Beating the 49ers: Vikings, Giants, Rams showed how

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Beating the 49ers: Vikings, Giants, Rams showed how

First, the bad news: Neither Jay Cutler nor Jason Campbell have ever beaten the San Francisco 49ers. They are a combined 0-4 with nearly identical passer ratings in the low 50s for those games.

Now for the possibly very bad news: The San Francisco 49ers are the toughest team to score on in the NFL: 14.1 points per game allowed, seven-tenths of a point less than the No. 2 Bears.

But:

Three teams have scored 24 or more points on the 49ers. Two of them did it in Candlestick Park and none of them lost (St. Louis tied last Sunday).

How they did it provides a possible template for the Bears:

Team Pts. Keys

Vikings 24 Adrian Peterson 25 carries (86 yards), 34 runs plus seven by QB Christian Ponder;

2 TD passes, both to a tight end;

Zero sacks allowed.

Giants 26 Ahmad Bradshaw 27 carries (116 yards), none longer than 23 yards;

3 interceptions of Alex Smith (of 5 all year);

Zero sacks allowed.

Rams 24 Stephen Jackson 29 carries (101 yards);

Danny Amendola 11 rec. (102 yards) of 12 targets;

2 sacks allowed.

A model for coping with San Franciscos defense, which is third in the NFL for fewest yards per game (292.1) compared to the Bears at No. 5 with 307.3, starts to take shape.

N.Y Giants 26 49ers 3

The 49ers are extremely difficult to run on. But teams successful against have been persistent. The Giants trailed 5 minutes into the second quarter yet stayed with a balanced game plan 28 pass plays, 37 runs and the 49ers eventually cracked on offense

Minnesota 24 49ers 13

The Vikings completed nine passes to Percy Harvin but the ones doing the most damage were ones of one yard and two yards to tight end Kyle Rudolph for touchdowns. The Bears are working rookie Evan Rodriguez, drafted as a tight end, cast as a fullback from opening day, into tight end work.

Minnesota averaged just 3.6 yards per carry. But they ran Peterson 17 times in the first half and the combination of Peterson (11) and Toby Gerhart (8) 18 in the second.

St. Louis 24 49ers 24

St. Louis followed the lead of the Vikings and Giants by running Stephen Jackson 29 times for 101 yards. No carry went for longer than 10 yards, so Jackson only averaged 3.5 yards.

But the Rams threw 12 times toward Danny Amendola, who caught 11. A key was ball control, between Jacksons running, backup Darryl Richardson adding 58 yards on seven carries, and Amendolas receiving, with no pass play going longer than 16 yards.

The Rams netted just a tie for the game. But it was in San Francisco and they controlled the ball 40 of the overtime-games 75 minutes despite the Rams having 13 penalties assessed.

Forte factor

Matt Forte has carried no more than 22 times (twice) in a game this season and no more than 16 times in his other six games. He is averaging 4.7 yards per carry, down a notch with the 2.4-per against Houston when he and Michael Bush combined for just 19 rushes.

That will not be enough to beat the 49ers. The Bears lost two of the three times their carries total was below 25, the other (19) being the win over Carolina when they were miserable at staying on the field (23:22) and ran just 53 plays.

Forte is the perfect complement for Campbell, who is quick to check down to safety receivers rather than take sacks waiting for longer-developing plays. Fortes reception total (22) is down dramatically from this point of last season (42) with Cutler looking so predominantly for Brandon Marshall.

Running a lopsided offense through Marshall against San Francisco is not the way teams have beaten the 49ers so far.

Cutler vs. Campbell

Not having Jay Cutler for the San Francisco game may be addition by subtraction.

Cutler has played the 49ers twice in his career, lost both, and was anything but the kind of game manager that has done well against San Francisco this season.

The 2009 game was arguably Cutlers worst as a pro, throwing five interceptions, all in San Franciscos side of the 50. One was to a nose tackle on a play originating at the 49ers 1-yard line. The last was on the final play of the game, in the end zone starting from a snap at the 12.

Pressure was not available as an excuse. Cutler was not sacked in the game and took a total of six hits, leading to musing that the 49ers decided that letting Cutler throw was more beneficial than trying to tackle him.

Campbell has the reputation of a game manager, getting the football out of his hands quickly, on time, rather than Cutlers tendency to wait longer and throw harder.

We dont have much film to go on from Campbell, said San Francisco defensive end Justin Smith. But watching some of his other stuff, when hes played. Preparing for Cutler, but we wont be shocked if its Campbell back there.

Can Deiondre' Hall overcome on- and off-field hurdles to make an impact with Bears?

Can Deiondre' Hall overcome on- and off-field hurdles to make an impact with Bears?

Rookie Deiondre' Hall flashed in the preseason a year ago, leading the Bears coaching staff and fans to believe they found something amidst their trio of 2016 fourth round draft picks. 

He’s hoping to do the same this August after overcoming one physical hurdle, while waiting to see if he can get past a legal hurdle he created for himself.

