By the time the game was finished on Sunday, even the most stubborn of pessimist fans couldn’t deny that it felt damn good to watch the Chicago Bears lay a beating on somebody.
The San Francisco 49ers were by no means a worthy adversary. Their effort waned with great frequency, abandoned fully by late in the 3rd quarter when Jordan Howard shook off several disinterested tackle attempts before tumbling into the end zone for his third score of the game.
Maybe they’re exhausted of dealing with Chip Kelly. Maybe they’re not interested in following the controversial (and apparently talent-barren) Colin Kaepernick or wannabe-reclamation project Blaine Gabbert. Maybe they’ve packed it in thanks to a losing streak that has now reached 11 straight games. Maybe…maybe they just didn’t want to deal with the snow.
For all the flaws of the Bears franchise, of which there are many, you could argue that the 49ers are in a considerably worse spot. I’ll let the San Francisco Chronicle vent:
The 49ers are 1-11, mired in a franchise-worst losing streak. They lost Sunday to one of the few teams that they theoretically should have been able to beat. And they appear to be remarkably placid about it all. Last week on the radio, former tight end Brent Jones all but begged someone to show emotion, get angry.
Yet, there’s no sign of anger. Of embarrassment. Of fury.
No sign of leadership.
Not on the sidelines. Not off the field. Not in the front offices.
This is perhaps the most remarkable thing about the free fall of a once-honorable franchise: No one seems to really care.
Check that: The fans care. They are horrified, furious, repelled.
But none of their anger is reflected at them from the organization into which they’ve invested their hearts — and in some cases, their retirement savings. Their fury isn’t replicated by those in uniform or in the team offices, and it’s not merely the older fans who can imagine how Jones and Ronnie Lott and Steve Young would respond to this pathetic display. It’s the newer fans who can recall how Frank Gore or Justin Smith or Patrick Willis would react.
The 49ers have gutted their roster, their reputation and their soul.
– Ann Kinnion
Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? It wasn’t long ago (and it may come up again soon) that I and other more prominent Bears pundits were vocalizing our disdain for team ownership, the “soul” of the franchise, and exhaustion from years of losing.
Sometimes all it takes is a little perspective, and a matchup against the 1-11 49ers on Sunday provided a resounding reality check for where these two franchises are, and just how maybe-not-so-broken the Bears really are.
In picturesque Chicago snowfall, the Bears took the field with 14-odd starters injured or suspended, a patchwork offensive line, no-name receivers & tight ends, and a starting quarterback who was on the practice squad a few weeks ago.
And it wasn’t really even close.
Stifled by the poor weather & a quality pass rush, Kaepernick threw for four (4!) yards before being benched. Akiem Hicks, Leonard Floyd, & Eddie Goldman routinely embarrassed the disinterested 49ers blockers, combining for 16 tackles, 5 sacks, and a safety.
Rookie Nick Kwiatkoski, playing in the stead of injured Danny Trevathan, also had an exceptional effort with 9 solo tackles and two pass deflections. Hicks (27), Floyd (24), Goldman (22), and Kwiatkoski (23) excelling gives Bears fans the nourishment of hope that has been so desperately needed.
Fans were too excited to see the return of Daniel Braverman to the active roster to forecast the stunning chemistry between Matt Barkley and Josh Bellamy coming, and for two players that are nameless to 95% of NFL fans, they impressed. Bellamy dropped a game-winning touchdown the previous week against the Titans and was looking for redemption:
“Matt Barkley came up to me after that (drop) and said, ‘Don’t worry about it, I’m going to come back to you,’ and I told him, ‘Good, because I’m going to come through on the next one.’ I stayed positive, like I did all week. I beat myself up (after the Titans game). But Coach (John) Fox told me one play doesn’t define you as a player. You’ve just got to come back. And I did.”
He finished the contest with 4 catches for 93 yards and could’ve had more if the conditions weren’t so well-suited to ride Jordan Howard, who was busy on the day, emasculating the 49ers to the tune of 117 yards and 3 touchdowns on 32 carries.
There’s hope to be had here. Whether it’s the young talent on defense, Jordan Howard’s emergence, or even anointing Matt Barkley as the solution at quarterback, Bears fans were given an early Christmas gift on Sunday. Even if it’s short-lived, few things beat seeing the Bears whipping somebody’s ass in the snow.
Leonard Floyd’s exclamation point of a safety was definitive of the day: Stunning his blocker with a silky inside move and hurling Blaine Gabbert into the snowy turf, standing triumphantly over his destroyed opponent. The only thing missing was him releasing a battle cry and finishing his rival with the mighty thrust of a javelin.
Now on to Detroit, where the Lions are looking to solidify their division lead & avenge an earlier loss to a Bears team that seemingly has to reinvent itself every couple of weeks. Should Barkley & these beleaguered-yet-feisty Bears pull off the upset, these simple smiles of contentment could graduate into full-blown “WHERE DID THIS TEAM COME FROM?” hysteria.