San Francisco 49er premier tight end and captain Vernon Davis issued a statement earlier in the short week in preparation for the Chicago Bears stating: "I think we can destroy their front." Further noting that he saw nothing spectacular about their front line other than left defensive end Adewale Ogunleye whom he believed to be playing well as if putting the entire Chicago Bear defense on notice that we would rein supreme; if anything he encouraged them to be more resilient.
In warming up just before the game to be aired on NFL Network television Chicago Bears defensive end Adewale Ogunleye confronted Vernon Davis on the field in a shouting match defending the notion that it would be Vernon who would eat those remarks. Before being hauled away by his center and teammate the playoff atmosphere had suddenly been set right there inside Candlestick Park.
First of all the outstanding performances of the entire defensive unit on the field which includes the many substitutions has to be applauded including the game plan devised in part by defensive coordinator Greg Manusky. Rated as one of the very best defenses against the run the 49ers eliminated the rushing option of Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte holding him to 20 carries for 41 yards and 2.1-yards per carry. In all 43-yards of total rushing offense was generated with but two yards from Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler. Matt Forte did generate more via the air from Cutler as he hauled in 8-of-9 receptions for 120 total yards for a 15-yard average.
Although Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler was never sacked he was rung up for a total of five costly interceptions and a miserable quarterback rating of 33.6. In his attempts to find the soft underbelly of the 49er secondary he generated 307 total yards of aerial offense but was denied ever throwing a touchdown and banished time and time again to the sideline with arms folded and head down.
Having not won a game since Oct. 4th the San Francisco 49ers under Mike Singletary had everything to be thankful for when on the final offensive drive of the game under Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler with 2:47 left to play in the game drove his team in a desperate attempt to secure a red zone opportunity. Penalty flags were thrown about like confetti on a wedding day as this drive began from the Bears own 20-yard line with several being directed towards us on 49er defensive back Dre Bly for illegal contact on fourth and ten to secure a first down.
Then after the two-minute warning a defensive offside call on linebacker Parys Haralson secured the Bears another first down that culminated with their offense sitting on the 49er 12-yard line and a shotgun formation to put the ball into the end zone for the Bears victory. One thing Jay Cutler did know is that his best option would be his tight end in Greg Olsen who was shadowing the back of the end zone in which 49er strong safety Michael Lewis was instinctive enough to know that is where Cutler was going and stepped in front to capture the ball and validate an end to our four game losing streak.
Both defenses jockeyed for ample position throughout the first quarter, then on a long drive by Jay Cutler starting from their own 11-yard line that carried over into the 2nd quarter, it looked to be an inevitable score having to be third and goal on the 49er one-yard line, Cutler threw nonchalantly into the end zone but an unlikely defensive back in Aubrayo Franklin was there to snag the ball and rumble up to the 11-yard line for the interception. Franklin continues to win support among his coaches and peers with his ability and tenacity out on the field in execution as a premier nose tackle that helps open the floodgates for the 49er linebackers to make spectacular plays.
Playing opposite of Chicago Bears wide receiver Devin Hester, 49er defensive back Tarell Brown snatched a ball thrown Hester's way as he slipped at the 49er 49-yard line which helped set-up the only touchdown of the game with Frank Gore on a 14-yard romp. Then came number three in the third quarter after a senseless unnecessary roughness penalty on 49er tight end Delanie Walker which put Chicago on our own 49-yard line, Cutler looked to Hester again but defensive back Dashon Goldson struck gold and returned it for two-yards.
On Chicago's opening drive of the fourth quarter at the point of midfield and going shotgun from the 49er 47-yard line Cutler was picked off by free safety Mark Roman who returned it 27 yards to the Chicago 44-yard line that helped set up a Joe Nedney field goal. It was a long overdue interception for Mark Roman who has had an extended dry spell of creating turnovers as a 49er effectively forcing him into a back-up role behind Dashon Goldson.
