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Bears vs. 49ers: 3 storylines to watch for San Francisco in Week 16

Dec 23, 2018 at 8:23 AM


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The San Francisco 49ers look to continue the spoiler role in Week 16 as they host the playoff-bound Chicago Bears. Here are three storylines for the red and gold to watch for this Sunday.


The San Francisco 49ers can continue their recent trend of spoiling opponents' playoff hopes in Week 16, as they prepare to host the 10-4 NFC North champions, the Chicago Bears, this Sunday at Levi's Stadium.

After coming off back-to-back upset wins at home over the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks the last two weeks, the Niners will have to contend with a top-tier Bears defense ranking third in both points allowed (264) and all-purpose yards given up (4,352). This makes for a tough task for quarterback Nick Mullens and Co., who will look to move the ball against Chicago defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, whom 49ers fans know well from his days working under former Niners head coach Jim Harbaugh not long ago.

Fangio's success with the Bears defense this year has been a primary reason behind his team's ascent. But one player in particular, EDGE Khalil Mack, has made a massive difference, turning Chicago's defense from a good unit into one of the premier outfits in the league.

Mack versus right tackle Mike McGlinchey is just one of the notable stories fans should watch this Sunday.

Mike McGlinchey vs. Khalil Mack


Two weeks ago, McGlinchey held his own against Denver Broncos pass-rusher Von Miller, and an equal task awaits the rookie offensive lineman in Week 16. Mack's 12.5 sacks on the season rank sixth most in the league, assisting an NFL-best 35 forced turnovers on the season.

Fortunately for San Francisco, McGlinchey has risen up the ranks of promising young players, as Pro Football Focus pointed out:


McGlinchey has been responsible for just four of the Niners' 44 sacks allowed on the season. So it's safe to say he hasn't been the primary culprit in any pass-rush issues despite this not being his strength in college.

Still, Mack has been a massive difference maker for the Bears this season. Whoever winds up winning this individual matchup will likely wind up being on the winning end in Week 16.

Containing Tarik Cohen


Second-year Bears running back Tarik Cohen has emerged as a bona fide offensive threat for head coach Matt Nagy. And while the 5-foot-6, 181-pound runner isn't a prototypical between-the-tackles tailback, there's little doubting Cohen's effectiveness as a multifaceted weapon.

Cohen leads all Chicago players with 1,118 multipurpose yards from scrimmage, meaning he's both a threat as a runner and pass-catching back out of the backfield.

While the 49ers can expect veteran running back Jordan Howard to receive a lot of the standard carries on the ground, guarding against Cohen on outside plays would be smart. After all, the Seattle Seahawks managed a good deal of success with running back Chris Carson outside the numbers during San Francisco's overtime Week 15 win last week.

Expect Chicago to attempt more of the same with Cohen in Week 16.

Winning the Turnover Battle


The Bears are good at defensive takeaways, as their 35 turnovers generated on defense suggest. Meanwhile, the Niners have just five turnovers generated themselves. Simply stated, one team is good at taking the ball away. The other isn't. It's that simple.

San Francisco's minus-22 differential is troublesome, particularly considering the Niners rank dead last in the league in this category. But if there is good news, the 49ers have lost just two turnovers on offense the past two weeks compared to the Bears' four. And Chicago's 22 turnovers lost on offense ranks 25th in the league.

So it isn't as if the Bears are immune to losing the ball on offense.

This deep into the season, it isn't as if the Niners are going to generate a lot of defensive takeaways. Fortunately, however, the Bears are suspect to losing the ball on offense, too, which means the 49ers could wind up being the opportunistic beneficiaries to would-be turnovers if they happen.

If they do, San Francisco could be primed for a massive upset on Sunday.

The 49ers and Bears kick off on Sunday, Dec. 23 at 4:05 p.m. ET from Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara.
  • Written by:
    Peter Panacy has been writing about the 49ers since 2011 for outlets like Bleacher Report, Niner Noise, 49ers Webzone, and is occasionally heard as a guest on San Francisco's 95.7 FM The Game and the Niners' flagship station, KNBR 680. Feel free to follow him, or direct any inquiries to his Twitter account.
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.


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