By Jeff Joniak–
(CBS) The Bears (2-9) host the 49ers (1-10) on Sunday at noon at Soldier Field. Here are my observations leading into the game.
I didn’t know what to expect out of quarterback Matt Barkley on Sunday, but as the game unfolded against the Titans, you have to admit the performance piqued your curiosity. Never having a chance to start an NFL game previously and receiving limited practice time, Barkley was just picking up snaps where he could in the most unenviable circumstances. The Bears should’ve won the game on the final drive, and it would’ve been because of Barkley’s passing. However, I was also intrigued by Chad Hutchinson in 2004 when he became the fourth quarterback of the season after Rex Grossman suffered a season-ending knee injury. In his first start, he threw three touchdown passes to beat the Minnesota Vikings, 24-14. He then went 0-5 and never played again.
Receiver Daniel Braverman becomes the 11th rookie on the Bears’ 53-man roster. He was a fiery chain mover during training camp practices, and the expectation is he will bring that same fire to Sundays. The 230th overall pick in the 2016 draft out of Western Michigan, Braverman is a slippery, sudden and quick receiver who has a skill set ideal for the slot. He’s short-armed, so he doesn’t clean up an inaccurate quarterback, but his precise route running does. Veteran Eddie Royal has battled a toe injury and has been targeted only six times combined in the last three games, with four catches for 31 yards. Getting Braverman up creates competition for snaps in the short-to-intermediate passing game.
Royal arguably was playing some of the best ball on the Bears offense in the first six weeks of the season with 37 receptions, two touchdowns and a punt return touchdown. He caught all seven of his targets for 111 yards in the Bears’ home win over the Detroit Lions in Week 4, including 64 yards on a big catch-and-run play. In Week 2, he returned a punt 65 yards for a touchdown against the Eagles. Since the toe injury, Royal’s practice time has been limited. As the team looks deeper into its roster to learn more about what they have, it would appear Royal could lose snaps.
It’s inviting to run the ball on the 49ers, who are giving up more than 170 yards per game on the ground on a league-high volume of carries. Seven straight backs have hit 100 yards on them to start the season. San Francisco has permitted the most 10-plus yard runs in the league. Chicago running back Jordan Howard is tied for third in runs of 10 yards or more. It sounds like an ideal matchup for the Bears offense.
Jeff Joniak is the play-by-play announcer for the Bears broadcasts on WBBM Newsradio 780 & 105.9 FM. Follow him on Twitter @JeffJoniak.