The San Francisco 49er defense continued to evolve with veteran linebacker Takeo Spikes coming out late in the first half due to a hamstring injury and being replaced by newly signed linebacker Matt Wilhelm. One would think that the Chicago Bears running game would gear back-up and take off? Not at Matt Wilhelm's behalf after being a part- time linebacker with the San Diego Chargers the last six seasons. Matt contributed with two great tackles and three assisted ones. Wilhelm familiar with Greg Manusky back in San Diego came in to offset the loss of then linebacker Jeff Ulbrich.
This was a game with each team coming off a mere three days rest. The scoring represented a soccer game in the 49ers eventually winning 10-6. It translated into a slugfest of defensive capers that seriously hampered each offense from taking control of the game. However when you are as fortunate as the San Francisco 49ers in getting a total of five turnovers due to interceptions, one would believe we should've scored a lot more points then ten on the scoreboard.
The 49er offense under quarterback Alex Smith was again anemic and without any real fireworks other than the Frank Gore touchdown in the midst of the second quarter 14-yards out and with a well executed block by left guard David Baas. Alex completed 16-of-23 passes for a mere 118-yards and a quarterback rating of 63.3. He was sacked twice for a loss of 12-yards and was intercepted by Chicago Bears cornerback Zachary Bowman at the 49ers 46-yard line in a pass intended for Michael Crabtree. Once again Alex continues to stir doubt in the minds of fans that he can finish a game without any turnovers involving his hands.
Mike Singletary continues to endorse Alex Smith as the starter for the remainder of the season. He liked the way Alex managed the game within the second half. In fact the game went very conservative when the second half came to light with Singletary reveling in the fact that his defense was setting the tempo and Frank could simply run the ball with distinction and eat time off the clock for the victory. This game is the prototype game Singletary has preached about and validated as being the strength of the team he recognizes as being its foundation.
He indicated that Alex is better improvising his skills as the pocket collapses around him and he is anticipating the pressure and near sacks better than he has ever done before. Being able to still make plays while sprinting out of the pocket and even tucking the ball under his arm and running for an open lane himself have won assurances with Mike that all is still well with Alex thus far.
The purest indication to both the coaches and the fans of this team should be what happened in the third quarter with 10:01 left to play and the 49ers were at the 49er 48-yard line on third and seven and out of a shotgun formation Alex handed the ball to Frank who failed to get the first down by one yard. Facing fourth and one at the Chicago 46-yard line Mike Singletary endorsed that the offensive line go for it to validate his belief that his intellectual sermons would pay off in their collective minds to win the leverage needed to insure a quarterback sneak.
After the play was done Alex never found a crease to get his head and half his body into and the Chicago Bears front seven got the early push and penetration by a mile when you watch it on film over and over again. This blown attempt assisted the Bears in scoring a field goal because of the favorable field position we had left them with. Singletary now says he should've never made that call, but backed-up to say he expects that when there is a yard to half a yard to go to make the first down he wants to believe his offensive line can get that job done.
In reality it doesn't get the job done. It has struggled all season long to convert on third downs and protect the quarterback with any kind of sincerity and it hasn't consistently dominated the line of scrimmage in order to provide Frank Gore a 100-yard rushing game week in and week out. Simply put we don't have the line personnel to get the job done, meaning this must again be a priority in the 2010 draft and free agency to boot. The right side of the line continues to be a weak link.
We need an offensive identity. We don't have one yet because we are still experimenting with what Alex Smith needs to be successful. Offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye is still looking at situations that provide Alex the best chances to be successful and that translate into him making accurate decisions without producing the costly turnovers. We obviously have a lot of work still to do, and or Alex Smith just needs to be more on page and in sync with his offensive personnel.
The notion that we can still compete for a playoff spot within our division with an offense still in a funk like it was on display here is very difficult to even imagine. We need a literal miracle to find that continuity and consistency with not much time to play with. All 49er fans should be a bit perplexed about where we are right now and where we think we may be headed. With this type of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde offense what is one to think?
Sources of Information: Mercury News.com, SF Gate.com, Inside Bay Area.com, NFL.com and my own personal analysis and opinion.