Due to some wild work crap, this is up a ton later than expected but despite that, here are my thoughts on the Chicago/San Fran stumble from Thursday night.
It was indeed a stumble – it was too lackluster to be called a ‘tumble’, ‘matchup’ or ‘brouhaha’.
I could have almost called it a yawn.
Jay Cutler must miss Denver. Not so much the city, coaching staff or even the AFC West – although that last one would be a lot more fun to play in.
No, Cutler is probably missing a good offensive line and competent wide receivers.
Most likely the offensive line. If you don’t believe me, take a peek at Matt Forte’s statline. His yards per carry is pretty abyssmal, although his overall stas are good thanks to the Bears finally using him in the pass game.
I suck at math but if I used the calculatron correctly, 20 carries for41 yards is a horrific 2.1 yards per carry average.
I made a joke on twitter last night wondering if Forte was finally back from vacation and was gently reminded that it isn’t really him so much as his offensive line.
However, the counter point to that which – of course – I only just thought of is that guys like Steven Jackson and LaDainian Tomlinson have at one time or another (or in Jackson’s case continue) to produce with shoddy offensive lines.
I guess all that means is, if you were ready to crown Forte as the next great running back after a fantastic year one, slow your roll. Doesn’t mean he’s not very good – it might indicate he isn’t great. Either way, it’s too early to call it, so let’s not.
Back to Cutler – apparently he cursed out a journalist in the hallways near the 49er lockerroom last night when said media dude said that forget fove interceptions, Cutler could have easily had seven.
I’m sure it’s not what you want to hear but honestly, was the guy wrong? Cutler made some poor decisions (for example interception number one) and floated some awful passes that could have been picked off, but weren’t.
No run game and poor blocking by the offensive line have put Cutler in a position where he feels the need to press and that’s not a good thing.
Especially when Devin Hester would make a nice number two wide receiver but isn’t quite in Brandon Marshall’s league. Or Brandon Stokley’s. Or Eddie Royal’s.
I see a trend.
Cutler needs to stop pushing so hard. He also needs more help.
Speaking of offensive lines, a better effort on the part of the San Francisco line than in recent games. I’ll point to the running back position again as partial support of my point.
Frank Gore’s 104 yards and touchdown on the ground added up to a very solid 4.2 yards per carry.
Despite that, there is still work to do. Quarterback Alex Smith was sacked twice and did throw a pick, but more telling was the fact that he looked like a skittish deer in the pocket.
He doesn’t seem to have much confidence in that offensive line right now. Not good.
The 49ers didn’t repeat last week’s mistake of putting Smith in the position of having to throw 45 times and that’s a good thing given his propensity for interceptions.
Still, 118 yards and no touchdowns is too few for both stats and the 49ers need to do something about it. Getting him back to the confidence level he seemed to have his first game or two is a must.
Despite the better play on the defensive side of the ball and the good ground game, the Niners didn’t take this game over or impose their will on the Bears.
At some point they may fall behind an opponent and at that point they need to find a way to move the ball through the air.
We can argue Smith’s long term viability as the starting QB for this franchise (I don’t think he has one, unfortunately) but he has had a turnover in every start and the more he throws, the scarier it seems to get.
Where did Vernon Davis go? If the Bears did one thing well, it was shut the up-until-last-night red hot tight end down. Meanwhile Greg Olsen has found his stride and his seven catches for 75 yards was a real bright spot.
Back to Forte for a second – 120 yards on eight catches is pretty sick. In reality, throwing to Forte would be the other thing the Bears did well.
Johnny Knox is pretty fast. I mean, there is speed and then there is NFL speed. Sigmund Bloom of Footballguys.com mentioned how impressed he was to see the speed he and the guys at Draftguys.com saw at Texas vs. the Nation still effective against NFL level players.
There’s a huge difference between College and NFL play – Knox seems to have shifted pretty well from one to the other.
So has Michael Crabtree for the most part. He stumbled on the smith interception and perhaps a more veteran wideout and a more confident quarterback might have adjusted on the fly to the huge cushion Crabtree had but neither did.
Crabtree still looks much better than expected though and I think he’ll succeed in the league, a relief to Niner fans I am sure.
Overall, this game was hard to watch. Neither team really seemed to want to win it, and there was a lack of intensity that marred what I expected to be a hard fought game.
Both teams needed this win badly. The 49ers stay in contention for both the Wild Card and the NFC West title with the win while the Bears are heading the wrong way and will have a fight on their hands for a slot in the playoffs if they don’t figure out how to fix what’s wrong and soon.
It sure wasn’t a case of ‘who wanted it more’ though – more like a case of ’who played slightly more competently’.
Not exactly what I was looking for during the first week of Thursday Night Football.