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Other Week 13 Game Recaps

Week 13 Game Recap: San Francisco 49ers 26, Chicago Bears 20

What you need to know

San Francisco 49ers

In many ways, San Francisco's performance on offense was what we've come to expect since Blaine Gabbert became the starter: Shaun Draughn gained most of his rushing yardage on the outside, and Gabbert threw most of his passes to Draughn, Anquan Boldin, and an assortment of tight ends. What was different this week, however, was that Torrey Smith finally got open deep (to game-winning effect), and Gabbert demonstrated above-average scrambling ability, seemingly out of nowhere. In short, their formula is working better than it did earlier in the season because a) their execution has improved, and b) defenses have had to begin showing a non-zero amount of respect for San Francisco's passing game; both of which can be traced back to their change at quarterback. Of course, that doesn't mean they've become The Greatest Show on Turf or anything; more like the The Finally-Approaching-Mediocre-est Show on Turf.

Chicago Bears

The Chicago Bears were on the cusp of being a contender in the NFC playoff picture entering Sunday. Now, after an jaw-dropping loss to the San Francisco 49ers, the Bears are back to being a joke. To see where it all went wrong, all you need to do is look at three plays. The first play: Jay Cutlerís putrid pick-six in the first half. The second play: Blaine Gabbertís 44-yard touchdown run on a third down that tied the game with under two minutes remaining. The third play: the Gabbert to Torrey Smith 71-yard touchdown in overtime. Words to the wise: The Bears are not to be counted on for anything good until further notice.

San Francisco 49ers

QB Blaine Gabbert, 61 offensive snaps, Pass: 18 - 32 - 196 - 1 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 6 - 75 - 1
Gabbert produced the play of the season for San Francisco by making the throw of the season, a 44-yard rainbow strike to Torrey Smith, who ran the final 27 yards for a game-winning touchdown in overtime. But here's the thing: Prior to that throw, Gabbert had completed only 17 of 31 passes for only 125 yards, which translates to only 4.03 yards per attempt. And factoring the four sacks for -26 yards that he had taken to that point, Gabbert's net yards per attempt before the last play was only 2.83. In short, if all you saw from this game was the final highlight, you'd never realize this was actually a vintage Blaine Gabbert performance -- at least as a passer. Where he continued to show improvement over his Jaguars-era form was with respect to his newfound ability to escape pressure and salvage plays when the protection breaks down. This produced his game-tying, 44-yard touchdown run near the end of regulation, along with 31 yards on five other scrambles. More importantly, it also produced several pass plays that had no business gaining positive yardage given Chicago's pressure. Two such plays were a 5-yard completion despite defensive end Jarvis Jenkins having him dead to rights for a sack, and a dumpoff to Shaun Draughn for 26 yards just as he was getting hit by nose tackle Eddie Goldman.

RB Shaun Draughn, 48 offensive snaps, Rush: 13 - 36 - 1, Rec: 5 - 50 - 0 (6 targets)
Once again, Draughn was much more productive as a receiver than as a runner. The former can be attributed to his quarterback's propensity for dumpoffs, while the latter can be attributed to Chicago's defense and San Francisco's play-calling. The Bears did a good job of funneling runs back towards the inside and Geep Chryst, for whatever reason, called nine runs between the tackles even though outside zone is Draughn's bread and butter. This showed in his splits, with the 4 outside runs gaining 16 yards and the 9 inside runs gaining only 20 yards. In the passing game, Draughn displayed two skills that make him a threat after the catch: He understands how to find open holes in zone coverage, and he's able to go from standing still to running at full speed in no time. On his two longest receptions, it looked like Draughn was shot out of a cannon once he caught the ball. How he was a free agent so late into the season is one of the unsolved mysteries of 2015.

WR Anquan Boldin, 53 offensive snaps, Rec: 5 - 37 - 0 (13 targets)
How does a player -- besides Davante Adams -- have only five receptions on 13 targets when only one of those targets was over 15 yards downfield? Well, the answer is a combination of tight coverage by Bears cornberacks and inaccurate passing by Blaine Gabbert: Three of eight incompletions resulted from the former, while five resulted from the latter. That said, 13 targets is 13 targets, so Boldin's role as San Francisco's go-to receiver in crucial situations remains unquestioned. That's especially the case given when he was targeted. In regulation, Gabbert threw the ball Boldin's way five times on 2nd-and-long and twice on 3rd down, one of which resulted in a first down inside the 5-yard line. And in overtime, Boldin was the target on all three passes preceding Torrey Smith's game-winner.

WR Torrey Smith, 50 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 76 - 1 (3 targets)
Smith showed mild progress this week, making his signature big play and not making his signature big drop. Otherwise, he was (once again) largely uninvolved in the passing game. He couldn't get separation against the Bears cornerbacks, especially against Tracy Porter, who covered Smith on the majority of his routes. One of the few times he wasn't singled up on a cornerback happened to be on his game-ending touchdown. On that play, Chicago was in Cover-3, with the two cornerbacks responsible for the outside two-thirds of the field, and the two safeties sharing intermediate-to-deep responsibilites in the middle third. That sharing of responsibilities resulted in the broken coverage that left Smith wide open. When free safety Adrian Amos handed Smith off to strong safety Chris Prosinski 20 yards downfield, Prosinski was on the opposite hash mark, i.e., a position from which it's impossible to reach speedsters like Smith when they're running a deep corner route.

