When the 2021 NFL season schedule was released, many interested parties circled the Week 8 matchup between the 49ers and Chicago Bears at Soldier Field, as it presented the first possible chance for the No. 3 and No. 11 overall picks in the 2021 NFL Draft to go head to head.
It remains to be seen if Trey Lance will play on Sunday, and even if he does, it will not be in a starting role. But the Bears already have handed the reins over to Justin Fields, who has started the last five games for Chicago.
Lance and Fields were two of the five quarterbacks taken within the first 15 picks of the draft, and naturally, the 49ers evaluated all of them in deciding which one would become San Francisco's QB of the future. Obviously, the 49ers selected Lance with the third pick, but coach Kyle Shanahan was fond of Fields, too.
"I can't sit here and talk too much about another quarterback in that way, but I really liked Justin," Shanahan told reporters Wednesday. "I thought that he was extremely tough, very talented, getting to know him through it, I thought he was a great guy. He's getting thrown in there and playing and he's having some up-and-down moments, which is expected. But you have to always be ready for him. If he breaks away, he's got the size and he's got the speed to outrun almost anybody, he throws a great deep ball, has got a big arm, can make every throw and he's getting better each week."
Players tend to improve with experience, so it's no wonder why Fields has progressed. Ironically, one could make the same argument for why the 49ers should be starting Lance (when healthy), but I digress...
The Bears enter Sunday's game having lost two straight, including a 38-3 beatdown at the hands of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 7, but Shanahan isn't taking them or Fields lightly.
"They’ve got a quarterback who can make plays," Shanahan added. "I know their numbers on offense are not very good. But I think they're better than their numbers in terms of what they do really well. What they do really well is run the ball, which we’ve got to do a lot better at on defense on stopping that. And they take more shots down the field than anyone in the NFL. So, we haven't been good with -- if we've stopped the shots down the field -- we've usually done it with a P.I. So that's something that's got to break this week, one way or the other for each team."
The 49ers changed up their practice Wednesday in an effort to address their pass interference problem. If they aren't better at defending deep passes against the Bears than they were against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 7, Fields is fully capable of making them pay.