Bears

For the defense, plenty of 'F's' to go around

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For the defense, plenty of 'F's' to go around

SAN FRANCISCO The 49ers put 10 points squarely on the defense in the first two possessions and six minutes, more points than any opponent has scored in a first quarter all season and this with a quarterback making a first NFL start.

With three minutes to play in the second quarter the Bears already had allowed more yards (241) to Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers than they gave the St. Louis Rams (160), Jacksonville Jaguars (189) and Houston Texans (215) for their entire games.

One player said that the defense expected Kaepernick to throw an interception or two. That points to perhaps taking a virtual rookie too lightly, which appeared the case at times judging from the results. It was a complete whipping in all areas.

DEFENSIVE LINE: F

No lineman had more than Julius Peppers two tackles and Kaepernick was hit just four times, two of those by linebackers. Corey Wootton started for Israel Idonije and shared a sack with Idonije, but the Bears got next to no pressure throughout and that exposed a secondary that had its own problems giving up big plays.

The 49ers ran for 123 yards, down from their league-leading 170 per game, and Frank Gore finished with 78. But while Gore and Kendall Hunter had no gain longer than 14 yards, the linemen were consistently out of their gaps and allowing blockers and backs to reach the second level. Some was the result of missed tackles but too often there was only one Bear at the point of contact.

LINEBACKERS: D-

Like the linemen, backers were not fast enough with run fills after when the front four were being handled. Scheme may have placed individuals in difficult spots, and tight end Vernon Davis caught six of the eight passes thrown to him, although not all on linebackers.

Lance Briggs had six tackles and Brian Urlacher seven, and each had a tackle for loss. Briggs and Nick Roach each had a hit on Kaepernick. But 49ers running backs Gore and Hunter averaged nearly five yards per carry, too often getting yards after first contact.

SECONDARY: F-

One of the worst performances in some time by virtually the entire defensive backfield.

Chris Conte got the Bears off to a dismal start by committing a stupid late-hit personal foul on the games first play. That was just the beginning.

Kelvin Hayden was beaten badly for a 57-yard gain on the 49ers second series, setting up a TD pass to Davis, who was completely lost by Major Wright. When the 49ers missed on a second-quarter pass to set up a third-and-long, Wright was holding to give away the red-zone first down.

Wright, who led the Bears with eight solo tackles, missed a third-down tackle of Michael Crabtree to allow a conversion on a second-quarter drive.

Tim Jennings was credited with five solo tackles but he whiffed on a tackle for a 37-yard completion on a drive that ended with Charles Tillman losing Crabtree for 10-yard TD pass in the third quarter.

COACHING: F

The 49ers came out with formations and play designs they had not shown previously and the Bears were completely outplayed as well as unable to adjust. San Francisco used jumbo packages and had man advantages repeatedly at points of attack, then isolated Davis on linebackers and safeties in single coverages they couldnt execute.

Whether the problems were because of what San Francisco was showing or exactly what was difficult to discern. The 49ers appeared to use some of the Houston scheme for stretching the front seven, which lost gaps repeatedly and appeared to take a young quarterback lightly.

SPECIAL TEAMS

What was expected by many to be a close and low-scoring game that might turn on a special-teams play turned out to be a blowout with special-teams figuring into virtually none of the outcome.

KICKING: B

Adam Podlesh put some questions about his punting to rest with an average of 46.8 yards on five kicks. One was dropped inside the San Francisco 5-yard line.

COVERAGE: C

Ted Ginn Jr. averaged 21 yards on three kickoff returns with a long of 23. Ginn ran back four punts for an average of five yards per return.

RETURNS: D

Devin Hester averaged 25.2 yards on five kickoff returns, consistently getting up the field, just against solid coverage units that maintained their lanes. But returning punts was another matter. Hester had several respectable returns but his minus-9 on a late punt in the third quarter was a small shot of wrong-way for an offense that was doing enough of it on its own. He took a fourth-quarter punt inside the 5, ran sideways and barely made the 10.

COACHING: C

The Bears did so little scoring that kickoff-coverage units were seldom used but punt coverage was well schooled.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should the Bears let Mitch Trubisky throw more?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should the Bears let Mitch Trubisky throw more?

Adam Jahns (Chicago Sun-Times), Ben Finfer (ESPN 1000) and Jordan Cornette (The U/ESPN 1000) join Kap on the panel. Justin Turner hits a walk-off 3-run HR off of John Lackey to give the Dodgers a 2-0 lead in the NLCS. So why was Lackey even in the game? How much blame should Joe Maddon get for the loss?

