The attention of the Bears has been and will necessarily be on the Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings. But in the draft, the teams immediately ahead or behind are sources of particular concern, and this year those happen to include the Lions and Packers.Those NFC North division rivals have draft issues that relate directly to the Bears:Detroit - The investment in the defensive line (Cliff Avril, Ndamukong Suh, Kyle Vanden Bosch) point away from the area and toward a secondary that has effectively negated a lot of the pressure from the defensive line. The Lions have concerns at both running back and defensive back and are expected to go for help in one of those two areas.Green Bay - A one-time fearsome pass rush was anything but in 2011 and this draft has a number of prospects who fit the hybrid 3-4 scheme of coordinator Dom Capers. GeneralmanagerTed Thompson has enough firepower on offense and needs to find the answer on the other side from Clay Matthews.Minnesota - With picks No. 1 and 2 out of the way, this is the de facto first pick of the draft. The question forgeneral managerRick Spielman will be whether to get someone to protect QB Christian Ponder (USC tackle Matt Kalil), catch Ponders passes (Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon) or defend other teams passes (LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne). Or trade down and get a lot of guys, including maybe Notre Damewide receiver Michael Floyd.But unless Detroit (No. 23) or Green Bay (No. 28) wants to make a strong move to move up, they are not immediate concerns to the Bears next Thursday evening. Some other teams are, however:No. 18 San Diego ChargersThe Chargers have seen slippage on offense with departures on the line (Marcus McNeil) and at receiver (Vincent Jackson) in particular. Larry English has not developed atoffensive linebackerbecause of injuries, but while it is difficult to see the Chargers going defensive-front at No. 1 for a third time in four years, they have shown the willingness to stock up on pass rushers.Comment: Some concern here for the Bears and their hope for a premier pass rusher.No. 17 Cincinnati BengalsYoure not sure if the Bengals think they got enough in Benjarvus Green-Ellis to replace Cedric Benson but they got results going hard for receiver help last year (A.J. Green) and they have seen the damage the Steelers have done with the ability to strike through the air.Comment: Not a major threat to address pass rush with the kind of player the Bears are after.No. 16New York JetsThe Jets havent taken a No. 1 pass rusher since Vernon Gholston in 2008 and their defense has gotten the worse for it. They have gone defense with their first pick in four of the last five drafts but only once for a linebacker for Rex Ryans 3-4 scheme.Comment: At this point of the first round a couple of good pass rushers are expected to be gone and the Jets are still looking for an elite impact player off the edge.
With less than 2 minutes to play in the first half the Bears had gained a total of 45 yards, and had zero pass completions (2 attempts) and zero points . By the end of the half they had 115 yards, Matt Barkley had completed 4 of his last 6 passes and the Bears adjourned for halftime with a 7-6 lead.
For the second straight week Barkley engineered a comeback, this time for a win, and running a two-minute offense that, curiously perhaps for an inexperienced quarterback, seems to suit Barkley even more than the offense run a normal speed. More than one player said that 70-yard drive to finish the first half was a tipping point, on all sides of the football.
The turning point “was that two-minute right before the half,” said right tackle Bobby Massie. “Everybody just executed, did what we needed to do and drove right down the field. Then we come out after the half and drove right down again. It was good.”
More than just good for the offense. “I think that really spurred both sides of the ball to be motivated to finish the game strong,” said Barkley, who got the Bears into the end zone twice in last Sunday’s Tennessee game, and nearly a third, within the final 10 minutes, running 35 plays over the span of those minutes.”
This time the result was the highest point total (26) this season and scores on four out of five possessions beginning with that hurry-up score to end the half.
Once again Barkley was beset by dropped passes, although nowhere near the avalanche of them that defeated him against the Tennessee Titans. Barkley shook off the conditions and poor start to complete 4 of 6 passes on the final drive of the half, for 64 yards – the entire passing production for the half.
Barkley followed a shaky first half with a solid second, completing 7 of 10 passes for 128 yards and zero interceptions, a significant key with the 49ers unable to do much of anything against the Bears defense. Barkley effectively convinced coaches that he could operate in the adverse conditions with passing and not simply handing off to Jordan Howard.
