The San Francisco 49ers did not waiver from what they do best on the offensive side of the ball last week which was pounding the rock! A team that is built on smash-mouth football, the 49ers offensive line did a tremendous job of opening lanes for RB Frank Gore and RB Carlos Hyde. However, with a revamped Chicago Bears defense, how will they fare this week? Well considering that T Jonathan Martin played extremely well in both pass and run, look for that to continue as T Anthony Davis recovers from his hamstring injury.
Martin, a former 2012 second-round pick (No. 42) of the Miami Dolphins has clearly found his groove in San Francisco. Last week saw him routinely exploding off the snap while keeping defensive ends at bay. If Martin can continue that output, expect the 49ers running game to flourish, as the Bears do not have a feared run stopper outside of a healthy DT Jay Ratliff and OLB Lance Briggs. So how can the 49ers exploit this weakness? By running the ball down their throats for four-quarters.
Bears DC Mel Tucker uses a 4-3 base (one-gap) defense meaning he asks his defensive lineman to occupy blockers, shed and then make a tackle without using stunts or slants. If the 49ers can control the point of attack while hitting the second-level, there is no reason not to believe that Gore and Hyde won’t rack up huge chunks of yards. Not to mention, Tucker rarely gives exotic looks, and if he does, it’s usually a cornerback blitz from the slot, so 49ers OC Greg Roman should be able to devise a bullet proof game-plan while keeping the Bears dynamic offense off the field.
Last week saw the Buffalo Bills (1-0) just manhandle the Bears defensive line, as they walked all over them for 193 rushing yards. A 5.8 yards per carry average, it will be no small task for the Bears this week around as the Niners power scheme looks in mid-season form. From backups G Joe Looney to Martin, both of them held their own on the right side. So how will the 49ers rushing attack fare in Week 2? Well considering that Hyde continues to look the part as a featured power-back, expect the 49ers to have another big game on the ground.
And while the Bears have DE Jared Allen at their disposal, he’s not as good against the run making him a liability in running situations. If the 49ers can have an encore performance like the one against Dallas that should bode well for the Gore-Hyde duo, as they are easily a top-five 1-2 punch in the NFL. However, the the 49ers right side may have a tough time as they try and contain Ratliff.
A four-time Pro Bowl player (2008-2011), Ratliff is no slouch by any stretch of the imagination. A strong defensive tackle that excels at the three-technique, Ratliff fared well against the Bills as he finished with five tackles. A sign that Ratliff is making plays at or near the line of scrimmage, the 49ers must contain him by using an additional blocker at the point of attack. If Looney gets the nod as G Alex Boone continues to get in NFL shape, do not be surprised if FB Bruce Miller is motioned to seal off that side. Harbaugh understands mismatches and so he will surely use extra lineman if he has to.
In the Cowboys season opener, Boone played four downs, all as an extra lineman.
A rushing attack that is as potent as any under the Jim Harbaugh era, look for the two workhorses to have a big game, as I predict Gore and Hyde to have a combined stat line around 30 carries for 140 rushing yards and one touchdown.