The Bears cannot win without him.
Chicago struggled to do anything on offense. Jason Campbell had no time to throw the football, and when he did he rarely connected with his receivers. The offensive line gave no help to the backup quarterback as Aldon Smith and the 49ners sacked Campbell a total of six times.
In a game that was supposed to be dominated by two strong defenses, only one showed up Monday night. The Bears made rookie Colin Kaepernick look like a seasoned veteran. Kaepernick made smart decisions all night and didn’t fall victim to Chicago’s turnover-oriented defense. Not only did Chicago fail to get in the end zone, the Bears failed to record a turnover for the first time all season.
San Francisco’s game plan involved heavy doses of Frank Gore and finding mismatches for Vernon Davis down the field. But the credit goes to Kaepernick. He avoided sacks, didn’t turn the ball over and threw with strength and accuracy. He has earned at least a shot to remain the 49ers quarterback when Alex Smith comes back from the concussion he suffered in Week10.
The Bears, on the other hand, have major quarterback concerns. Chicago will need Cutler back on the field if they want to keep pace with the Green Bay Packers in the NFC North, who have won five in a row. Here are your Bears winners and losers from Chicago’s Monday night loss (Spoiler Alert: There aren’t many winners):
Carimi couldn’t block anyone Monday night, most notably Aldon Smith. Smith had 5.5 sacks, the majority of which were the fault of Carimi. The second-year tackle from Wisconsin struggled all night to keep Campbell off the ground, and one of Carimi’s missed blocks resulted in a late safety against the Bears.
Campbell didn’t have much of an offensive line Monday night, but when he did have time to throw he lobbed up lazy passes, two of which were intercepted.
The first pick came off an under-thrown pass that Tarell Brown jumped in front of; the second came on an overthrown ball that landed in the hands of Dashon Goldson.
Campbell faced a tough 49ers defense, but he hasn’t showed Bears fans that he’s capable of providing any production while Cutler has been sidelined.
If there was any game that could have used a Devin Hester return touchdown, it was tonight in San Francisco. In a game where Campbell struggled and Matt Forte couldn’t break through the 49ers' linebackers, a strong Hester return could have kept the Bears alive. Hester had three weak punt returns, including one that lost a handful of yards.
With Hester being a kept in check in the return game, he’s essentially a non-factor. As a receiver he isn’t a great rout runner and he doesn’t have particularly good hands.
The Bears’ game plan is continuing to leave out one of Chicago’s most dangerous plays: screen passes to Forte.
Mike Tice needs to involve Forte in the passing game, especially when Jason Campbell is behind center. It’s a high-percentage play that has the possibility of turning into big yardage.
Forte had just three catches Monday For four yards. On the season, Forte has 25 catches for 180 yards and no touchdowns.
Wright was responsible for covering Vernon Davis for much of Monday night and failed to contain the athletic tight end. Davis is a matchup nightmare for most NFL defensive backs, but he had zero difficulty getting open on Wright.
Forte got 21 carries Monday night but managed just 63 yards. The Bears needed a big night from Forte to help the struggling Campbell, but Forte was unable to get past the 49ers' front seven.
Forte’s longest run was only eight yards and he averaged just three yards per carry. A majority of the blame should go to the poor play of the offensive line, but a great deal of credit should also go to San Francisco’s run defense. Chicago needs Forte to get the occasional big play if the offense is going to gather any momentum at all.
Marshall’s struggles were not because of the way he played. His touchdown in the second half was an example of how the Bears should have planned their entire offensive philosophy: throw the ball up to Marshall and let him get it.
He proved on the play that he can out-jump any of the 49ers defensive backs and Campbell should have given him more chances to make plays.
Marshall finished the night with just two catches for 21 yards.
Cutler has some serious bargaining power for when his contract ends in 2014. Cutler would have had to deal with the same offensive line Campbell dealt with Monday night, but he’s capable of making good throws under duress and scrambling for positive yardage. For as much criticism as Cutler takes, he’s much better than the alternative.