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Gabriel: Bears-49ers Positives/Negatives

By Greg Gabriel-

(CBS) It's always easy to write a column when the team you are covering has won. Such was the case last night when the Bears came back from 17-0 and a 20-7 deficits to defeat the San Francisco 49ers, 28-20, on the road. What made the win even more pleasing is that Sunday was the grand opening of the 49ers' new playhouse, Levi's Stadium. That had to leave a sour taste in the mouths of the 49er ownership and front office.

While we always tend to look at the good in a win, there were some obvious areas the Beas need to work on going forward. If this team is going to make a run at the division title and the playoffs, it has to be running on all cylinders. As gutsy a victory as it was, such wasn't the case yesterday. So let's take a look at the good and the bad.

Bears Up

The win

After the Bears lost to the Bills last week in a game they were expected to win, it was crucial to come back with a win Sunday night. Winning on the road is always difficult, but for Chicago, winning in San Francisco almost impossible. The last time a Bears team won in San Francisco before Sunday was in 1985.

The way Sunday's game started off -- with multiple special teams blunders giving the 49ers a quick 7-0 lead -- it looked really bleak for the Bears. It didn't get better when the 49ers defense totally baffled the Bears offense early. Getting any kind of drive going was virtually impossible.

San Francisco's offense was moving at will, and the game looked like it was going to be a blowout. I don't know if the big hit on Jay Cutler in the second quarter changed the tune for the Bears, but they certainly played better, finishing that drive with a touchdown and going in at the half down by only 10.

The 49ers took the second-half kickoff and held on to the ball for more than nine minutes. The beginning of the big turnaround was that San Francisco was only got three points out of that drive.

On the next drive, the Bears went 80 yards in 13 plays, culminating with a Jay Cutler-to-Brandon Marshall touchdown pass. From that point on, it was all Bears.

The Bears created two 49ers turnovers in the fourth quarter, both turning into touchdowns and giving Chicago the 28-20 comeback win. That the Bears were able to win this game despite losing key plays on defense is a testament to their character and drive. The defense lost starters in cornerback Charles Tillman, safety Chris Conte and defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff to injury, and all the backups came up big to contribute to the win.

Rookie first-round pick Kyle Fuller came up the biggest with two fourth-quarter interceptions that gave the ball to the Chicago in San Francisco territory. His play should earn him NFC defensive rookie of the week honors.

Overcoming adversity and winning on the road does wonders for a team's attitude. Going forward, this win will help tremendously, especially when the Bears have to go on the road again next week, traveling to face the Jets in New Jersey.

Jay Cutler

Last week in the loss to Buffalo, Cutler threw a fourth-quarter interception that proved crucial in Chicago's loss.

Last night, Cutler struggled for a good part of the first half. Then, in the Bears' final drive of the half, Cutler took a punishing helmet to the chest from 49er defensive end Quinton Dial. That hit woke Cutler up, as he played flawlessly the rest of the game. He completed 15 of 17 throws for 138 yards and three touchdowns after taking that hit. What's more important is he didn't turn the ball over all night.

His play Sunday night under adverse conditions should give Cutler an abundance of confidence going into the Jets game next week.

The defense

Last week, the Bears defense struggled against the Bills, giving up 193 rushing yards. They only had one sack and their overall pass rush was nil. High-priced free agents Jared Allen and Lamarr Houston had a total of two tackles in the loss.

On Sunday night, it was a different story. While the defense struggled some in the first half, it came alive in the second. The defense created four turnovers for the game, including three interceptions.

The nonexistent pass rush last week was more aggressive last night, garnering four sacks and numerous pressures. Leading the way was free-agent signee Willie Young with two sacks. Stephen Paea and Shea McClellin had the other two.

In the second half, defensive coordinator Mel Tucker called a much more aggressive game, which helped turn the tide.

The offensive line

The Bears went into this game without two starters -- both center Roberto Garza and left Guard Matt Slauson were held out because of ankle injuries. In their place were free agent pickup Brian de la Puenta and first-year man Michael Ola. Both more than held their own.

The important stat for the offensive line was that it gave up only one sack. It did a good job in pass protection, allowing Cutler time to get his throws off. Injuries are part of the game, and in order to win in the NFL, backups have to come in and play like starters. That happened last night.

Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery

Going into the game, the playing status of Marshall and Jeffery was in doubt. It wasn't until the two of them went through a rigorous pregame workout for the coaches that they were cleared. It was announced 90 minutes before kickoff that they would play.

Though not at 100 percent, both played admirably. Marshall had five catches for 48 yards and three touchdowns, while Jeffery came up with three receptions for 47 yards, including an important 29-harder in the fourth quarter. With another week to recover, they should be much healthier for the Jets game.

Bears Down

Special teams

We are through two weeks of the season, and the Bears still don't have their special teams in order.

On the opening kickoff there were two glaring mistakes. Senorise Perry took the kickoff eight yards deep and hesitated before trying to bring it out. The kick had good hang time and should have been downed in the first place. Also on the kick, Shaun Draughn got called for holding, giving the Bears a start at their own 7-yard line.

After the Bears offense went three-and-out, the punt was blocked, giving the 49ers the ball at the Bears 8-yard line. That led to an easy San Francisco touchdown.

On a Bears punt later in the game, Chicago had not one or two penalties on the play but three, which seemed like a record. The punt return team was called for holding on another punt as well.

The coverage units were average at best, giving up far too much yardage, especially on punts. Going forward, special teams have to show drastic improvement, as these blunders can cost the Bears a game.

1st-half defense

Yes, the defense was outstanding in the second half, but in the first half, it gave up too many sustained drives, and the run defense was poor.

In the first half, keeping San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick contained was a problem, as he was able to make plays with his feet. Credit the coaching staff with making the proper adjustments at halftime, as the defense came out and played much better and far more aggressively.

The running game

I'm sure the injuries to Garza and Slauson had a big effect, but the run game was non-existent. The biggest run of the night was Cutler's 25-yard scramble. Matt Forte was held in check, gaining only 21 yards on 12 carries.

Credit has to be given to the 49ers, as their game plan with both Marshall and Jeffery hurt was to stop the run. They did an outstanding job of shutting down the run lanes.

With the Jets up next, a team that is difficult to run on, something has to be done to get Forte some space.


While it may not be known for another day how serious the injuries are, the Bears might have to make a series of roster moves this week.

If any of the injuries to Tillman, Ratliff and Conte are for an extended time, then players are going to have to be put on injured reserve. Depending on the severity of the injuries, this may include both Tillman and Conte.

Conte missed all of the offseason and most of training camp after having shoulder surgery in the spring, and he now has a shoulder injury again, though it's currently unclear if it was the same one. Tillman reinjured his surgically repaired triceps. It's also unclear as to how serious his injury is. The good news is that after Tillman came out of the locker room, his upper arm wasn't wrapped and he wasn't in a sling, so just maybe it's a sprain.

At this time of the year, it's a difficult task to find viable veterans on the street. General manager Phil Emery and his staff have their work cut out them.

Greg Gabriel is a former NFL talent evaluator who has been an on-air contributor for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @greggabe.

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