The game wasn't pretty, and despite 5 interceptions, the San Francisco 49ers hung on for a 4-point win over the struggling Chicago Bears. Michael Lewis intercepted Jay Cutler to end the Bears scary comeback drive with just seconds remaining on the clock. If San Francisco can take one thing away from this game, it is a "W". The team converted 5 INTs into just 10 points, and the defense kept everyone on the edge of their seats during the final drive. Cutler had the Bears marching after Dre Bly's Illegal Contact penalty gave the Bears a fresh set of downs.
The Bears began their march, by heading backwards, being penalized 25 yards total in the next two plays. Fifteen of those penalty yards came after a 12-yard catch by Matt Forte, which put the Bears back into a 2nd and long situation. Cutler briefly took over, completing 3 passes to Devin Hester (28 yards), 2 passes to Forte (32 yards), and 3 passes to three separate receivers to get the Bears deep inside 49ers territory at the 12-yard line. On First and Ten, Cutler over threw Greg Olsen in the end zone, leading to second down. It was then, that Strong Safety Michael Lewis stepped up in front of Olsen and intercepting the pass to finish the Bears off completely. A collective sigh of relief was heard through out Niners Nation.
After all, it was Greg Olsen that was giving the 49ers problems much of the contest, catching 7 passes for 75 yards. Matt Forte finished as the Bears leading receiver, with 8 catches for 120 yards. Cutler finished 29 of 52 for 307 yards, with 5 interceptions (I'll discuss those more in a minute). The San Francisco defense did a great job in shutting down the Bears for much of the game, especially against the run. The Bears struggled to gain just 43 rushing yards, and 85 of Cutler's passing yards came on the final drive. Chicago also didn't score in the red zone, attributed to Jay Cutlers 2 INTs inside the 49ers 20 yard line. Until the final drive, the 49ers didn't bend much at all, and eventually broke the Bears' back.
After the jump, Cutler's INTs in more detail, and a recap on the 49ers performance on both sides of the ball...
1st Pick: Aubrayo Franklin at the SF 1 yard line. Cutler really didn't face a lot of pressure on this play action fake, but enough to make a bad read. The Bears QB threw the ball where three 49ers defenders were roaming, and the big NT picked the ball out of the area like a Tight End in the red zone. This was the longest drive of the game for Chicago, totalling 18 yards and 87 yards. Greg Olsen had 3 catches for 43 yards, and Matt Forte gained 29 of his 41 rushing yards on this drive.
2nd Pick: Tarell Brown intercepted Cutler after Devin Hester fell down making a cut during his route. Brown returned the ball 51 yards to the CHI 14 yard line, and immediately after Frank Gore scored on a 14-yard rush TD. David Baas had a killer pull block on the play that sprung Gore into the end zone.
3rd Pick: Dashon Goldson picked off the Bears QB on a 3rd and 10 play that saw Justin Smith pressure Cutler into making a poor decision. Unfortunately the 49ers couldn't capatilize on the turnover, and ended up turning the ball over on downs to Chicago on a failed QB sneak.
4th Pick: Ladies and Gentlemen, we have a Mark Roman sighting! While Roman may have gotten away with pass interference, we'll leave that debate for Bears fans to mull over. This interception came on a 4th and 7 play, and Cutler just made a bad throw with no pressure forcing him into the decision. San Francisco converted the INT into 3 points, and went up 10-6 for good.
5th Pick: Michael [Site Decorum] Lewis. End of analysis.
San Francisco Offense
Frank Gore had a very productive game, gaining 102 yards on the ground (25 carries), catching 4 passes for 21 yards and scoring the lone TD of the game. The Offensive Line didn't give Gore a great deal of help, as our RB was tackled for a loss 3 times and stuffed for no gain 4 times. However, the O-Line did give Gore some room during the team's final 4th quarter drive that saw Gore rush 8 times for 33 yards, while helping drive 12 plays and 48 yards to kill some clock. Andy Lee had a rare mishap on that final drive, punting the ball right into the endzone, giving Cutler and the Bears a shorter field to work with. I'll give credit to the Bears defense for limiting the run, but I have to hang some of the blame on the O-Line's shoulders.
Adam Snyder struggled in pass protection again, and Chilo Rachal didn't do much better. On a key 3rd and 7 in the first quarter, Snyder simply whiffed on his man, and Rachal seemed to give up on his man as Alex Smith was sacked for a loss. Joe Nedney ended up missing the 39-yard Field Goal, and while that wasn't Snyder or Rachal's fault, their sack didn't help. It seemed like most of the pressure was coming through the right side of our O-Line; I only saw Sims get beat badly once (it could be more, but I only noticed once). Baas did a good job for the most part in pass protection, although aside from his pull on Gore's 14-yard TD, didn't do much mauling in the run game. It seemed like every time Smith had to buy time, it was Snyder's fault.