TE Vance McDonald, 18 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 18 - 0 (3 targets)
Prior to leaving the game with a concussion, McDonald was on pace for nine targets. He had also been targeted twice on San Francisco's three third-down passes to that point.

TE Blake Bell, 52 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 5 - 0 (3 targets)
The box score says three targets for Bell, but one of them was misassigned by the official score keeper. (It was a deflected red zone pass intended for Draughn, not Bell.) His two legitimate targets approached Torrey Smith levels of Jekyll-and-Hyde hands. One was a drop on third down that would have picked up a first down. The other resulted in a catch when Bell reached back behind himself with two hands on a poorly thrown dumpoff.

Chicago Bears

QB Jay Cutler, 78 offensive snaps, Pass: 18 - 31 - 202 - 0 TD / 1 INT, Rush: 4 - 10 - 0
Jay Cutler reverted back to the old Jay Cutler for a brief time in Sundayís horrific loss to the San Francisco 49ers. After changing the play at the line of scrimmage, Cutler dropped back quickly and fired a screen pass in the direction of Josh Bellamy. Before Bellamy could break on the ball, 49ers safety Jimmy Ward broke first and picked the pass for a pick-six touchdown. Not a good look for Mr. Cutler, who had been doing a great job this season of not making those kinds of errors.

Cutlerís day did not get much better, either. The Bearsí quarterback only completed 18-of-31 passes for 201 yards and an interception. A lack of offensive weapons cannot be blamed this time for his inadequacy. Alshon Jeffery and Matt Forte were not listed on the injury report all week, paving the way for a healthy Sunday. Cutler simply wasnít hitting his marks, at all.

The best plays of the day for Cutler came when offensive coordinator Adam Gase moved around his quarterback. Cutler completed a few nice passes on play-action rollouts. The Bears didnít do enough of this Sunday. Thereís far too much inconsistency with the play calling on a week-to-week basis. What seems to be working one week somehow gets lost before kickoff of the next week. Cutler needs consistency.

RB Matt Forte, 44 offensive snaps, Rush: 21 - 84 - 1, Rec: 5 - 39 - 0 (5 targets)
Matt Forte got back to doing Matt Forte-like things Sunday against the 49ers. Unfortunately, though, Forteís strong effort didnít matter in the end. Coming off an injury-free week of practice, Forte rushed for 84 yards on 21 carries and a touchdown and caught five passes for 39 yards.

Forte primarily ran up the middle, displaying patience behind his blocks. Why offensive coordinator Adam Gase didnít call for Forte to get to the outside, who knows. When the offensive lineman have time to line up their blocks, Forte usually shows great patience and vision running behind them.

Forte is his most-effective self when he runs to the outside; this is why heís so effective on screen passes. Forte lacks the speed he once had, so it makes little sense to run him up the middle into the opposing d-line. When the blocks get set in front of him, he finds the holes and converts first downs.

Forte likely is playing his final games as a Chicago Bear. Enjoy him while you can, Bears fans.

RB Jeremy Langford, 28 offensive snaps, Rush: 12 - 59 - 0, Rec: 2 - 9 - 0 (3 targets)
Jeremy Langford looks like a future star for the Chicago Bears, but he still has a long way to go before heíll be as impactful as Matt Forte during his prime.

Langford has done a great job running the football, gaining 59 yards on 12 carries in Sundayís loss to the San Francisco 49ers. Offensive coordinator Adam Gase is working hard to keep his backs fresh by giving Langford a series or two each quarter.

Where Langford struggles is the pass game. In at least three of the Bearsí seven losses, Langford has dropped key third-down passes that could have tilted the result the other way. Langford was targeted three times Sunday, catching two passes for nine yards. This is important because Langford is making a name for himself as a pass dropper.

Until Langford can learn how to catch the ball, he wonít be trusted in big moments of the game.

WR Alshon Jeffery, 75 offensive snaps, Rec: 4 - 85 - 0 (12 targets)
Alshon Jeffery turned in a very underwhelming performance Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers. The game, on paper, looked ripe for Jeffery to have a monster game, but the Bearsí top receiver caught only four passes for 85 yards on 12 targets.

Bracket coverage, some off-target passes, a questionable dropped pass or two and a lack of creativity in the play calling are the primary reasons for Jefferyís struggles. Injuries cannot be blamed this week, as Jeffery was not listed on the Bears Injury Report at all during 49ers week. Perhaps it had something to do with Josh Bellamy lining up as the Bearsí No. 2 receiver, allowing the 49ers to load up defenders. Jeffery is a better player than he showed in the loss to San Francisco.

Nonetheless, Jeffery is set to be a free agent this offseason, and he wants to be paid like a No. 1 receiver. Hereís the problem: No. 1 receivers win the battles Jeffery lost Sunday.

TE Martellus Bennett, 60 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 14 - 0 (4 targets)
What has become of Martellus Bennett? The Bearsí top tight end has become a shell of himself of late. Could it be the rib injury that caused him to miss the Bearsí win over Green Bay in Week 12? Could it be the new contract he wants? Could it be the reported tension with Bennett and the Bearsí front office? Who knows at this point.

Bennett is not playing good football these days. Long gone are the days when he was receiving double-digits in targets. Against the 49ers, Bennett caught only three passes for 14 yards on four targets. His strong on-field rapport with Jay Cutler seemingly is gone. The Bears really arenít doing anything different with Bennett. His ability to win mismatches in the secondary has gone away, and this is why heís not receiving the same high number of targets heís seen in recent years.