Bears

Bears grades: Defense records 6 sacks; Colin Kaepernick finished with net-minus yards

Bears grades: Defense records 6 sacks; Colin Kaepernick finished with net-minus yards

Numbers can be misleading and lacking context, but not these:

Coming into the Bears game on Sunday, lost by his team 26-6, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick was averaging 361 combined passing and rushing yards per game this season, including 409 last week against the Miami Dolphins. He was returning to the form that had first appeared, at the Bears’ expense, in Kaepernick’s first start, a 32-7 annihilation of the Bears in 2012.

Against the Bears, Kaepernick lost more yards being sacked five times (minus-25 yards) than he gained with both passing (4) and rushing (20).

“The biggest thing for us was to do blitz, do brush, but always know where he is, know that he could get through a blitz and get out,” said rookie linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski, making his third NFL start in place of absent veterans Jerrell Freeman and Danny Trevathan. “You had in the back of your mind to always watch him.”

The Bears were exploited last week by mobile Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota (226 passing yards, zero sacks, 46 rushing yards). It was a primer for coping with Kaepernick. “The carryover from last week to this week, seeing the same thing two weeks in a row,” Kwiatkoski said, “definitely gets you more comfortable.”

Defensive line: A+

The 49ers began the day as the NFL’s No. 4 rushing offense and did net 122 yards in 30 carries in the first half. But in the second, just 19, and their quarterbacks were sacked a total of six times.

Akiem Hicks had a career game with a team-high 10 tackles, 2 for loss and 2 sacks plus a forced fumble. Hicks posted a TFL of RB Carlos Hyde with perfect technique against an initial double-team. Hicks then showed some foot-quickness, adjusting a rush through the San Francisco middle for a third-quarter sack, then took down Kaepernick again with a spin move on second effort. Kaepernick eventually cracked and was benched for the fourth quarter.

“That’s what you want for every quarterback,” Hicks said. “You want to put fear in him. You want him to throw bad balls. You want him to make bad decisions or throw the ball into the ground. That’s what you’re looking for as a defensive unit – to put fear in the opposing quarterbacks.”

The defense got some much-needed domination inside. Eddie Goldman delivered a crushing inside rush against double-team blocking to set up a first-possession sack of Kaepernick. Goldman followed that with with complete win vs. C Daniel Kilgore for a sack on the second possession.

Goldman finished with 2 tackles but had one for a loss plus his sack.  Cornelius Washington added 2 tackles and Mitch Unrein 1.

Linebacker: A

Leonard Floyd started in his first game back after a missed week and was badly taken out of an edge set by perennial Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Staley for a 14-yard run. Floyd was completely overmatched early but was able to adjust and finish with 2 sacks, giving him 6 for the season, and 4 tackles plus another hit on Kaepernick. Floyd also netted a safety with his second sack.

“I think early on [Floyd] was OK,” said coach John Fox. “I think the quarterback got out a couple times to their bench. Once [Floyd] got used to to the speed again, getting back out there, I think he responded well.”

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Willie Young was superb holding his outside position and then closing down on Colin Kaepernick for a sack to push YTD total to 7.5, in addition to adding a tackle for loss and second hit on Kaepernick.

Nick Kwiatkoski again started inside and was solid in schemes that often had him as the only true linebacker. Kwiatkoski was credited with 9 tackles, 2 for loss, and also added 2 pass deflections and a handful of strong controlled blitzes that got some penetration against interior linemen.

Secondary: A

The defense combined to hold San Francisco to 39 total passing yards, which netted out to 6 after the 33 yards in sack losses were deducted. Kaepernick completed just 1 of 5 attempts and Blaine Gabbert, who broke the Bears’ hearts in the 49ers win here with a 44-yard TD run, completed just 4 of 10. The quarterbacks combined for a rating of 42.4.

“We executed,” said cornerback Tracy Porter. “Offensively, we executed. Special teams, we started off a little slow but we continued to execute. When we can execute, we’re going to be a tough team to beat.”

Cre’Von LeBlanc brought pressure with a superb first-quarter blitz and had 3 solo tackles.

Harold Jones-Quartey was forced into the starting lineup because of Adrian Amos being inactive due to a foot injury, and Jones-Quartey finished with 9 tackles, seven of them solo, and one for loss.

Special teams: D

In a slog of a game and special teams could decide the outcome, the Bears’ ‘teams did influence some the outcome, in all wrong ways. Deonte Thompson fumbled a second-quarter kickoff return, giving the football to the 49ers inside the Chicago 40, this after Bryce Callahan did the offense no favors by fair-catching a second-quarter punt at the Chicago 5. That possession ended with punt but one coming on a delay of game call, and then a punt blocked with a one-man rush on which ex-Bear Shaun Draughn beat an anemic block by TE Ben Braunecker.

After that gaffe produced a 49ers field goal, the Bears bolloxed up the ensuing kickoff, with up-back Paul Lasike finally picking up the football.

Connor Barth converted is one field goal attempt, from 45 yards.

Bears backfield ranked fourth-best in NFL

Bears backfield ranked fourth-best in NFL

The Chicago Bears have a really good problem in their backfield. Both Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen will demand touches in 2018 and are each starting-quality running backs. Howard is the more traditional first and second-down back while Cohen offers top-tier playmaking ability.

The duo is so talented that they were recently ranked the fourth-best backfield in the NFL.

The Chicago Bears' Jordan Howard has emerged as one of the NFL's top rushers. He finished his rookie season with 1,313 yards, second-most in the NFL. Last season, he rushed for 1,122 yards and 4.1 yards per carry even though Chicago had the league's least threatening passing attack (175.7 yards per game).

Howard isn't the only standout back on the roster, though. Tarik Cohen is a supremely talented runner and receiver and a perfect complement to Howard. Last season, he amassed 370 rushing yards, 53 receptions and 353 receiving yards.

The Bears' backfield was behind only the Rams, Saints and Chiefs.

Howard set Chicago's rookie rushing record with 1,313 yards in 2016 and became the first Bears running back to start his career with back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons. He should be the Bears' primary back, but coach Matt Nagy expressed genuine excitement over Cohen's skill set which suggests he plans on getting him the ball quite a bit this season.

Regardless of how the touches play out, the Bears will present opposing defenses with one of the most challenging ground games in the NFL.

    Tarik Cohen was NFL's best big-play RB in 2017

    Tarik Cohen was NFL's best big-play RB in 2017

    Tarik Cohen's rookie season with the Chicago Bears was an impressive blend of running, receiving and special teams play. He quickly became a household name. The combination of his diminutive frame and oversized personality made him a fan favorite, especially when he started gaining yards in chunks.

    In fact, of all running backs with a minimum of 80 carries last season, Cohen had the highest percentage of runs that went for 15 or more yards, according to Pro Football Focus.

    Cohen will have a big role in new coach Matt Nagy's offense this season because of everything he offers a play-caller. He's a weapon as a receiver out of the backfield and can chew up yards on the ground like any traditional running back. He's a hold-your-breath talent who can turn a bad play into a touchdown in the blink of an eye.

    Cohen had 370 rushing yards, 353 receiving yards and three offensive touchdowns in what can be described as a limited role last year. John Fox and Dowell Loggains didn't seem to ever figure out how to best use Cohen's skill set. That should be no issue for Nagy and Mark Helfrich, the team's new offensive coordinator, who both bring a creative offensive approach to Chicago.

    Jordan Howard will be the starter and will do most of the heavy lifting. But Cohen is going to have a much bigger role than he had as a rookie, and that should result in more big plays and points on the board.