Top-four questions the 49ers face against the Bears

We all know the 49ers will beat the Bears this Sunday Night. I’m saying the final score will be 24-13. The game will not be close. That said, these are the four questions that interest me most about this game:

1. Who will lead the 49ers in rushing, Frank Gore or Carlos Hyde?

The Bears gave up 7.3 yards per carry on 21 read-option runs against the Bills last week. Hyde averaged 7.1 yards per carry on 7 read-option carries, and Gore averaged just 3 yards per carry on 3 read-option carries against the Cowboys last week. Naturally, the 49ers will go read-option-heavy against the Bears and Hyde will lead the Niners in rushing, right?


Scouting works both ways. Hyde ran the same zone-read play seven times last week. He didn’t run any other plays. When Hyde comes into the game against the Bears, I am sure Chicago will use only certain fronts and coverages anticipating Hyde will run the zone-read.

The 49ers should be able to go back to their staple running plays with Frank Gore – the power off tackle strong side and the weak side lead with Bruce Miller or Vance McDonald as the lead blocker. Gore will lead the 49ers’ in rushing Sunday Night.

2. Will Alex Boone start and play the whole game at right guard?

With Joe Looney at right guard against the Cowboys last week and during the preseason, the 49ers did not show their Wham or Trap plays – also staple running plays in the 49ers’ offense. Those plays are designed to beat up on the opposing team’s interior defensive linemen, and involve combination blocks.

The Niners haven’t done those combination blocks with the three novices side-by-side on the line – Daniel Kilgore, Joe Looney and Jonathan Martin. With a change at right guard, the Niners now can go back to the Whams and the Traps, which Gore is very successful running. He explodes on those plays. He’s good at reading and anticipating the holes – not easy to do. Carlos Hyde probably never ran one of those plays at Ohio State.

3. How many touches will Bruce Ellington get?

With LaMichael James on the street, the 49ers do not have a fast running back. So the Niners have to use Ellington, a wide receiver, as their outside running threat. Look for the Niners to give Ellington three or four touches on Sunday, either on jet sweeps or bubble screens. Also, when Gore takes direct handoffs, look for the Niners to occasionally use Ellington on “Ghost F Arounds” – those plays where a slot receiver fakes an end around to freeze the backside pursuit on a tailback run up the middle.

4. How many times will Vic Fangio blitz Jay Cutler?

It shouldn’t take many blitzes to rattle Cutler. He’s mentally weak, he’s terrible under pressure and his passer rating was 43.3 against blitzes last week. He will give the game to the Niners sooner or later.

This article has 177 Comments


  1. Grant shifted his prediction because like the Chiefs and the Patriots he doesn’t want to start the season 0-2.

  2. Anthony Davis out again? I don’t think it matters but would be nice to get him back.
    I’d start the game passing again like they did against the Cowboys. Use the pass to set up the run. Unorthodox but the Niners don’t look as predicable as years past.

  3. This sounds similar to Hammer’s 5 burning questions. But anyways. I work with Bears fan. He saying Jeffries and Marshall will play. He claims the bears always says the WR’s are banged up.

  4. “we all know the 49ers will beat the Bears sunday night”?! I don’t follow the non-divisional foes very closely, but last I checked “any given sunday” was still the operational default answer to the question “should you take your NFL opponent seriously?” In fact, Vegas has the Bears ranked ahead of the Cards for the ’15 SB. Come on Grant, you’re better than that. Let’s not get sloppy in our old age… ;-)

    1. Exactly fes…im not with the overconfidence routine either..It’s a week to week league..And we have questions on the defensive and offensive side of the ball..

    2. I’m pretty sure last year most everyone thought we’d walk over both Indianapolis and Carolina at the ‘Stick.

      Nothing is a sure thing in the NFL. Nothing.

  5. vs the Bears…
    – Gore will get more rushes and yards then Hyde.
    – Boone will start at RG
    – Ellington will get special teams touches. Little or no touches on offense.
    – I think Fangio might zone blitz Borland, dropping Brooks or TJE… but he won’t send more then five very often. If five, maybe Ward.

