The 49ers play the Bears Monday night at Candlestick. In the meantime, I’ll break down five key matchups.
CB Charles Tillman vs. WR Michael Crabtree
Greg Roman likes to move Crabtree around the formations and match him up against the opposing teams’ No.2 or No.3 cornerback. Roman can do this because most cornerbacks play a specific side of the field, so he knows where the No.1 CB is going to be and he lines up Crabtree elsewhere.
Last week against the Rams, Roman avoided lining up Crabtree against Pro Bowl CB Cortland Finnegan, who strictly plays left cornerback in the base defense and slot corner in the sub packages. As a result, Crabtree beat the Rams other CBs for four passes including a touchdown in a little more than a quarter before Alex Smith got knocked out of the game.
Crabtree won’t be able to avoid the Bears’ No.1 cornerback, Charles Tillman. Tillman doesn’t play a specific side of the field – he follows the opposing teams’ No.1 receiver wherever he goes. Tillman is also the best cornerback in the NFL this season, according to Pro Football Focus.
The logical thing to do would be to feature someone else, like Vernon Davis, but Roman features Crabtree nearly every game regardless of the matchup. Look for Roman to call quick bubble screens for Crabtree on Monday night because he may struggle getting open downfield against Tillman.