“I thought [the way] he handled the two-minute drive before the half, we had to open it up some and throw the ball,” said coach John Fox. “I thought he executed outstanding.”
Barkley finished with 11-of-18 passing for 192 yards, no touchdowns but no interceptions and a passer rating of 97.5.
Running back: A+
In a game that demanded effective rushing, Jordan Howard delivered a statement game, his fifth in the last eight with 100 rushing yards and 115 total yards of offense.
Howard rushed for 3 touchdowns, giving him five on the year, and carried 32 times, an average of 3.7 that belies the overall, which involved the chemistry of the run game, now averaging 4.4 yards on the season . “He’s fun, man,” said guard Eric Kush. “We block our butts off to try to give him something. Even if it’s not the prettiest block, we try to finish our blocks and give him a chance.”
Howard displayed power inside as well as burst on the Bears’ outside-zone runs that exploited the San Francisco edges. He carried 10 times in the first half, then 22 in the second.
“I’m definitely ready to be that workhorse,” said Howard, who now has 883 rushing yards and 5 touchdowns despite not starting until game four. “Even though they might know the run is coming, they still have to stop it.”
Josh Bellamy, replaced in the starting lineup by Deonte Thompson after his drop-laced game against Tennessee, had perhaps one the streakiest game of the Bears year. Bellamy again suffered with drops that included lost TD catches, but Bellamy rebounded to match his career-best 4 catches against Tennessee but with 93 yards and a long of 31 and others of 24, 22 and 16 yards. Bellamy also was handed the ball on an end-around for 12 yards.
All of this despite two egregious drops, one of a potential TD ball with Bellamy two steps behind his defender. “He came up to me and said, ‘Keep feeding me,’” Barkley said. “I’m not going to stop giving those guys the ball… .I’m going to keep coming back to them for the rest of the year.”
Cam Meredith remained in the starting lineup and caught 3 of the 4 passes thrown to him, with Thompson and tight end Daniel Brown catching 2 each.
Offensive line: A
With the adverse weather conditions expected, coaches made a specific challenge to the offensive line to take over this game against a struggling San Francisco front. Guard Josh Sitton was active but still limited with an ankle injury, so coaches stayed with Eric Kush at left guard and were rewarded with some consistent blocking in the run game. Kush executed combination blocks and worked to the second level. Kush and Charles Leno repeatedly dominated the San Francisco left side as the Bears pounded with the run and never let up in the snowy conditions.
“With the conditions, you had to run the ball,” Leno said. “The O-line just tried to come together, not worry about the record and win one week at a time.”
The result was another 100-yard rushing day for Jordan Howard, with 3 touchdowns, and 142 rushing yards, high for the season. “Today the offensive line got great push like they always do,” Howard said.
Barkley was sacked once, in the fourth quarter, on a breakdown in one-on-one blocking by tight end Daniel Brown.
Cody Whitehair going down in the fourth quarter with a leg injury was a blow, but Whitehair was able to return later in the period. The Bears had Sitton dressed and part of field-goal unit, and Sitton came in at right guard and Ted Larsen moved over to center.
The obvious overall effort and preparation of a 2-9 team for a game of virtually no import to the season was noteworthy, as the Bears again played with intensity and efficiency throughout, including recovering from first-half gaffes on special teams that put the Bears down 6-0.
The defense schemed for 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick by staying almost exclusively in a 3-4 front, utilizing three down-linemen and two outside linebackers to pressure Kaepernick and with the speed to thwart his runs. The result was the worst game of Kaepernick’s career, with 20 rushing yards and 4 passing, vs. 25 yards lost to sacks.
The offense held to a run-based mindset and plan, even when the 49ers turned two special-teams mistakes into field goals for the first two scores. The 49ers also relied primarily on man-to-man coverage, committing an extra defender to run defense, but the Bears were willing and able to challenge downfield knowing that the San Francisco pass rush was hampered by the field conditions.
“Props to Dowell[Loggains, offensive coordinator] and the whold coaching staff for getting us ready and making adjustments like that during the game,” Barkley said.
Special teams was again mistake-prone with mental breakdowns compounded by physical mistakes.
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