Thumbs up: Kap and Davis were quite a combination
Which way does the thumb turn for the 49ers after their 32-7 rout of the Chicago Bears, including a coming out party for Colin Kaepernick, an overwhelming Aldon Smith, Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman playing like beasts in the middle, the handcuffs taken off Vernon Davis, Michael Crabtree bouncing off defenders, sending Devin Hester backward on punt returns and much more? Check inside.
Thumbs up: Was this the beginning of a new era at quarterback for the 49ers? At the very least, Monday night’s impressive blowout of the Bears was a coming out party for Colin Kaepernick, who gave an impressive display of his ability and potential during the first start of his NFL career. Throwing down the field and emerging as a playmaker with his strong arm and quick feet, Kaepernick completed 16 of 23 passes for 243 yards and two touchdowns for a passer rating of 133.1. He also moved well in the pocket, was sacked only once and didn’t commit a turnover against a Chicago defense that led the NFL with 30 takeaways entering the game.
Thumbs up: A 4-for-4 start through the air on the game’s first offensive series was a pretty good way for Kaepernick to begin his first start and loosen up a Chicago defense that wasn’t prepared for such an early onslaught through the air. “I don’t think they were expecting us to come out slinging like that,” tight end Vernon Davis said.
Thumbs up: But Kaepernick’s 3-for-3 showing on San Francisco’s next drive was even prettier, with Kap dropping a well-thrown deep pass over Kyle Williams’ shoulder for a 57-yard gain, followed on the next play by a 3-yard scoring strike to Davis, the first touchdown pass of Kaepernick’s career.
Thumbs up: On his second touchdown pass – which turned the game into a rout at 27-0 early in the third quarter – Kaepernick displayed patience and nimble feet in the pocket when he looked right, looked left, danced away from trouble and bought time to find Michael Crabtree work his way open in the corner of the end zone for a 10-yard scoring strike.
Thumbs up: With Kaepernick behind center, Davis became a central figure in the passing game again, hauling in a season-high six receptions for 83 yards, including a 32-yarder on which Kap fit the football into a tight window between two defenders. Davis had just five receptions over a three-game span in October before catching four passes last week against the Rams. “Colin is The Man!” Davis exclaimed afterward. “It felt like somebody took the handcuffs off.”
Thumbs up: You can contain one hard-charging Smith on the right side of San Francisco’s defensive line, but it’s pretty difficult to contain two at the same time as Justin Smith and Aldon Smith proved on Chicago’s first third down of the game, when the Smiths overpowered the left side of the Bears’ offensive line and Aldon Smith dropped quarterback Jason Campbell for a 10-yard loss. That would be an act that would be repeated several times in this game.
Thumbs up: It was all Aldon Smith on his second sack early in the second quarter, when Smith slammed into Bears left tackle J’Marcus Webb, tossed him aside and in one motion collapsed the pocket to bury Campbell again. Smith picked up his fourth sack coming from the right side in the third quarter, and he blew right tackle Gabe Cimini for half sack in the fourth quarter – with Justin Smith getting credit for the other half sack, his first of the season, on the play.
Thumbs up: Before all was said and done, Aldon Smith had dropped Campbell yet again in the end zone, forcing a fumble that was recovered by the Bears for a safety. That gave Smith 5.5 sacks for the evening, just behind Fred Dean’s team record of 6 in a game set in 1983 against New Orleans. Smith took over the NFL lead with 14.5 sacks this season, moving past Von Miller of Denver, who has 13. Smith also finished with seven quarterback hits on Campbell and forced two fumbles. Wow.
Thumbs down: Since it negated a huge defensive play that would have taken the Bears out of scoring range, we might as well knock Smith for getting flagged at the end of a third-quarter sequence during which he was penalized for illegal use of hands. On a third-and-19, Ahmad Brooks sacked Campbell from behind and knocked the ball loose as it squirted backward and toward the sideline. Smith pushed a Chicago lineman in the back as the ball was rolling out of bounds at the San Francisco 49-yard line, and the resulting penalty nullified Brooks’ sack and gave Chicago a first down at the San Francisco 26 instead of the Bears being forced to punt. Chicago scored its only touchdown five plays later.
Thumbs up: Yes, you could say the 49ers came out ready for this one. They held a 148-22 advantage in total yards after one quarter. The edge was even more dominant at halftime, when the Niners’ edge was up to 249-35.
Thumbs up: The Bears went right at Patrick Willis in pass coverage twice on their second offensive series, and both times Willis made plays on the football, knocking it out of the hands of tight end Evan Rodriguez to force an incompletion on first down, then stepping in front of running back Matt Forte two plays later to force another Bears’ punt.
Thumbs up: Willis and NaVorro Bowman were complete beasts on defense throughout the evening in one of the finest combined performances of their career, once again establishing themselves in the Monday night spotlight as the best pair of middle linebackers in the league. Bowman recorded a game-high 12 tackles and Willis had seven stops along with his prowess in pass defense as the 49ers limited Chicago to just 143 yards of total offense.
Thumbs up: Kendall Hunter busting up the middle of Chicago’s stout run defense for a 14-yard touchdown run was a punch in the gut to the Bears and also displayed both Hunter’s quickness in cutting inside to make a defender miss and his power in carrying a different defender over the goal line after being hit at the 3-yard line.
Thumbs down: An unnecessary roughness penalty on C.J. Spillman on the ensuing kickoff didn’t really matter much as the Bears turned over the football three plays later, but it did give Chicago starting field position at its own 41-yard line and was the first notable glitch in what had been a practically spotless all-around performance by the 49ers up to that point.
Thumbs up: Tarell Brown looked more like the intended receiver than Devin Hester when he perfectly read a sideline pass and broke decisively in front of Hester to smother Campbell’s throw for his first interception of the season. Free safety Dashon Goldson later swooped in from center field and tip-toed the sideline on Campbell overthrow to grab his third pick of the season.
Thumbs up: Michael Crabtree looked more like a defender delivering punishing hits than a wide receiver absorbing them when he went over the middle on a slant pattern and bounced off safety Major Wright and cornerback Tim Jennings before being dragged down after a 20-yard gain deep in Chicago territory to set up a David Akers field goal.
Thumbs up: Every now and then, Carlos Rogers will get an opportunity to show everybody that he can deliver a big blow for a guy who’s considered a cover corner. Rogers got that chance at the end of Campbell’s scramble up the middle in the third quarter, when Rogers finished the play with a pad-popping lick that had the sellout crowd roaring its approval.
Thumbs up: When you can get one of the greatest return specialists in NFL history to run backward for a punt return of minus-9 yards – as the Niners did when they gang-tackled Devin Hester, who got caught going the wrong direction trying to elude them – that says a lot for coverage units that shut down Chicago’s dangerous returner the entire game. The Niners also forced Hester to cough up the football on a fourth-quarter kickoff return – the Bears recovered the fumble – and limited to a minus-0.3-yard average on his three punt returns.
Thumbs up: The Niners picked the Monday night spotlight to once again show everybody that they can be a dominant team, even when playing against one of the best teams in the league. This one wasn’t nearly as close as the final score and the Bears were overmatched from the first snap of the game forward. In the process, the 49ers won for the 43rd time on Monday night, tying the Dallas Cowboys for the most victories in that prime-time slot in NFL history.