    1. I’m not so confident. The 49ers will be without last week’s defensive star Tony Romo.

      Unless both Bear starting WRs are out, I see them scoring more then 13. Yes, they are missing two O-line starters, but one of the backups is thought to be an improvement. None are named Chilo.

      Just like last week, the 49ers will have to play significantly better on offense then they did last year to win.

      49ers 31, Bears 24.

      1. Cutler can be just as bad as Romo. Cutler rarely gets hot like Romo, though. Romo is better than Cutler.

        1. A possible factor that might hold the Bears to 13 is crowd noise in the new stadium.

          Over the long term, I’m expecting the increased ticket prices to bring a more gentrified (and quieter) crowd, party erasing Levis louder acoustics… but for opening night, I’m expecting an absolute din.

          1. I don’t necessarily agree, Brodie. I think the cost of tickets will start dropping as the 2015-16 seasons come and you’ll have a mix of “gentrified” and “rabble-rousers” and “in-betweens” in the crowd.

            Also, assuming that “gentrified types” don’t cheer loudly seems unfair. Socioeconomic status shouldn’t affect vocal chords. I recall that Candlestick used to have all the “wine and cheese” types and for a baseball stadium it got decently loud.

            1. The 1981 crowds were fanatic. I attended one of the 81 games. The entire crowd was hoarse when it was over.

              Then I went to a mid 80’s game. I started some g-rated yelling when the 49er D was on the field, and some yuppies a few rows in front actually asked me to quiet down.

              Later that day Randy Cross complained how quiet the crowd was, coining the famous phrase “wine sippers.” I have to carry the shame of being at that “wine sipper” game for the rest of my life.

          2. The Chicago chatter says the Bears O-line subs are pretty good (well, relative to their injured starters anyway). The Center spot could even be improved.

            Sticking to my guns. Unless both Bear starting WRs are hurt, I see them easily scoring more then 13. “No More Sweeps” Trestman will have a few tricks up his sleeve for old time sake.

            49ers 31, Bears 24 in a scary one.

        2. Romo probably is better but which has been on the better teams. Romo’s had a stronger supporting cast throughout his career versus Cutler.

        3. I am famously hard on Romo the Intercepted; he is the second worst postseason QB ever. But Grant is right about this one: Cutler is a lesser regular season QB than Romo. He has a hotter wife though.

  6. Pretty excited about this game not only because its in the new stadium and but its the start of a new 49ers legacy. What also is exciting is that Fangio has challenged his defense to get after the passer a little bit better. I’m looking for Brooks, Lemonier and the rookie Lynch to have better pursuit and overall pressure on Cutler.
    Also expect our LB’s to be better specifically Wilhote and Skuta with the week one nerves gone. The secondary hopefully gets a boast back with Brock and Culliver. But the one guy who never gets any recognition and who I think is the next Merton Hanks/Tim Macdonald all in one is Eric Reid. This guy is going to be great back there for years to come.

  7. I HATE when Grant picks easy wins.
    I see us running all day on this defense and the play action and option being big factors. IF this offense is legit up to week two… It will put up big numbers vs this defense.
    My personal measuring stick for this newly “explosive” offense will be next week vs Arz..

    I look for ck having a lot of yards on the ground. Gore will get over 100

    Boldin to be the top receiver and Davis to catch a TD with a couple of chunk plays.

    As far as the defense. I really don’t know.
    Can Willis get comfy with the Mike?
    Will VF blitz more often?
    Will A Brooks be in shape to cause disruption? He looks out of shape to me.

    Can we force cutler into turnovers?

    I’m hoping the turnover will be our tag on the defense this season. We’ve started off well. I’d love to see a couple more this Sunday. Back to 12 turnover stats.

    Home opener
    New stadium
    Bad defense coming in
    I’ve got the Niners 33 -17

      1. Usually the Super Bowl is won by a team with the fewest injuries to key players. This season could be won by the team that has the fewest key players suspended.

