Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports


5 Burning Questions for the 49ers in Week 2

Sep 11, 2014 at 7:38 PM


When the San Francisco 49ers take on the Chicago Bears on Sunday night in the first regular season game ever at Levi's Stadium, they will have history on their side. The Bears have not won a game on the road against the 49ers since the season that saw the birth of "The Fridge" in 1985. Among those losses is a 32-7 thumping the 49ers put on the Bears in Colin Kaepernick's first ever NFL start. The theme all week out of Chicago has been that this is time for them to get payback for that blowout.

With that as a backdrop here are 5 burning questions to which the answers will be key to the outcome of the game.

1) Can the 49ers force Jay Cutler into mistakes? – Jay Cutler is a great fantasy football quarterback. Week after week he puts up big numbers. The problem is that he is usually good at giving the defense a few opportunities at interceptions each week as well. Cutler's performance last week against the Buffalo Bills was a perfect example of this as he threw for nearly 350 yards and 2 touchdowns. That was the good. The problem was that he also threw two interceptions.

The last time that Cutler faced the 49ers was back in 2009. On that night he put up over 300 yards passing and completed 34 of 52 passes. The only problem was that 5 of those 34 completions ended up in the hands of 49ers defenders as a bad 49ers team beat Chicago 10-6.

There is one problem though. The best way to force Cutler into mistakes is with a solid pass rush. Unfortunately for the 49ers this is an area they struggled with last week against the Dallas Cowboys. On Sunday the 49ers were able to pressure Tony Romo only 12 times on 40 drop backs. That won't cut it against Chicago.

One thing to keep an eye on would be if Vic Fangio is able to talk Jim Harbaugh into dressing 6 defensive linemen on the active roster after only have 5 against the Cowboys. This could be made possible with the release of LaMichael James. The addition of Tank Carradine or Quinton Dial into the rotation in certain situations could help energize the pass rush.

2) Will the 49ers defense be able to contain Matt Forte? – The Bears are loaded with high profile weapons on offense in Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffrey, Martellus Bennett and Santonio Holmes. The one that often goes unrecognized is possibly the most dangerous weapon, Matt Forte.

Last week against Buffalo, Forte had 169 yards of total offense, 87 yards on 8 receptions to go with 82 yards on 17 carries. On the flip side the 49ers are coming off a game in which they allowed 5.4 yards per carry to DeMarco Murray.

With Navorro Bowman out, the 49ers have turned to Michael Wilhoite. On Sunday, he and fellow inside linebacker Patrick Willis finished with the worst run defense grades on the team at -1.5 per ProFootballFocus. They both need to step up this week.

One thing playing in their favor however could be Marc Trestman. If Trestman calls a game similar to the one he called last week against the Bills, 51 passes and only 18 runs, he will be playing into the 49ers hands. Vic Fangio's defense excels against teams that are one dimensional.

3) Will it be Monday Night redux for Colin Kaepernick? – The last time these teams met Colin Kaepernick was making his debut as a starting NFL quarterback, and he shredded the Bears defense for 2 touchdowns in the first half as the 49ers built an insurmountable lead.

This time around Kaepernick will face a Bears defense that allowed E.J. Manuel to complete 72% of his passes on them. Not good when you consider that Manuel completed only 58% of his passes in 2013. If Kaepernick can build upon his performance from Dallas it should be a big night.

4) Is an expanded role for Bruce Ellington in the offing? – After the release of LaMichael James early in the week there has been reports that Ellington has spent time working with the running backs in practice. Ellington showed himself to be an explosive threat when given the opportunity during the preseason. Perhaps we will see Greg Roman and Jim Harbaugh begin to use Ellington in a role similar to how the Seahawks use Percy Harvin and the Green Bay uses Randall Cobb.

5) How will the turf at Levi's Stadium hold up? – During the preseason games everyone raved about how Levi's Stadium was state of the art. Unfortunately the same could not be said about the playing surface. The 49ers have already replaced the turf twice, changing to the same type of surface they used at Candlestick during the most recent installation. The turf went without any activity until an international soccer match last Saturday night. Reports from those on hand stated that the turf was still having issues.

Prediction Time: 49ers 30 Bears 17

Check into the webzone Sunday night as Jack provides updates an analysis on game in live blog.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


9 Comments

  • THENINE
    at Monsterminer: Matt Forté is not a small back considering the league average is 5'11. lynch and lacy are 5'11 and demarco is 6'0 but i don not think he will be much of a factor either. please research before you post. GO NINERS..
    Sep 12, 2014 at 1:49 PM
    0
  • Razoreater
    Suiting up 6 defensive lineman is highly unusual. I'd be surprised if that transpired. The field has been planted with the same grass strain that they used at Candlestick, instead of the more uncommon strain that was used before.....
    Sep 12, 2014 at 1:28 PM
    0
    Response: Welcome aboard Razor. I don't disagree with you that 6 DL is unusual, but maybe it will take something out of the ordinary to get the pass rush revved up. As for the grass, I thought I noted that in the piece but maybe I missed it. Anyway, reports from the soccer game last Saturday had the grass coming up again. T
  • Mark
    So if Fangio is able to talk JH into 6 lineman who would you dress? Dial being a better run stopper or Tank providing better pass rush?
    Sep 12, 2014 at 8:33 AM
    0
    Response: I would go with Carradine this week.
  • Mags
    Pass rush is key like others said before. Less Skuta and Wilhoite and more Borland and Lemoniere/Lynch on 2nd and 3rd down will help. For the sake of all things 9ers activate Tank he is a BEAST!!!! I think the biggest question in this game is our banged up secondary that we NEED against their twin towers at WR....
    Sep 12, 2014 at 7:52 AM
    0
  • Gandrew
    Matt Forte is no Joke. He is capable of controlling the whole game if Ian Williams and Mike Wilhoite play like they did against the Cowboys. I hate it when ever single one of the idiot talking heads are picking the Niners. The Niners are not above playing down to the competition.
    Sep 12, 2014 at 6:26 AM
    0
    Response: The problem for the Bears is in their offense Forte takes a pounding and when they need to give him a break there's no depth.
  • Flex831
    Willis>Forte confusion and timely blitzes gonna beat Cutler. And in the end we do have far better talent to be Chicago Bears by 24. This game won't be close.
    Sep 11, 2014 at 11:29 PM
    0
  • Nj niner fan
    Matt forte is 6'2 about 220. He is a big physical back that we have trouble against but if our offense can build a nice lead like last week they will abandon the run game.. I also believe our lack of pass rush was due to Dallas having one of the better o-lines in football so we should see more of a rush this week...I do think we win rather easily...kap will be too much for their d and cutler is a gunslinger that forces a lot of passes and our d will win the turnover battle for us Bears 17 49ers 35
    Sep 11, 2014 at 10:28 PM
    0
  • Kojak
    Thanks for your article. Well written as usual.
    Sep 11, 2014 at 9:46 PM
    0
    Response: Thank you.
  • Monsterniner
    I´m not too worried about Matt Forte because he´s small and the RB´s that are dangerous to us are the big and strong ones like Marshawn Lynch, Eddie Lacy and DeMarco Murray so I think that our D even without our 2 All-Pro LB´s will be able to stop him. What really worries me is the lack of pass rush because 12 hurries in 40 dropbacks is terrible and in today´s NFL you have to put pressure on the QB because if you don´t do it you won´t win many games.
    Sep 11, 2014 at 8:25 PM
    0

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