Kmet was an off-season favorite of mine, but he only saw one target and didn’t seem like a factor in the game plan. We could chalk it up to the overall play of the offense today, but I find Kmet tough to start next week given the availability of other options at the position. With Chicago needing to keep extra blockers in, it feels like Kmet should have seen some plays designed his way. It just didn’t happen. Consider moving on if you have better options available on waivers, but I don’t hate giving Kmet one more chance.