By Jeff Joniak–
(CBS) The Bears (2-9) host the 49ers (1-10) on Sunday at noon at Soldier Field. Here are my keys to the game.
Offense: Ground and pound
Foes like running the ball on the 49ers defense. They do it 48.2 percent of the time, the most in the league and almost 9 percent higher than the league average. The 49ers have been trampled by the run for the most part this season. Add precipitation into the mix — potentially snow — and it would seem like the ideal recipe for the Bears to run the ball on the 49ersh, who have given up 49 runs of 10 yards or more this season and 14 runs of 20 yards or more while dealing with the highest number of minutes on the field in the league. It sounds to me like a steady diet of Jordan Howard, Jeremy Langford, and Ka’Deem Carey.
Defense: Tame the tempo
Stopping the read-option run by 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick will require discipline and sure tackling from the Bears. The 49ers are fourth in the league running the ball and fourth in gaining at least four or more yards on first down. In addition to Kaepernick, running back Carlos Hyde is an effective perimeter runner. The Niners run the most plays in the league with the fewest minutes of possession time. They move quickly. They also give it away. The 83 points they’ve permitted after giveaways is the highest total in the league. The Bears are dying for takeaways, and this is the game and maybe the conditions for the turnover total to rise.
Special teams: Flip the field
If the conditions do deteriorate, field position will become particularly important. By virtue of San Francisco’s high-risk, high-reward tempo, it gives up field position and the ball. That includes the kicking game, where opponents are starting on average at the San Francisco 31-yard line, which ranks 31st in the NFL. The Bears will have opportunities to have a lot of possessions if the 49ers are true to form. For example, 49ers punter Bradley Pinion is tied for the most punts in the league with 64.
With snow in the forecast, you have to throw that in as an intangible for this game. Which team handles the situation better could have an edge. It would seem to be the Bears, but with so many young players and many who have never played in cold or snowy weather, the advantage might be minimal. The bigger advantage comes in the fact that while the 49ers are playing better than their 10-game losing streak might suggest, they’ve been outscored by 116 points this season. The Bears will continue to rally around each other no matter who’s playing or who isn’t.
Jeff Joniak is the play-by-play announcer for the Bears broadcasts on WBBM Newsradio 780 & 105.9 FM. Follow him on Twitter @JeffJoniak.