    1. What gets me is that injuries happened in May… and the doctors/prosecutors had this information shortly thereafter. Why are they just now indicting him and why are we just hearing about it? Is the timing a coincidence? Hmmmmmm…

  8. Bears release David fales.. Niners should cut josh Johnson for him.. We will see how much Jim really thinks of him!

      1. Remember when you said the Chiefs would not win more than 4 games last year?

        Remember when you said Stevie Johnson would get cut this year?

        Remember when you said NFL organizations make personnel decisions based on jersey sales and which players get booed at home games?

        Remember when you said that if a QB cannot throw for 300 yards a game that he was not very good?

        Remember you are the biggest tool on this blog?

        1. FDM – do you keep a list of everything grant says and keeps track if it is wrong? If he was right on everything, he wouldn’t be a journalist, he would be making money on the stock market.

          1. Not Grant, the blog tool however, Bayareafanatic. Stay tuned, he will say something stupid again like resting or limiting Hydes carries til week 13. SMH.

            1. FDM
              Dude I’m still basking in Aloha, don’t bring me down. Are you mad at everybody?
              Remember when I thought Taylor Mays in the 2nd was a decent value?
              Remember when I thought LaMichael in the 2nd was a decent value?
              Remember when I liked Stephen Hill in the draft?
              Remember…? I do, I’ve been wrong a lot,……. haven’t you?
              IMO Grant can stick with an argument too long, but we’re all wrong a bunch. Grant just has more people keeping score.

              1. No Brotha, all is good. I just like to highlight the stupidity of just one blogger on here who I have a history with……that’s all.

    1. I wonder how much his release has to do with what they think of him vs a long list of injuries they need to cover (incl. Fales himself who has a bung shoulder). I expect they will promote a WR or OL from their PS.

    1. According to Barrow’s earlier today…”I believe the new drug policy being considered will address players busted for amphetemines. I don’t think it affect’s Smith’s suspension.”

      1. No it won’t. It will help their Super Bowl pick Broncos though. You all better believe the nfl will do everything in its power to have manning leave on that white horse at Denver’s airport. You watch!

      2. I read the new Policy and it set a first time 2 game suspension for a DUI. What I wonder if the new appointed impartial appeals committee would also be retroactive. This would mean that every suspension issued by Goodell could be taken under review again. It would seem that in light of the questions about Goodells past rulings that this would be in everyone’s best long term interests.

  9. A little Friday fun fact some of you might not have known. (Neither did I until yesterday)

    I asked why the bears instead of the rams or even falcons and saints for our home opener. Well I guess the first ever home game at candlestick was The Chicago Bears. Who’d of think it?

  10. 1. See my answer about this previous topic.
    2. It depends on two things: if the coaching staff deems that Boone is ‘football’ ready and if they would rather see how the current OL does against the new look defense of the Bears.
    3. It’s possible that Ellington will get a couple of touches as a RB, but I think the team will more likely use Miller or an unexpected player in that role.
    4. Just take away his options in the receiving game and Culter will force his passes leading to more interceptions.

  11. Dallas ran all over this D. Murray is good but forte is a lot better. You really thnk this team is going to shut him down? Look for a game much like the old Niners. Lots of running. They won’t be putting the ball much in Cutler’s hands. They won’t have to with the run D they are facing.
    I think SF will struggle against Chicago because Cutler won’t have the ball to throw INTs and Forte has good ball security. I expect a low game. SF 13. Chicago 10.

    1. The Niners’ defensive game plan probably will center around stopping Forte in the run game and the pass game.

      1. I don’t disagree with the premise, but who is going to stop him? Murray got to the second level all game. I love Patrick Willis but he is not a shut down LB in coverage. That was Bowman’s forte (for ta) so to speak. I sure hope you’re right though and they can stop him. I am playing against him in fantasy football.
        I am going to go out on a limb and say that San Diego beats Seattle.

  12. It will be Lemoniers’ responsibility to shut down Cultlers’ short passing game to Forte in the flat on the Offenses’ left…

    1. Most of Lemonier’s snaps will likely come in pass rush situations, so I’d expect his role will be more about getting to Cutler than covering Forte.

