We reached out to Patti Curl from Windy City Gridiron to answer a few questions about the 49ers and Bears Week 8 matchup. Thank you to Patti for taking the time. Chicago's season isn't far off from San Francisco's. Then, of course, there's the quarterback dilemma as well as pointing fingers at the head coach.
Let's start with the quarterback for the Bears.
1) 49ers fans have been itching to see their rookie QB start for the majority of the season. So how has Justin Fields been for the Bears? Has it been a rocky start with a few highs here and there, or are you seeing incremental improvements each week?
If you asked me before last week's game, I'd have been confident in saying there have been incremental improvements. But last week was a disaster with a pattern similar to the one we saw against the Browns. The Buccaneers consistently sent pressure, often with blitzers that Fields didn't recognize pre-snap, and the Bears' offensive line and minimal forms of "help" afforded them were not able to slow them down.
I don't mean that metaphorically. Often the lineman literally did not slow the first player to Fields down at all. It was just a free sprint at our poor rookie. That's not a setup that any player will thrive in, but Fields doesn't have the savvy to make appropriate adjustments and punish teams for their blitzes, and the Bears coaching staff doesn't have the common sense to give him more help.
Even with the challenges and poor production, Fields has shown some beautiful deep rainbows and great intermediate accuracy when he has an open-ish receiver. His scrambling ability hasn't quite shown up to its potential, but glimpses have certainly gotten me excited. I have all the faith in Fields being a great franchise QB. I just don't know if his development will meaningfully start with this coaching staff and offensive line.
2) The Bears also have a rookie running back who looks like the real deal. Has Khalil Herbert made David Montgomery expendable? Should he have received more touches early on?
Herbert has been really impressive as a runner. He's certainly exceeded my expectations, and he probably has more explosive play potential than Montgomery. He's also not nearly the pass blocker, and his presence was part of the reason for the disaster mentioned above in the Bears passing game last week. Montgomery is definitely not expendable, and he adds value over Herbert's inability to break tackles and pass blocking. But having depth that pushes Montgomery is certainly a nice problem to have.
Moving forward, I think he may take more touches away from Damien Williams than he does Mongomery, but he will probably eat into both of their pies but also make the whole pie bigger at the same time. And isn't that what we're all here for?
3) Matt Nagy seems like a sitting duck. 49ers fans are all too familiar with a head coach that's been less than stellar this season. Is there any salvaging the season for Nagy, or is fate already sealed?
His fate seems pretty sealed, but it's hard to know with the Bears. Most Bears fans thought he and Pace were done at the end of last season, along with possibly team President Ted Phillips. Instead, the Bears ownership opted to do absolutely nothing and hoped things would get better. I think if the offense improves and the Bears end the season on a winning streak, there's a chance he'll convince the Bears to give him more time to "develop" our loveable new signal-caller.
4) Kyle Shanahan said the Bears' defense is better than their numbers suggest. Can you tell us about that side of the ball as far as who has stood out and how much missing Khalil Mack would potentially hurt?
The first person who's stood out is Bears' new defensive coordinator Sean Desai. He was here under Vic Fangio and is definitely implementing his version of Fangio's scheme. You may have heard of Fangio as the man the 49ers wisely passed over as an internal head coach hire in favor of Jim Tomsula, who led the Niners into a bevy of draft capital in his infamous one-year run.
As far as players, Jaylon Johnson has been the star of the defense, playing at a high level all season when the rest of the secondary takes turns tripping over each other to give up coverage busts. That sounds like a defense that shouldn't work, but more often than not, it does, in large part because the front seven has been putting significant pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
Khalil Mack has obviously been a big part of it, but Robert Quinn has played some of his best football and is finally a legitimate threat outside of Mack. In addition, 2nd-year rotational player Trevis Gipson has also taken a big step forward this season, and I'm excited to see what he does with extra snaps with Mack out.
5) Score prediction and season prediction for the rest of the year for Chicago.
Obviously, I'm going to predict the Bears to win, but I'm at all-time low confidence in their offense, so I'm saying Bears 4 to 3. The defense gets two safeties but can't prevent a field goal when the offense turns the ball over deep in Niners' territory. For the season? I suppose they'll finish 13 and 4 before losing to the Cardinals in the wild card round.