What We Saw: Week 8

It's backup QB SZN

49ers @ Bears

Final Score: 49ers 33, Bears 22

Writer: Mike Miklius (@SIRL0INofBEEF on Twitter)

 

Both offenses were rolling early with eight scores on the first nine drives of the game. Chicago rode Khalil Herbert early while San Francisco leaned on Jimmy Garoppolo and the ample time he had to throw the ball. Chicago eventually ran out of gas, and the Niners came away with a 33-22 win after Justin Fields threw a game-ending pick while looking deep for Darnell Mooney. San Francisco improves to 3-4 with tough games coming up against division-rivals Arizona and Los Angeles. Chicago falls to 3-5 and will face Pittsburgh and Baltimore in the coming weeks. Here’s everything I saw today.

 

San Francisco 49ers

 

Quarterback

 

Jimmy Garoppolo: 17/28, 322 yards | 5 carries, 4 yards, 2 TD

 

Jimmy Garoppolo put up an excellent fantasy performance, but he was largely benefited by the great day by his offensive line. Garoppolo remains an average quarterback, but that was enough today. He often stood in the pocket for long stretches, trying to find what he wanted. There was some good, like a pair of nicely-thrown targets to Deebo Samuel that were dropped. He also had some nice scrambles. Jimmy G’s first touchdown run came on a busted play where Deebo Samuel was supposed to run a jet screen and receive a quick pass from Garoppolo. The center wasn’t ready, so Jimmy killed the play and ran it in himself. It was a smart move, and it saved the Niners on what could have been a disaster. His second touchdown run was a designed sneak that worked perfectly.

My knocks on Garoppolo are his inaccurate passes, and how dependent he was on the ample time given to him by Chicago’s pitiful pass rush. Garoppolo missed Brandon Aiyuk early on a deep ball that could have been a huge gain. He also nearly threw a pick on his second drive. It’s also worth mentioning that Garoppolo’s longest pass–the 83-yard grab by Deebo Samuel–was caught behind the line of scrimmage. On the Niners’ third drive, Garoppolo had an embarrassingly long time to find Brandon Aiyuk for a first down completion. Garoppolo is a serviceable quarterback and one who is good enough to play in the league. He just doesn’t move the needle for me at this point in his career.

 

Running Back

 

Elijah Mitchell: 18 carries, 137 yards, TD

JaMycal Hasty: 3 carries, 4 yards | 2 targets, 2 receptions, 29 yards

 

Elijah Mitchell is a good running back. I am a big Trey Sermon truther, so this is hard for me to say. Mitchell is quick, and he showed the patience to wait for his holes to open up. He also has the ability to turn gains into bigger ones with a well-timed cut or two. On the Niners’ second drive, Mitchell followed his blocking to run for 10-15 yards easily. He then made a nice cut around the hands of a falling defender to turn that 10-15 yards into 26 yards. Later in the game, Mitchell again picked up 26 yards when he ran hard through contact, and again shook a defender to keep going. Mitchell also had a similar 39-yard rush even later on. Mitchell needs good blocking to get up to speed, but he is dangerous once he is. I’m curious to see how the games against the Cardinals and Rams go.

 

 

Wide Receiver/Tight End

 

Deebo Samuel: 9 targets, 6 receptions, 171 yards

Brandon Aiyuk: 7 targets, 4 receptions, 45 yards

Mohamed Sanu Jr.: 4 targets, 3 receptions, 59 yards

 

Early on, this one looked a bit worrisome for Deebo Samuel. He dropped two targets on the first drive, and the whole Niners offense was a little off. Samuel quickly woke up after that, catching a ball on each of the next four drives. On the Niners’ third drive, Samuel made a 15-yard grab that he almost broke open. The following drive, he caught a 50-yard bomb against tight coverage. The drive after that, Samuel turned a short screen into an 83-yard reception that nearly found the endzone.

 

 

Samuel is an excellent weapon and one who causes big problems if he can find space. He is clearly the alpha, though it will be interesting to see what happens when George Kittle returns. I’m betting Samuel keeps on rolling.

Brandon Aiyuk was a name I loved before the season, and I was curious to see how he has been playing. I know the stats have been underwhelming, but I was curious to see the actual play. There was a nice deep route early where Aiyuk got a half-step on his defender, but the connection was missed between him and his QB. It looked like Garoppolo’s fault, but I couldn’t help but notice that Aiyuk looked a little lost–or maybe disinterested–on the play. Something just jumped out as being wrong. Aiyuk caught a 2-point conversion and saw another red zone target, so he is still getting important work. He is a mile behind Samuel though and I don’t see what would cause that to change.

Mohamed Sanu was heavily involved on the first drive of the game, making two 20-yard grabs on different third downs. The well dried up after that, though, and he finished with 3 receptions. Sanu is not on the radar.