      1. We shall see…By the way, I had asked you before, but it got buried. I see you came aboard the good ship Avatar, is that Secretariat?

  13. Forte is better than Murray, but the bears offensive line, banged up, is not as good as the Cowboys. That, hopefully will be the difference.
    Bear’s defense is not very good. I would like to see a pass to run ratio of 60/65-35/40. Let the offense take the pressure off the Defense and score some points.. But I have my doubts that will happen. Play calling is usually too conservative for my taste.
    Niner’s over Bears 27-13

  14. The only way Chicago can win is to commit zero turnovers and that’s almost impossible for Cutler when facing a quality defense.

  15. Top Four Questions:

    1) Run defense against a top back – can they significantly improve from last week’s poor showing?
    2) Offensive line play, which was poor last week and should include a new starter (Boone) this week – can they better protect Kaep and open holes for the RBs?
    3) Secondary play against two top WRs – or specifically, how often will Culliver get beat?
    4) Will they sit Dobbs and go with Dial?

    I’d say the answer to 1) would be the answer to 4) – activate Dial to stiffen that run D up the middle. Presumably Wilhoite and PW will be more on the same page and the MLB play will improve considerably.

    I’d guess the answer to 2) is yes. Even without enough practice, Boone is likely better than Looney and as Grant points out, gives them more flexibility in play-calling. And BTW, this fan thinks Roman’s play-calling against Dallas was one of his best efforts so far.

    And 3) – could be ugly if they don’t get way more push up front than they did against Dallas. Hard to see how they have roster space to activate Tank, but without him they’ll be struggling to encourage Cutler to “give them the game.” Captain Vic is going to have to avoid a repeat of the end of the 2012 season and dial up some pressure without Aldon, or it could be a long day in the secondary.

    Yes, the Niners should win. But not without some pressure.

    1. ESPN saying A.Jeffrey very unlikely to play due to hammy; Marshall still listed as Questionable with ankle.

  16. Fales and Wilson both on the open market, which one will find their next ex-team first?

    I wouldn’t be surprised if Harbaugh didn’t try and get Fales on the team. The only way Tyler Wilson gets another NFL shot is if Lowell wins the lottery and lets his son run the team.

    1. CFC,

      That’s funny, but factually incorrect. Grant’s mom, or Grant himself could win the lottery. Or a beloved uncle, or… You get my point. You can’t win, if you don’t play!

      BTW, what was that you were saying about the A’s and Giants a couple of months ago?

      1. I can’t recall what I said about the Giants other then I’m not a fan but the A’s are exactly who we thought they were.

    1. That’s surprising because Rivera was holding to the “due process” stance. I think its the right call he’s been found guilty.

  17. ” We all know the 49ers are going to beat the Bears.”

    Grant, your prophecy reminds me of the NCAA…

    Everyone in the known universe thought that
    USC would walk away from Boston College.
    Guess what? Different outcome, huh?

    I say the Bears will ” find a way ” to spoil
    the Niners home opener. Perhaps Kaep sustains
    a season-ending injury in the first quarter….?

  18. Grant,

    Great job on leading the discussion on, and doing the research behind, the increasing relevance and utilization of Carlos Hyde. Everyone is talking about it this morning!

  19. OH HEY LOOK! Troy and Joe are doing another Cowboys game, and we GET TO watch it here in the Bay Area!!! (gag)

  20. I wonder if Belichick is losing his touch, that NE defense hasn’t been good for awhile now and it doesn’t look like this current iteration is going to buck that trend.

      1. Sure, CFC, I’m pretty sure that’s what they use that sideline tablet for.
        Let’s see though, what’s that ancient line about not throwing late down the middle?
        And he hung it short too.

    1. My uneducated guess… Ellington has alot on his plate learning WR, ST, RB… and the 3rd WR spot is deep with Johnson and Lloyd.

      I think he’ll play only ST today, unless the Bears have a weakness covering slot.

