The San Francisco 49ers start the quest for their sixth Lombardi trophy by traveling to Soldier Field to play the Chicago Bears. Niners head coach Kyle Shanahan is 2-1 in his last three season openers. San Francisco’s defensive line may have the biggest matchup of the game against the Bears’ offensive line. Shanahan’s play calling, together with the 49er pass catchers, will lift the weight off of second-year quarterback Trey Lance.
We take a look at my three reasons the 49ers can beat the bears below.
San Francisco’s defensive line vs. Chicago’s offensive line
49er fans have complained about the offensive line play during the preseason, but the Bears’ line could be worse. Niners defensive line coach Chris Kocurek has been licking his chops at the battle at both tackle positions. San Francisco’s defensive line is arguably the best position group on the team, making it easy to choose them as a key to victory.
The defensive line is going against four new faces on Chicago’s offensive line. Nick Bosa, Arik Armstead, and Javon Kinlaw look to feast on one of the worst offensive lines in the league. I am predicting the defensive line to get home on five sacks.
Kyle Shanahan will make the game easy for Lance
I ruffled some feathers by saying the 49ers are not sold on Lance, but I think you can take something from that. Lance showed he needs work with his progressions in the preseason finale vs. the Houston Texans, and that is ok. He is paired with one of the most creative play callers in the NFL. I would expect Shanahan to make the game easier on him by giving him easier throws and half-field reads. The running game can lift the weight off Lance’s shoulders by gaining traction on early downs. While play-action passes could give Lance some low-risk throws while having the opportunity to make an explosive play.
The 49er pass catchers will come to aid in murky moments
Ok, without contradicting myself, I want to give flowers to San Francisco’s pass catchers while acknowledging that Lance may not be in playoff form. I would not be surprised if the 49ers ran for 200 plush rushing yards, but I do think the pass catchers will have a greater impact.
The Bears’ secondary will be tested all game as they are starting two rookies in Jaquan Brisker (S) and Kyler Gordon (CB). Shanahan has a mix of talents at receiver that will soften the game up for Lance. Bears’ head coach Matt Eberflus’ defensive scheme is like San Francisco’s zone-heavy scheme. According to Pro Football Reference, Eberflus’ Colts defense blitzed a total of 134 times (20.2%) compared to Ryans calling 124 blitzes (19.8%). I would expect the Bears to turn up the heat to rattle Lance. This leaves the pass catchers to win in one-on-one situations, make critical catches on third downs, and make a spectacular “Yac” play or two.
Players in Week 1 will have to knock the rust off despite the three preseason games. The main focus is for Lance to take what the game gives him. It is too easy to try and play hero ball when you have uncoachable traits. Kocurek’s defensive line, Shanahans play calling, and the 49er pass catchers will be keys to victory.
The defensive line has the biggest advantage of any position group heading into Sunday. Shanahan will need to ease Lance into his third NFL start. The pressure is on Lance, but there is no need to make uncharacteristic decisions. San Francisco’s pass catchers can help install confidence in their quarterback by making critical catches.