The Bears run the ball over and over and over again to beat the Ravens in overtime, but should they have let Mitch Trubisky throw the ball more?

Dry humping and second-guessing: Joe Maddon defends his Game 2 bullpen decisions

Dry humping and second-guessing: Joe Maddon defends his Game 2 bullpen decisions

Joe Maddon has no easy decisions.

With the way his tattered bullpen has pitched this postseason, there's a very real possibility that any guy he calls on to pitch is the "wrong" guy or the right guy in the "wrong" spot.

For everybody wanting Maddon to ride Wade Davis as a workhorse this fall — something the Cubs skipper has already done just to get to this NLCS — remember how much flak he took for overusing Aroldis Chapman a year ago at this time.

Davis also hasn't been superhuman this postseason, allowing a pair of runs (including a homer) and seven baserunners in 4.1 playoff innings, good for a 4.15 ERA and 1.62 WHIP.

So when Maddon sat in the dugout late Sunday evening watching helplessly as John Lackey served up a walk-off homer to Tormund Giantsbane Justin Turner, the "Madd Scientist" immediately found himself in the crosshairs of Cubs fans and the media.

The first question he fielded in his postgame press conference was about not using Davis and there were several follow-ups. That and the offensive futility is about all anybody wanted to talk about after the Cubs fell down 0-2 in the NLCS.

Maddon explained Davis was available only in a save situation due to workload issues — the Cubs closer was in uncharted territory Thursday night/Friday morning, throwing the most pitches (44) and innings (2.1) he's thrown since Aug. 24, 2013 when he was still working as a starter. That's a span of 1,511 days.

"Wade knew that going into the game, it was going to be with the say," Maddon said. "We caught the lead, he's in the game. So whatever the narrative was, it's really a false narrative. He was not coming into that game until we grabbed the lead. He was not going to pitch more than three outs. That's it."

How does Maddon respond to his second-guessers?

"Doesn't matter," Maddon said. "First of all, social media, the moment I start worrying about that, I really need to retire. Second of all, that was all predetermined [Sunday] night again."

Davis also has a recent history of arm troubles (he was on the disabled list twice in 2016 for a forearm issue) and also saw his workload jump in September just to help the Cubs get to the postseason. In the final month of the regular season, Davis threw 237 pitches, 42 more than he threw in any other month of 2017. The last time he topped 200 pitches in any month was May 2015.

TV cameras showed Davis throwing in the Cubs bullpen alongside Lackey at one point in the ninth inning, leading to surprise by a huge faction of the (*looks around and whispers*) social media fanbase when the game broadcast resumed after commercials and the pitching change was to bring Lackey — not Davis — into the game.

"Wade was not warming up to come in that game," Maddon said. "Wade was probably just testing his arm at that point. We had talked about it before the game — up and in. 

"For those that aren't involved in Major League Baseball and professional baseball in general, when a guy's throwing too much, it's very important to not dry hump him, as the saying goes. Get him up and put him back down and bring him back in later. So I wasn't going to do that."

(Wow, really was not expecting to hear or write the phrase "dry hump" regarding this story.)

Maddon insists health is not the problem with Davis.

"Yes [he's healthy]. Oh yeah," Maddon said. "Listen, this guy just did yeoman kind of work — I love that word — in Washington and was not prepared to go more than three outs. I don't understand why that's difficult to understand.

"And furthermore, you have to also understand it wasn't the last game of the year or the second to last game. It was about winning eight more games. All these things are factors."

Maddon has a point. This isn't a Buck Showalter case where the Baltimore Orioles manager failed to use his best reliever — Zach Britton — in a non-save situation in a winner-take-all American League wild card game because he wanted the closer to be ready for a save.

The Cubs went down in a game that was tied 1-1 with their best reliever failing to get in the game even though he hadn't pitched in the last two days. 

But Davis can't cover every inning in relief, especially when the Cubs' two starters (Jose Quintana and Jon Lester) lasted just 9.2 innings against the Dodgers, leaving the Cubs bullpen to account for the other 8+ innings somehow.

The rest of the Cubs bullpen has to step up, too, which they did before the ninth inning of Game 2.

Still, Maddon couldn't resist getting one more defensive shot in before putting the matter to bed:

"I really hope you all understand that social media doesn't count at all," he said. "Twitter doesn't count at all. And really, as sportswriters, you should do a better job than relying on Twitter to write a story, quite frankly."

Well then.