Let’s start on the field, where, just days after his first NFL interception in the fourth game last season, he sustained an ankle injury in practice, sidelining him for two months. Once his walking boot and scooter were finally put away, he was active for the final four games. But what progress he’d been making on the field was difficult to recapture.

“Just coming off the injury, there was a little rust here and there, but the training staff here’s great and I had to push through it,” Hall said at last week’s minicamp in Lake Forest after he was one of numerous Bears hit by the injury bug, but not one of the 19 who wound up on Injured Reserve. “(I was) getting comfortable with the defense and in myself playing with those guys out there, getting the opportunity in the red zone and making plays. But the injury kinda sucked because I haven’t really had an opportunity to play since Week 5, so I’m not necessarily starting fresh.”

As the offseason unfolded, Hall was informed the coaching staff was going to try him at safety, if not permanently, then as an option for the 6-foot-2, 201-pound Northern Iowa product. 

But Hall’s not totally foreign to the position. He was a free safety his first year in college, then transitioned to outside linebacker/nickel as a sophomore, moved to cornerback as a junior before breaking his hand his senior year, playing through it back where he started at safety. So the decision wasn’t a big deal, especially if it enhances his chances to get on the field. But his preference?

“Defense. Opportunity,” Hall responded. “You get in where you fit in and the more you can do, the better it is for the team. If opportunity presents itself at corner, then I’m at corner. But right now at safety, I’m making strides (there) and keep pushing for that.”

“We’re gonna float him back and forth,” defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said last month, after the Bears signed free agent cornerbacks Prince Amukamara and Marcus Cooper in the off-season, while Bryce Callahan and Cre’Von LeBlanc are expected to battle for slot duty and former first-rounder Kyle Fuller and veterans Johnthan Banks and B.W. Webb hope to impress. “He (Hall) had some experience there in college. When it comes down to picking your team and you’re taking nine or 10 DBs, if someone’s got versatility to play both of those spots, that helps, so we’re gonna see if he’s one of those guys.”

But before Hall gets back to work in Bourbonnais, he’ll find out if he has some other dues to pay. Hall was back at his alma mater’s Cedar Falls campus March 26th when he and a former UNI teammate were arrested outside a bar called Sharky’s. Police had responded to a call, and by the time all was said and done, Hall needed to be tased before being arrested on charges of public intoxication, interference (with an arrest), and disorderly conduct. 

The case was continued late last month and Hall’s jury trial is scheduled for July 11th. Pending the outcome, he could face disciplinary action from the team and the NFL. He’s told his side of the story to Bears management and while expressing remorse for putting himself in the situation, Hall says it wasn’t in character and feels confident in what the outcome will be.

“People make mistakes and the truth always comes out,” the 23-year-old said, adding the situation isn’t weighing on his mind or affected his preparation in off-season workouts. “You gotta let people make their own mistakes. I won’t shed light but the truth always comes out, and (I’ve learned) just don’t take anything for granted.”

“My main focus is football and keep pushing to make strides to become good, and great.”

Saad Day: Blackhawks deal Artemi Panarin for familiar face

Saad Day: Blackhawks deal Artemi Panarin for familiar face

When the Blackhawks found Artemi Panarin, they found a talent who was NHL ready from the start, who found instant chemistry with Patrick Kane and earned a Calder Trophy as the league’s top rookie. It was also a tremendous panacea for a team that couldn’t pull off a deal to keep Brandon Saad, who was the power forward that fit in beautifully in the Blackhawks’ top six.

On Friday, the Blackhawks brought Saad back and dealt Panarin to do it.   

Saad returns to the Blackhawks, who also acquire goaltender Anton Forsberg, in exchange for Panarin and Tyler Motte. The Blackhawks also get the Blue Jackets’ fifth-round pick in the 2018 NHL draft and the Columbus gets Chicago’s sixth-round pick from this weekend’s draft. Elliotte Friedman was the first to report the deal. The Blackhawks inherit Saad’s deal, which has four years remaining at a $6 million cap hit. Panarin was about to enter his current deal, which is two years with a $6 million cap hit. This is key for the immediate future; when Panarin’s latest deal is up, if he keeps up at his current pace, he’ll likely sign for a lot more.

[MORE: Blackhawks deal Hjalmarsson to Arizona]

The Blackhawks have missed Saad terribly since his departure. The team has struggled to find consistent line mates with Jonathan Toews, especially at that left-wing position. They did fairly well with Nick Schmaltz and Richard Panik flanking Toews this season but it wasn’t as strong as the Saad-Toews combination. So it looks like the Blackhawks’ top line will be solidified again.

Now, what about the second line? As good as Toews and Saad’s chemistry was, Panarin’s and Kane’s was dynamite. The two had their respective skill, which they flashed often, and their ability to read each other was evident from the start. The Blackhawks’ second line was as consistent and steady the past two seasons as the top line was during Saad’s time here.

So, there are changes. The Blackhawks will absolutely miss what Panarin brings. But as far as bringing back a former Blackhawks player who could help in the present, getting the 24-year-old Saad back will be very beneficial.