        1. Without last weeks defensive star Tony Romo, but the Bears will score more then 13.

          Yes, they are missing two O-line starters, but one is thought to be an improvement and the other not bad. None are named Chilo.

          I was thinking 49ers 31, Bears 24.

          However, this mornings chatter has 75% chance both Bear WRs will be out. If that’s so, 24-10… with the 49er offense going into a shell to protect a 21-6 second half lead.

          1. Man, I’m botching my edits. Correction 2:

            Without last weeks 49er defensive star Tony Romo, the Bears will score more then 13.

            Yes, the Bears are missing two O-line starters, but one is thought to be an improvement, the other not too bad. None named Chilo.

            I was thinking 49ers 31, Bears 24 in a game with alot of offense.

            However, this mornings chatter has “75% chance both Bear WRs will be out.” If that’s so, 24-10… with the 49er offense going into a shell to protect a 21-7 second half lead.

      1. PFF says he was only in on 3 snaps last game so you’re probably right that his participation will be limited unless it turns into a blow out and then he’ll probably just be a blocker.

  21. I can see the Saints pulling the trigger on a big WR trade at some point this season. Not sure who the candidates would be yet, Gordon wont be back until week 10 which is probably too late for them to consider. Andre Johnson? Terrance Williams? What about Larry Fitz? If the Cards are looking at the wrong end of 3-5 or 2-6 by the halfway point do they make a trade and get out from that 20154 cap hit he brings?

    I’d give’em Stevie Johnson for a sammich n a bag o chips.

    1. 3 million in cap space will certainly put a limit on their list of prospects. That’ll rule out Fitz and Johnson.

    2. Wonder if Bree’s 26M cap hit is hurting the team’s ability to put better talent around him???

    1. Locker isn’t making my Titans pick look too good. Time for Zach to come in and mop up this mess.

  22. Poor RGIII just seems destined to go the same always injured route as Bradford. The big difference is that Washington has Cousins who actually may be the better QB.

    1. Yeah it’s not looking good for that guy. I have no clue why Cousins has not played more anyway. I personally feel he’s currently better than RGIII. I’m surprised no one has tried to trade for him

  23. No TV available were I live. Any recommendations for a good place to watch tonight’s 49er game in Healdsburg? My old place DiVine Pizza closed down, and I’m fishing for replacements.

      1. You must have a FAST car to get from Healdsburg to Calistoga in 15 mins.

        Thanks for the offer. It would be a great day for a trip down 128, but I’m going easy as I can on my geezer of a car. Calistoga’s a bit far till I get “dust ball” mechanically dialed in.

  24. NY Giants might be the worst team in the league right now. How do you not only lose but nearly get blown out by a Palmer-less Cardinals?

    1. My thoughts exactly. I was wondering who Stanton was on the box score. Wonder how Palmer’s shoulder will be a week from now.

      1. Crab this game reminds me of last year when Schaub was piciking the seattle’s defense apart in the first half of that game. And the key wad giving Schaub the time. As great is Seattle’s secondary is they are just good if the oppossing QB has time.

    1. Mike McCarthy will be fired by their bye week. San Diego using the TE to perfection. Hey Vernon, pay attention.

  25. Yesterday I wrote that I think SD could upset Seattle. Looks like that’s the only game I got right this week, but seeing Seattle lose is worth every other loss I took this week.

      1. Yeah Kirk cousin put up some numbers today. I don’t know what the hesitation is to let Cousins play. He’s a legit QB.

  26. We’re gonna see our first game action from Dial, I hope he takes advantage of the opportunity.

        1. Cool – wonder if it means they are going with an extra DL, or Dial is replacing one of TJE or Dobbs.

  27. GB has surprised me so far this year, I expected a lot more from their offense especially the run game.

  28. ribico…

    the best part of the game was watching
    Richard “Big Mouth” Sherman .. lying face down
    pounding the ground …

    I’d love to have had a screenshot of that moment ..

    (I’d blow it up and frame it… and hang it on the wall)

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