By Tim Baffoe-
(CBS) With all due respect to half of the Saturday show on 670 The Score, the Chicago Bears’ season isn’t over. True, most facets of their game were putrid this past Sunday at home against a mediocre-at-best Buffalo Bills team, but it’s one game. Fifteen more glorious three-hour chunks of critiquing Marc Trestman, Jay Cutler and Mel Tucker to go. Maybe even more weeks than that if the wrinkles get ironed out.
But if they lose to the San Francisco 49ers this coming Sunday, oh, then it’s all over. Done. Jump in the lifeboats as the band plays down the sinking ship.
Yet, San Francisco couldn’t ask for a worse opponent to christen what is at least the place’s third type of turf laid down before even hosting a regular-season game. Spray paint a few brown patches green, and the Bears might think they’re in Soldier Field. If the iffy new grass doesn’t give Colin Kaepernick fits or blow out a few red and gold knees or six, though, wave goodbye to playoff football involving Chicago.
Kaepernick had the second-best passer rating of Week 1 in the NFL, and if E.J. Manuel gave the Bears defense problems, they might as well plan on a victory strategy of blocking extra points. Kaepernick’s second-best passer rating of his career, 133.1, came in his only other career start against the Bears, back in 2012. This week, the Bears’ pass rush absolutely needs to be turned on in hopes of either getting sacks or forcing Kaepernick to make mistakes. With 49ers receivers who won’t (well, OK, shouldn’t) torch the Bears secondary, having the quarterback sweat the rush gives Chicago a puncher’s chance.
No heat on Jay Cutler on Sunday, though, or the 2014 Bears season is a TKO. That limbs-dangling-in-the-ropes kind of overness.
Then there is the Bears’ run defense against the 49ers’ rushing offense. Let’s just bury our heads in the sand on that one, because you’re going to spend Monday morning at your cubicle repeatedly jerking your head to the side with your new ingrained spasm from watching Frank Gore and Carlos Hyde Tecmo Bowl themselves downfield. That’s going to be really bad, but if it’s the only really bad thing, maybe the Bears steal one.
Of course, the chances of just one bad thing happening are very poor. And then Bears season will be over, and we shift to yelling at each other about Derrick Rose.
Hey, but there’s still the Bears offense. The Cowboys did rush for 127 yards on the 49ers in a game that was over for Dallas in the first quarter, boding well for Matt Forte, who is poised to improve on the 82 yards he ran for against Buffalo despite the offense not quite clicking. That’s a something, right? Matt Forte? Security blanket guy? I’m trying here.
Cutler gets the benefit of a Swiss cheesier opponent defense than when the schedule was released. The holes in what was otherwise expected to be a pretty staunch 49ers defense are about the only saving grace if you read Dan Durkin’s Know Your Executioner piece. Linebacker Aldon Smith is suspended, and fellow linebacker Navarro Bowman is still injured. Cornerback Chris Culliver has yet to pass the league’s concussion protocol test as of this typing, and on the opposite side of the field Tramaine Brock didn’t practice this week with a toe injury. A healthier 49ers defense didn’t shut down a bad Cowboys team despite winning the game. As has become the norm, though, it’s about whether Cutler can limit his mistakes to keep his team in the game.
It can be done. Cutler can achieve perfection or near-perfection throwing the ball. But if he turns the ball over — and, yes, that feels like asking a paper towel to not let any liquid pass through — the Bears can outscore the 49ers. Seriously. It’s possible.
Then again, the Bears receiving core and offensive line have the plague this week. So if Santonio Holmes is the go-to guy while some backups try to stop a pass rush that gets a lot of sacks, pack it up and wait for puck drop at the United Center.
Remember, too, this is the NFL. Too often nothing is as it seems. A week ago you were supremely confident in discussing this game from a 1-0 Bears perspective and not 0-1. (Only 23 0-2 teams have made the playoffs in the wild card era that dates to 1990, FYI.) The 49ers dominated last week, saw the Bears wet the bed and are dealing with all the circus of opening a stadium. And that’s not to mention the non-football drama like the arrest of defensive tackle Ray McDonald for domestic violence amid all the negativity the league is rightfully getting regarding a culture of domestic violence (McDonald will be playing Sunday, by the way) and a suspension of a team broadcaster for saying stupid things about women who have been abused.
Las Vegas has many large buildings because many people think locks in pro football exist. A Bears win can happen on Sunday night in front of a national audience in a city where they haven’t won since I was three years old. Keep the faith.
And then acknowledge that the season is probably over come Monday.
Tim Baffoe is a columnist for CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @TimBaffoe.