By Jeff Joniak–
(CBS) The Bears (3-8) host the 49ers (1-10) on Sunday at noon. Here are my keys to the game.
Offense: Run wild
A great opportunity presents itself for the Bears to run the football against the 49ers, who rank 30th in the league in rushing defense. Teams have gashed the 49ers with 42 runs of 10 or more yards. Three backs have hit the 100-yard mark on the 49ers, who are 0-3 in those games. Across the league, teams are 9-47 when they allow a back to hit the 100-yard mark. With Jordan Howard, the Bears are a threat to have a big day on the ground. When he gets 20 carries or more, the Bears are 3-1.
Defense: Prevent the bounce
San Francisco’s offense is now in the hands of quarterback Jimmy Garropolo, which will give the unit a bounce. It’s his homecoming game given his Arlington Heights roots, and he’s the future of the franchise. It’s his first start for the 49ers. Look for a game plan high on short passes and using Carlos Hyde in the run game. The Bears hope to prevent the bounce by attacking Kyle Shanahan’s West Coast scheme. The 49ers short passing game resulting in big runs after the catch is something the Bears will have to stop. San Francisco is 12th in the league in yards after the catch.
Special teams: Win field position
Given the Bears’ lack of scoring this season, the easier special teams makes it for the offense, the better. That means pinning teams deep to produce the potential for short fields, limiting the return game and preventing harmful penalties that back up the offense. Every yard matters in a game like this, especially with a good field goal kicker like the 49ers’ Robbie Gould, who knows everything there is to know about kicking in Soldier Field.
Intangibles: Let it rip
With nothing to lose, the Bears have to play loose. Let it rip in every phase. San Francisco is excited Jimmy Garropolo. Chicago needs to ruin that excitement and create some of its own. The Bears’ lack of big plays in every phase is the first area to start. Clutch performers need to start emerging for further evaluation of this football team. There’s nothing gained by playing safe at this point in the season. The hope is the Bears will attack in all three phases, creating big plays and finishing every chance they get.
Numbers: Win the clock
San Francisco is last in the league in time of possession yet tied for the league lead in 10-play drives offensively with 22. Of those types of drives, they’ve produced 19 that resulted in scores, including eight leading to touchdowns for a total of 89 points, which is third-best in the league. Those 89 points account for 48 percent percent of their offensive point total of 187, which is crazy. The Bears are last in the league in scoring offensive points with 154, two behind the New York Giants and five behind the Cleveland Browns. The Bears remain tied for last with 40 drives resulting in three-and-outs.
Jeff Joniak is the play-by-play announcer for the Bears broadcasts on WBBM Newsradio 780 & 105.9 FM. Follow him on Twitter @JeffJoniak.