Week 11 brings an intriguing home matchup for the 49ers. They will be facing off against the Chicago Bears at Candlestick Park on the NFL Network. Even though time has passed, it's still worth noting that this is the first regular season matchup between the teams since the Bears successfully accused the 49ers of tampering with Lance Briggs.
Many of you may be wondering where this logo comes from, as it's most definitely not the logo for our Bears site. Well, in March of 2008, when the tampering business was going down I got extremely annoyed with the Bears. So I had our man wjackalope develop this graphic and proceeded to refer to the Bears as the Chicago Stoolies (stool pigeon, get it?). Anyways, time has passed but I thought it would be amusing to roll this logo out one more time.
The Chicago Bears are represented at SB Nation by WCG over at Windy City Gridiron.
2008 was an up and down year for the Bears, to say the least. If they had managed a win at Houston in Week 17 they would have made the playoffs. Instead they finished 9-7 and 1/2 game back of the wildcard Eagles. They lose 5 games by a touchdown or less as their ineffective offense was carried by another very solid defense. Their breakout star on offense was Matt Forte. While he put up big totals, he averaged just under the league average per carry and they had nobody to offset him. That might have been due in part to the continued struggles of their passing game. That would also factor in some of their offseason decisions. The Bears defense finished fifth against the run and tenth against the pass. Although they've got big names like Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs (among many others), it appears to have been a true team effort by most everybody on defense.
Well, it was a pretty quiet offseason for the Monsters of the Midway...oh wait, not so much. The big news for Chicago was the trade for Jay Cutler. I don't think there's anybody in the world who would say Cutler is NOT an upgrade over Kyle Orton or Rex Grossman. While they haven't exactly added much to their wide receiver corps, Cutler should provide an upgrade just by not being Orton or the Sex Cannon. The other big name addition was offensive tackle Orlando Pace. He's getting long in the tooth, but a late resurgence could do wonders for the Bears. The Bears added one other Ram in linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa, who folks think will be their starting strong side linebacker. Finally, they added Josh Bullocks as a potential starting free safety.
The Bears highest draft choice was in the third round, so naturally they have all their players in camp. Given the lateness of their draft, there is some very interesting potential mixed in with some projects. Their top two picks were DT Jarron Gilbert and WR Juaquin Iglesias. I saw Iglesias in a postseason All Star game and recall coming away mildly impressed. Another guy I'm intrigued by (or at least have some knowledge of) is fourth round pick, CB D.J. Moore out of Vanderbilt. Charles Tillman is out due to back surgery (although he thinks he'll be back relatively early in the season), so I'd imagine D.J. Moore is going to get a nice hunk of preseason playing time.
The Bears parted ways with quite a few of their veterans this offseason, especially on defense. The biggest sentimental loss is probably Mike Brown. The 10-year vet was definitely a fan favorite but the Bears have started a bit of a youth movement on defense. On offense they cut ties with John St. Clair, but Bears fans are not too concerned about that at this point. Of course, the two biggest losses for the Bears have to be Rex Grossman and this 49ers fan favorite.
2009 Questions and Answers
My biggest question remains whether Jay Cutler has a sufficient amount of wide receivers a this disposal. While Devin Hester might continue to improve as a wide receiver, there's not a whole lot else there. I do think Juaquin Iglesias is talented, but history has proven rookie receivers take time to develop. I do think Cutler upgrades the receivers, but will it be enough?
Elsewhere on offense, I'm curious to see what Kevin Jones brings to the table. He has yet to play a full season and thus far it's safe to say he's been a disappointment. He's been able to find the end zone in the past, but all in all, I'm not buying yet. If the Bears are going to improve their offense, they need him to be a solid second banana to Forte. Whomever it is playing #2 to Forte, they're gonna need a heck of a lot more Jones's 34 carries.
On defense (and this could be applied on offense with the likes of Cutler and Pace), the question is how the unit will come together with a potential new free safety, strong side linebacker, and maybe even cornerback if Moore impresses. It was probably time for changes, but you still have to live with the outcome of those changes.
@ San Francisco
As I said in our very early schedule discussion, I think this is a real measuring stick game. We both felt this ended up as a win. I continue to think that if the 49ers are going to make any kind of noise this season, this is a must-win for them. The Bears are certainly a talented squad, but I really don't think they're so much more talented than the 49ers that they will walk out of here with an easy win. I think this about a lot of the games this season, but once again, I see a very close matchup. We could be looking at a field goal decision.