49ers Clubhouse 

49ers vs. "da Bears"

October 02, 2001

by Jeff Shaffer
49ers Clubhouse writer

NFL Match-up of the Week

The Bears and 49ers are both unexpectedly 4-1 on the season. Despite the fanfare and optimism, the reality is both teams have gotten this far through easy schedules.  So which team is better?  This Sunday we’ll see which one is for real – or really, which one is as far along toward being a contender as all the “hypesters” would have you believe.

Any coach will tell you that your team’s record doesn’t matter in this week’s game, but lets compare anyway. 

Bears 4 - 1
Opponents combined record to date 14 - 15
Opponents combined ESPN power ranking 90  (lower is better)
L - 
Baltimore (3-3) (9) Played them close; but the Ravens don’t look as dominate as  people expected—losing to Cincinnati, the improved Browns, and tough Packers.
W -  Minnesota (3-3) (13) and lucky to be at .500
W - 
Atlanta (3-3) (21) As the only common opponent in their schedule to date, it has to  be noted that the Bears blew out Atlanta 31-3; while the 49ers won both contests  in hard-fought, come-from-behind games.
W -  Arizona (2-3) (24) Is lucky to have 2 wins to their name.
W - 
Cincinnati (3-3) (23) Never know which team is going to show up, but the Bears  handled them with ease.

49ers 4 - 1
Opponents combined record to date 16-14
Opponents combined ESPN power ranking 95 (lower is better)
W - 
Atlanta (3-3) (21) Team is weak, but shows flashes of ability, like last weekend   against New Orleans.  Bears dominated them the week after they lost Jamal;  Niners  played them close with come-from-behind wins (glad they are behind us!)
L - 
St. Louis (6-0) (1) Need more be said?  Niners were in it to the end, but probably   lucky to be so after their display this week against the Jets (looked like they were  just trying different plays on the Jets for the fun of it).
W - 
NY Jets (3-3) (22) This team doesn’t look so good, but then it beats Miami AGAIN.
W - 
Carolina (1-5) (30) This team is looking at a hard year, although they did the Niners  a favor putting a loss on New Orleans. 
W - 
Atlanta (3-3) (21) As above, but thanks again for putting loss #2 on New Orleans.

Schedule Assessment:

It is amazing how comparatively even the two teams’ schedules have been; no doubt a result of the Bears playing a 5th place and the 49ers playing a 4th place schedule this year.  But the edge has to go to the Bears at this point.  For the following reasons:

1. The Bears dominated the only common opponent – Atlanta – while the Niners played them close (some would argue division games are always harder fought, and they would have a good point).
2. The Bears performance last week was their second dominating game of the season; the Niners haven’t dominated any team yet (maybe the Jets a bit with the running game).

Statistical Rankings:

So how do the two teams compare statistically so far this season?  Well I thought after watching last week’s Chicago game against Cincy that Chicago would be better statistically.  But it looks like last week’s game was a break out game for Chicago on both sides of the ball; although their defense has been impressive all season.
49ers Bears
Offense 3 20
Passing 10 22
Rushing 2 20
Yards per game 378 292
Points per game (ranking) 24.4 (6) 19.6 (15)
Defense 19 12
Passing 26 27
Rushing 12 2
Yards per game 322 304
Points per game (ranking) 21 (19) 8.6 (1)

So what does the above tell us? 

1. The 49ers have a pretty good advantage on offense and not to bad a disadvantage on defense – EXCEPT in one all-important category, Points Per Game.
2. The point differential between the 49ers #6 ranked 24.4 points per game is only 4.8 points better than the Bears #15 ranked 19.6 points a game. 
3. MORE IMPORTANTLY, the Bears defense is allowing a league low 8.6 points per game!  While the 49ers defense (although allowing only 18 more yards a game than the Bears) is allowing opponents to score 21 points a game – a differential of 12.4 points a game. 
4. Thus, the defensive differential (12.4) minus the offensive differential (4.8) gives the Bears a 7.6 point advantage.
5. Finally, it will be interesting to see how the leagues #2 running game of San Francisco does against the leagues #2 rushing defense.  This battle usually goes to the defender – notice how often a good running back or running game gets shut down by a stout run defense.

Recap of last week’s Chicago game:

The Bears looked very good against the Bengals last Sunday – dominating on both sides of the ball.  The defense was flying around and completely stuffed Corey Dillon and the running game – only allowing 35 (!) rushing yards on 21 carries, a 1.7 yard average.  The Bears did a good job against the pass as well – 229 yards on 46 attempts, allowing only 19 completions for a 5.3 yard average.  Most importantly, they pitched a shut-out.  On offense, they finally clicked and had some impressive results.  Rookie Anthony Thomas ran for 188 yards on 22 carries, and on the season he already has four runs over 20 yards.  QB Jim Miller is not flashy, but is doing a great job for them, completing 76.7% (68% on the season) of his passes for 2 TDs and no interceptions last game.   Overall, they put up 435 yards of offense on 62 plays for an average of 7.0 yards per play – 203 yards rushing (6.3 yrd average) and 232 yards passing on 30 attempts (23 completions) for 7.7 yard average.  That’s pretty darn good and a good time to be hitting on all cylinders early the season.

What the Bears have going for them this week:

1. The strength of the above statistics
2. Momentum of 4 game winning streak in which they improved each week.
3. Coming off a big win, gelling as a team, and hitting on all cylinders
4. Playing at home
5. Have an axe to grind over last year’s embarrassing loss to the 49ers (as a matter of fact, they have an axe to grind over a history of embarrassing losses to the Niners, see 49ers have been horror to Bears).

What the Niners will need to do to beat the Bears:

1. Start fast to keep the Bears defense from dictating the game.  Lets hope the bye week self-assessment and getting healthy will renew the 49ers first half offensive production.
2. Excel in the passing game.  They will have to run well enough to keep the defense honest, but the best bet would be to pit the supposed passing strength of the 49ers against the weaker passing defense of the Bears.  Although after last years embarrassment at the hands of the 49ers passing attack, you can expect the Bears to put a lot of resources toward stopping the 49ers passing game.  Last year the Bears covered Rice at the expense of Owens and it hurt them.  This year focusing on Owens at the expense of Stokes or Streets doesn’t seem as bad a trade-off – Stokes or Streets needs to have a break-out game.
3. Stop Anthony Thomas.  The 49ers defense is good against the run, and without Marcus Robinson the pass defense should be able to do well also.  The defense could use the offenses help scoring early (and often) to take the Bears out of their running game.

Conclusion: Edge Bears

This will be a game that reveals who is a contender and who is a pretender.  Expect a close, low scoring, hard-fought game – although it would be great to have a 49ers blow-out like past wins.  Right now, I’d have to give the edge to the Bears.  But if the 49ers have improved their offensive sluggishness and gotten healthy during the bye, lets hope we see them taking a step up to the next level and start to dominate teams again.

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