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.