 

Chicago Bears

 

Quarterback

 

Justin Fields: 19/27, 175 yards, TD, INT, 4 sacks | 10 carries, 103 yards, TD, 2 fumbles

 

I feel like the rookie blurbs are always the most important ones. Well, this was a good day for Justin Fields and one that showed a lot of growth in his young career. Fields was throwing the ball well, and he mostly looked towards Darnell Mooney. Fields had more time to think today, and it allowed him to find a quick rhythm that resulted in four-straight scoring drives to start the game. The first touchdown for Chicago was probably his best throw today. Tight end Jesse James was running towards the front corner of the endzone while Fields ran a bootleg. He outran the coming pass rush and threw a dart to James–just getting it past a diving defender.

 

 

Fields also threw a number of nice balls to Mooney and Robinson. There were some off-target passes, including one he air-mailed over Cole Kmet and an overthrow of Allen Robinson. The interception was actually a well-thrown ball that Darnell Mooney just couldn’t bring down. Overall, this was a strong passing performance–even if most of the looks were short.

The biggest change for Fields this week was his work as a runner. I mentioned last week that Fields looked stiff while scrambling–like he didn’t want to run or he didn’t feel comfortable converting between passer and runner. That was completely different against San Francisco. Justin Fields was ready to break free regularly, and the result was his first 100-yard game of his career. Keep in mind that Fields hadn’t yet hit 45 rushing yards in a game. Fields was fast and elusive, and he knew when to slide. The best run was his touchdown scramble. Fields took the snap from center and was immediately met by a pass rusher as he tried to run to his right. Fields evaded him, as well as another half dozen guys as he changed direction and broke past the line of scrimmage. From there, it was a simple matter of getting past two more defenders and into the endzone. This was the play I dreamed of when the Bears drafted Fields.

 

 

Justin Fields is still learning and growing, but I love what I’m seeing. He has the tools to be a superstar, and I see the drive to make it all come true. This offense is still going to be hit or miss for fantasy-purposed this season as there just isn’t enough volume yet.

 

Running Back

 

Khalil Herbert: 23 carries, 72 yards | 2 targets, 2 receptions, -4 yards

Ryan Nall: 1 carry, 4 yards

Damien Williams: 2 carries, -3 yards

 

Khalil Herbert is a fun back to watch. Have I mentioned that before? Herbert runs well, and he knows how to make subtle moves that help him avoid oncoming contact. Herbert started fast with a 22-yard rush on that first drive, as well as a long screen pass that was called back. He was heavily involved in the next drive as well, helping the Bears find the endzone. One of the best runs I saw from Herbert today was actually a 2-yard gain. Herbert was met in the backfield and juked the first tackler coming for him. He side-stepped the next one as well, turning a loss into a short gain. Herbert looked well on his way to another 100-yard game at halftime. Things changed at halftime, and the 49ers remembered how to defend. They were regularly swarming Herbert, and no amount of jukes was going to spring him free. Herbert also left the game briefly after a defender landed on him, but it was unclear what the injury worry was. Herbert didn’t do much after returning, and I’m curious to hear of there are any lingering concerns.

Damien Williams technically started this game, but he was his usual unspectacular self. Williams had 2 carries for -3 yards before we never saw him again. He was also injured at some point. Once David Montgomery returns, I imagine this becomes a 2-man show between him and Herbet with Montgomery in the lead. If the offense can keep improving, there could be enough for both. I worry about both though as this team has been a low flyer.

 

Wide Receiver/Tight End

 

Darnell Mooney: 9 targets, 6 receptions, 64 yards

Allen Robinson: 4 targets, 3 receptions, 21 yards

Cole Kmet: 6 targets, 3 receptions, 24 yards

Jesse James: 3 targets, 3 receptions, 38 yards, TD

Marquise Goodwin: 3 targets, 2 receptions, 32 yards

 

Another week in, we are seeing more of the same from this group of pass-catchers. Darnell Mooney is the lead dog thanks to his connection with Justin Fields. Mooney played well, and he could have had a bigger day if he caught that last pass. He went up, had two hands on it, but just couldn’t make the grab as a defender held him down just enough to alter the play. Mooney still has an excellent trajectory and is someone I expect to be all-in on next season.

Allen Robinson was still mostly a non-factor. He slipped on one of his catches when it looked like he had room to run. He fumbled another ball that was recovered by teammate Cole Kmet. Then he was overthrown on another target. Robinson isn’t startable, and I’d even say he’s droppable at this point. If you believe the Bears offense is about to break out, hold him. Otherwise, I tend to agree with the drop sentiment.

Cole Kmet fans are left saying ‘what if’ after this one finished. Kmet saw his first target early on the team’s second drive, but was overthrown by Fields. He had two grabs on that drive before throwing a big block to allow Fields to make the touchdown throw to Jesse James. On Kmet’s first catch, we saw a great play call by the coaches. The play was designed to look like a run to the right, and that made Kmet the end blocker. Fields ran left after the fake, and everyone forgot about Kmet–who made an easy catch in open space. This type of play gives me hope for the future of this offense. Kmet had a red zone look of his own, but he dropped the pass while covered tightly. Kmet is showing promise, and should be picked up if his workload increases.

 

Mike Miklius (@SIRL0INofBEEF on Twitter)

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