The running game has been the most dependable part of the Bears on offense and they need to start improving the timing in the passing game if Justin Fields is to take advantage of his strong arm and two effective receivers.
Offense in the NFL comes down to creating matchup advantages and capitalizing, Bears offensive coordinator Bill Lazor said.
Considering the Bears’ rank of dead last in passing and scoring, then it doesn’t say much about their ability to take advantage of any matchups they like.
One problem they’ve had is getting the passing game synched up, with rookie quarterback Justin Fields throwing to receivers Allen Robinson and Darnell Mooney.
Mooney has been able to be more effective but he had a little more exposure in training camp to working with Fields while Robinson almost exclusively worked with Andy Dalton, the intended starting quarterback.
“I mean, right now, I think the main thing is we’re just trying all to figure out our niches and the scheme of what we’re doing and trying to figure out everything like that,” Robinson said. “It’s tough to say, because like I said before, we’re trying to figure out certain concepts and stuff that we’re doing well and wanting to run well and things like that.
“So it’s a little bit different than saying how to adjust with me this way. But at the same time, I’m trying to figure out as far as you know certain things and where I need to be and how I need to be on certain aspects.”
The Bears never had this problem with Mitchell Trubisky because he wasn’t a rookie when Robinson came to the Bears.
While the Bears try to work this problem out, they will have some advantages over the 49ers in this game. Here are the matchups where they rate the best edge. They would get one more, if Robert Quinn gets over COVID-19 in time to play and monster tackle Trent Williams remains sidelined for the 49ers this week with an ankle injury.
Bears WR Darnell Mooney vs. 49ers CB Josh Norman
If Robinson and Justin Fields are not yet synched up, this would be a week to get it done because Norman has struggled as the starting right cornerback for the 49ers. Norman is graded by Pro Football Focus as 97th against the pass of 112 cornerbacks. It would not be a surprise then to see the 49ers move Emmanuel Moseley off his left side over to cover Robinson or have him on Robinson all over the field. Moseley is one of the better cornerbacks in the league this year and Robinson is still the chief Bears threat, even if they haven’t used him correctly. It will become Mooney, who actually has been the most effective Bears receiver, trying to beat Norman, who is rated 97th of 112 cornerbacks graded against the pass by Pro Football Focus. Norman is the stop-gap corner for the 49ers after a career that was at a peak in Carolina and Washington from 2012-2019. He has struggled this year, allowing a 135.4 passer rating against when targeted, and two touchdown passes. Norman turns 34 in December and whether he can keep up with either of the top two Bears receivers has to be questioned.
Bears G James Daniels vs. 49ers DT Kentavius Street
Street wouldn’t be getting as much playing time with a healthy Javon Kinlaw. Street is a bit undersized for a defensive tackle, compared with those Daniels has faced on a regular basis. Not exactly a gigantic mauler himself at guard when he came into the league, Daniels has been part of the bulk-up, muscle-up approach the offensive line has used this year and the 6-foot-4, right guard is up in weight by about 20 pounds to 327. Street has 15 tackles, three for loss but only an overall Pro Football Focus grade of 54.1 When teams run at that position, behind their right guard at the Niners, they’re gaining 5.58 yards an attempt. That’s a good chunk for an interior line area and the 49ers are only 28th in the league at stopping runs in that spot. Daniels hasn’t been the best Bears blocker but he has been consistent in the run game in the last three games.
Bears DE Akiem Hicks vs. 49ers RG Daniel Brunskill
Brunskill is one of the lighter guards in the league at 6-5, 300 and that was after he bulked up some. He has excellent technique but isn’t enjoying the kind of year he has in the past in terms of Pro Football Focus grades, having slipped to 45th among guards. Hicks was held out of last week’s game because of the groin injury he suffered four weeks ago on the first play against Detroit, then aggravated by playing against Green Bay. It will have been four weeks since the injury first occurred by the time the Bears play the 49ers and he should be healthy enough to give it a go again, although those types of injuries can be tricky. At full strength Hicks is a nightmare for a lighter guard, and his bull rush can be devastating. Brunskill has a PFF pass-blocking grade of 50.5, 58th out of 74 guards graded by PFF.