For the most part, Alex Smith did a fine job getting himself out of trouble, and was sacked just two times in the game. One of the sacks was his own fault, as he held onto the ball for far too long on a first down play that kicked off San Francisco's 3rd drive of the game. Smith made a nice read on a blitz, but since no one picked up the blitzing defender, his pass intended for a wide open Vernon Davis was tipped. Luckily it fell to the ground harmlessly incomplete. Smith's only interception of the game came on a downfield shot to Michael Crabtree. There was no pressure, it was simply a bad pass by the former first rounder. Smith finished 16 of 23 with 118 yards and 1 INT.
Vernon Davis and the 49ers wide receivers didn't get a lot of yards or many looks, as the 49ers relied heavily on the defense to win the game. Michael Crabtree was targeted 4 times on the 49ers opening drive, and dropped one during that drive. Charles Tillman also made a nice play preventing Crabtree from making a potentially impressive 20-yard catch along the side line. Crab ended the game with 4 catches for 48 yards; he was targeted just 3 more times after the first drive. Josh Morgan had 3 catches for 24 yards and Vernon Davis had 3 for 16. I wasn't impressed by the 49ers offensive performance, as the team didn't move the ball much and had three 3-and-outs. They did a poor job on third downs (5 for 14), but managed to win the Time of Possession battle. Luckily the defense bailed the offense out.
San Francisco Defense
Jay Cutler was sacked zero times, and the Chicago Bears completed 8 of 16 on third downs. Chicago had three 3-and-outs, two on consecutive drives to start the game. The 49ers intercepted Cutler twice on third down, and once on fourth down, so that definitely wipes out the 50% success rate the Bears enjoyed on 3rd down. As mentioned previously, the 49ers run defense stifled Matt Forte and the Chicago O-Line, limiting the RB to just 2.1 ypc. The Bears can be credited for getting Forte the ball in the flats, but that's a testament to just how well the 49ers defense shut down the run game. Patrick Willis had a typical game with 11 tackles, and Takeo Spikes was effective until leaving the game with a hamstring injury (it's undetermined how serious the injury is). Matt Wilhem did a nice job filling in for the injured Spikes, getting his hand in on 5 tackles.
The true gem of the game was defensive end Justin Smith. On the first play of the game, Smith bull rushed a Chicago OLineman into Jay Cutler. Each play after in the short Bears series, Smith faced double teams. Through out much of the contest afterwards, Smith was fighting his way against double teams. I counted at least 4 QB pressures from Smith and at least 2 hits on the QB. Smith finished the game virtually invisible in the box score, registering just 3 tackles, but if you paid attention, his motor was going on every play. His ability to face numerous double teams helped provide other players the opportunity to make plays and pressure the QB. I cannot endorse the excellent play of Smith enough.
Overall, I counted at least 10 QB pressures from the 49ers Defensive front. Parys Haralson had at least 2, and Manny Lawson added two pressures as well. Ahmad Brooks had a nice pressure on a missed blitz pick up, and swatted a pass nicely. Patrick Willis also nearly sacked the Bears QB, and got a nice shot in on Cutler in the process. There were no sacks, but the defense did a good job keeping Cutler uncomfortable, and mostly ineffective, save for two long drives. The front seven really helped the 49ers secondary, who had a pretty good game despite allowing 307 yards passing. I mean really, how many bad things can I say about a defense that picks off 5 passes? They allowed the Bears to march twice, but snubbed both of those potential scoring drives with key interceptions in the red zone. I really can't complain, they got us the win.
Special Teams almost let us down tonight, but again, our defense came through in the clutch. Joe Nedney broke his consecutive FG streak from inside of 40 yards, missing a 39 yard attempt on the 49ers first offensive series. Andy Lee made a near fatal mistake by punting the ball into the end zone setting up the Bears final drive at the 20, instead of inside the 10. For the game Lee averaged just 33 yards per punt, and had just 1 land inside the 20. The coverage units were very impressive however, as the Bears started inside their own 20 five times in the game. Chicago averaged 14 yards per kick return, and Devin Hester returned 2 punts for just 4 yards. San Francisco's return game wasn't bad, as Arnaz Battle handled the kick off return duties, averaging 25 yards on his two returns. The 49ers started inside their own 20 three times in the contest and Brandon Jones didn't muff any punts, or catch any inside the SF 5 yard line. Overall, the Special Teams did a fine job outside of Nedney's missed FG and Lee's poor punting (that just seems wrong saying that).
A win is a win, no matter how ugly. We all can walk away from this game realizing it was ugly, but that's +1 in the column in front of losses. I never thought I'd say this, but Michael Lewis and Mark Roman each intercepted a pass in the same game. For now Niners Nation, let's enjoy the "W", and the rare feat accomplished by two of our safeties.