49ers loss a 'wakeup call' that says Bears asleep, overconfident

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49ers loss a 'wakeup call' that says Bears asleep, overconfident

SAN FRANCISCO The hardest part of a blowout loss is sorting out what it says about the defeated, first in the game itself and then about the bigger 16-game picture.

The 32-7 debacle the Bears (7-3) put on against the San Francisco 49ers was one of those. The only problem the Bears gave the 49ers (7-3-1) was a quarterback controversy, whether Colin Kaepernick is in fact a better quarterback going forward than Alex Smith.

One veteran leaving Candlestick Park said, Thats a different team than Ive been watching.

Which one? I asked.

Both, he said.

If there is a positive, it is that this time a year ago the Bears were 7-3 and losing their quarterback. This year they are 7-3 and getting him back, presuming that Jay Cutler is sufficiently recovered from his concussion condition, which is never a given with head injuries.

And if there is a big-picture negative it is that the Bears had just run off five straight wins last year to reach that 7-3 point. Their offensive line had come together and allowed a total of five sacks over that stretch.

This year the line is in tatters, allowing six sacks in Monday nights game alone. The team has lost two straight and now faces a span of three division games in four weeks, and the next four opponents are all 6-4 or better.

Over-confident

One player called the game a wakeup call. The only people or teams that need wakeup calls are ones that are asleep. The Bears were.

The Bears were not ready to play a game that was strategically the most important they have played all season, with a little more gravity than the Packers game in Green Bay because it comes with six games to offset it instead of the 14 remaining after game two.

One member of the defense said the unit anticipated first-time starter Kaepernick to throw a couple to us. That pointed to a letdown once it was learned earlier in the weekend that Smith, who does not turn the ball over, was a scratch because of lingering concussion effects.

Even coach Lovie Smith conceded that we were lucky to be down only 20-0 at the half.

Fatal flaws?

Virtually every member of every unit contributed to the outcome. But at the 10-game mark of the season, an offensive line should not be as humiliated as tackles Gabe Carimi and JMarcus Webb were by the San Francisco pass rush.

The problem is that there are no quick fixes, with journeyman veteran Jonathan Scott the only rostered option. The guard spot already was tweaked with Chilo Rachal replacing Chris Spencer at left guard. Rachal committed two holding penalties and was crushed in the pass rush along with the rest of the front.

The reason why the concerns are more than simple over-reaction is that while the line held the Houston Texans without a sack last week, even the Bears own defensive linemen were railing privately at the deplorable state of Soldier Field turf. It may not have been home-field advantage but it was an O-line advantage. Without that, the Bears offensive line was, as Comcast colleague and former Bear Hunter Hillenmeyer said on our PostGame Live show, a bunch of wet paper.

Brandon Marshall has been a linchpin of the offense this season, which was fine when the defense was carrying the offense. On Monday the 49ers cracked Marshall.

San Francisco double-teamed Marshall often and hard, and as the first half wore on, Marshalls frustration was amply apparent. He got into physical confrontations with 49ers defensive backs after plays were over and at one point Marshall appeared to be going off on Matt Forte or another player along the sideline. Center and offensive co-captain Roberto Garza stepped in it appeared that wide receiver Earl Bennett also mediated.

Tempers flare on sidelines and on the field. But Marshalls loss of composure started when the game was still salvageable. Worse, the 49ers basically defied the Bears to find someone else to beat them.

The Bears couldnt.

If they cant, the Bears will not be playing more than 16 games. Again.

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Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks battle Bruins tonight on CSN

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks battle Bruins tonight on CSN

Watch as the Blackhawks take on the Boston Bruins tonight on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com. Coverage begins at 5:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live. Then stick around after the final buzzer to watch Blackhawks Postgame Live for highlights and analysis.

Click here to watch the game or download the NBC Sports App, your home for live streaming coverage of the Blackhawks.

Five Things to Watch:

1. Scott Darling gets the nod.

Joel Quenneville is giving a struggling Corey Crawford a breather tonight, electing to go with Darling in the final game of the father's road trip. Darling is 11-4-2 with a 2.34 goals against average, .924 save percentage and one shutout in 20 games this season. His numbers aren't as great on the road, where he is 4-2-1 with a 2.83 GAA and .901 save percentage compared to a 7-2-1 record with a 1.98 GAA and .928 save percentage at home, but he fared well against Boston last season. The Lemont native stopped 42 of 46 shots, good for a .913 save percentage, in a 6-4 win at the United Center last April.

2. The Panarin-Anisimov-Kane line.

The Blackhawks' trio of Artem Anisimov, Patrick Kane and Artemi Panarin had a rare zero points in Tuesday's 6-4 win over Colorado, but don't expect to see that again. In fact, it could be the opposite. In their last meeting against the Bruins, a 6-4 win on April 3 during the 2015-16 season, they combined for 11 points (five goals, six assists), highlighted by a Kane hat trick that put him at 100 points on the season for the first time in his career. 

3. How the rookies build off a monsterous game.

In arguably the most well-rounded victory of the season Tuesday in Colorado, the Blackhawks had three rookies that had multi-point efforts. Vinnie Hinostroza had two goals, including the game winner. Tanner Kero had two goals and one assist, while Nick Schmaltz also had a goal and an assist. It was the top-six that was doing the heavy lifting earlier in the season, now the bottom-six is slowly starting to contribute on a consistent basis. The Blackhawks will be in great shape if they can confidently roll four lines that have the potential to find the back of the net on any given shift.

4. Patrice Bergeron vs. Jonathan Toews.

Two of the best two-way centers in the league will go head-to-head, and it's always a fun matchup to watch. Bergeron leads the league with 597 faceoff wins, and is ranked fifth with a 58.4 percentage at the dot while Toews ranks eighth in wins with 473 — despite missing nine games with a back injury — and sits at sixth with a 57.5 percentage. Both of the perennial Selke Trophy candidates have struggled offensively this season, with Bergeron recording only 21 points in 45 games and Toews with 22 points in 38 contests. Bergeron has been heating up as of late, though, scoring three goals and six assists in his last eight games. Bergeron also leads the league in possession numbers, with the Bruins controlling 61.9 percent of the even-strength shot attempts when he's on the ice.

5. Brad Marchand.

In September, Marchand inked an eight-year, $49 million deal and it's already paying dividends for the Bruins. He has 14 points (seven goals, seven assists) in his last eight games, and 45 points total, which is by far the most on his team and tied for sixth in the NHL. He's 16 points away from tying his career high of 61 set last season, with a little less than half the year to go. He's also had great success against the Blackhawks. In his last six games against Chicago, dating back to the 2013-14 campaign, he has registered at least a point in all of them, scoring four goals and adding five assists. To make life more difficult, he's a player that enjoys getting under people's skin, so expect him to be a big factor tonight.

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