Chicago Bears: 6 Most Critical Match-Ups Against the 49ers
The Chicago Bears will try to stay ahead in the NFC North Division when they face the San Francisco 49ers tonight at Candlestick stadium. On paper this shapes up to be a low scoring defensive struggle between the two teams. Starting quarterbacks Jay Cutler and Alex Smith have been ruled out for this game as they continue to recover from concussions suffered the previous week.
The 49ers are tough defense, ranking fifth in the Aikman ratings; 1st in points, 3rd in passing yards, and 8th in rushing yards in the NFL rankings. The Bears however rank 1st in total defense in the Aikman ratings; 2nd in points allowed, 10th in passing yards, and 5th in rushing yards. Last week you saw two of the best defenses in the league when the Bears faced the Houston Texans, and on Monday night you will see it again with the 49ers.
Both offenses does a great job running the football (when the Bears decide they want to run the football) and you can expect conservative game plans for the two offenses.
There are six critical match-ups that could likely help decide this game. Brandon Marshall against cornerback Tarell Brown highlights on the offensive side of the ball, while Charles Tillman against Michael Crabtree stands out most on the defensive side of the ball.
However, those two match-ups were not selected as the most critical ones in tonight’s game. Here’s a look at the six most critical match-ups for the Bears against the 49ers.
J’Marcus Webb vs. Aldon Smith
Another big test for J’Marcus Webb this season against one of the league’s top pass rushers in Outisde Linebacker Aldon Smith. Webb had a pretty solid game against the Houston Texans pass rushers last week, but he faces a pass rusher in Smith tonight who plays to his weakness (speed rush).
Webb will also at times during the game draw the match-up against defensive end Justin Smith, but for the most part, Smith will be his assignment throughout the night. This will be a true test to see how improved Webb is as a starting left tackle against an elite pass rusher.
Chilo Rachal vs. Justin Smith
The two former teammates in Chilo Rachal and Justin Smith will do battle tonight. Since Rachal mainly played at RG in San Francisco, I assume he and Smith haven’t practice a lot against each other since Smith plays right defensive end.
For the Bears to have success on offense, they have to establish the run in order to keep the aggressive 49ers defense off balance. That starts on the line against Smith and their nose tackle Isaac Sopoaga. If Rachal and Center Roberto Garza can have success against two of the 49ers best defensive linemen, the Bears could have good success against their defense.
Alshon Jeffery vs. Carlos Rogers
The 49ers will do their best to try and shutdown wide receiver Brandon Marshall. More than likely we will see the 49ers secondary run bracket coverage against the Marshall most of the night. Rookie Alshon Jeffery will be active tonight, so that will give Jason Campbell another possession receiver to go to when Marshall is effectively covered.
Carlos Rogers is a decent veteran corner, who’s capable of shutting down a top tier WR. The inexperience Jeffery will have his hands full in his first game back from injury.
Julius Peppers vs. Joe Staley
The Bears will try to make the 49ers one dimensional and force Colin Kaepernick to win the game for them. We know how great of a run blocking unit the 49ers offensive line are, but they as good pass blocking. The Bears defensive line will want to put pressure on Kaepernick and force him to make some poor decisions with the football.
The pass rush starts with Julius Peppers who will be going up against a pretty good LT in Joe Staley. Blindside pressure from Peppers could potentially force Kaepernick into some poor throws and opportunities for the back end of the defense to make turnovers.
Stephen Paea vs. Mike Iupati
Stephen Paea has been a force for the Bears this season both against the pass and especially against the run. There’s nothing special about the 49ers offense; they love to run the football and move the football through the air 10-to-15 yards at a time. Paea assignment tonight will be Mike Iupati who is one of the best interior linemen in the league.
It will be strength versus strength as the 49ers love to run behind Center Jonathan Goodwin and Iupati, while Paea is the team’s best run stopper on the line. Keep an eye on this battle throughout the night.
Tim Jennings vs. Mario Manningham
Tim Jennings has been one of the better playmaking cornerbacks in the league and with the 49ers starting an inexperience QB in Colin Kaepernick, Jennings will have his opportunities tonight. Mario Manningham has been struggling this season for the 49ers. He’s been struggling to get open and that might continue against an improved cover corner Jennings.