Halftime Adjustments: Where to start?
November, 19, 2012
By Michael C. Wright | ESPNChicago.com
SAN FRANCISCO -- Chicago needs to quickly shake off the shock of San Francisco's significant first-half haymaker that rocked the Bears into a 20-0 halftime deficit, and start fighting back before this one gets ugly.
By the time the clock ticked down to the two-minute warning, the Bears had gained just 13 yards of offense as the 49ers rolled up 241 to go with 13 first downs in a first half that appeared to leave the visiting team shell shocked. Chicago's offense averaged less than a yard per offensive play in the first half, as the 49ers limited Jason Campbell to a passer rating of 16.7, sacked him three times and picked him off once.
Something needs to change. Let's explore some options:
Chicago's four-man pressure has worked for the Bears all season, especially against mobile quarterbacks. But such tactics didn't work at all in the first half. It's clear the Bears need to put some heat on Colin Kaepernick, who lit up the defense for 126 yards and a touchdown on 8-of-9 passing in the first quarter. Kaepernick generated a passer rating of 158.8 in the first quarter and exploited weaknesses at the safety spots. Chicago typically relies on producing pressure solely with the defensive line. It's about time the Bear try to manufacture some heat now with linebackers coming off the edge, safeties or even cornerbacks; anything to put Kaepernick under some type of duress. The Bears managed to sack Kaepernick for a 7-yard loss in the second quarter, which forced the 49ers to settle for a 37-yard field goal. Chicago needs more of that in the second half.
Campbell can't continue to hold on to the ball, but the coaching staff needs to help him out by calling plays with shorter drops designed to get the ball out of his hands quickly. Campbell has already taken three sacks, and the fact the Bears are playing from such a large deficit means they've become one dimensional and need to throw the ball to get back into this game. San Francisco keeps stuffing the run. So attempting to put the ball into Matt Forte's hands likely won't do much good in the second half. With 2:42 left to play in the first half, Chicago No. 1 receiver Brandon Marshall still hadn't caught a ball. So not only does the team need to get the ball out of Campbell's hands quickly, it needs to get it into Marshall's hands as quickly and often as possible for a realistic shot at getting back into this game that could easily become a rout.
STOP THE RUN
With fewer than 9 minutes remaining in the first half, 49ers running backs Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter averaged 5.1 and 10 yards per carry, respectively. That's too much. Chicago isn't making mistakes with run fits, and the defense isn't missing a ton of tackles. The Bears are simply being dominated physically at the point of attack, and that needs to change for them to have any chance at winning this ballgame. Chicago's front four continues to allow the 49ers to blow it off the ball, and San Francisco's success running the ball has even opened up the pass. The Bears haven't been dominated this thoroughly all season, and they've got to find a way to snap out of the funk and hit back. At this point, the Bears are being punched in the mouth.