The San Francisco 49ers will see a familiar face on the opposing sideline this Sunday at Soldier Field.
Vic Fangio, the team's former defensive coordinator, now holds the same position in Chicago for the surging Bears. Chicago has won three of its last four contests, and Fangio's defense hasn't allowed more than 19 points in any of those games.
The Bears defense ranks 14th overall in total yards allowed, however, their pass defense is second in the league.
Most recently, the Bears held Aaron Rodgers to 202 passing yards, one touchdown and one interception in a Week 12 win against the Green Bay Packers.
"They're a sound defense," Blaine Gabbert told the media on Wednesday. "Schematically, they're on it. They don't make a lot of errors. Their guys are in the right spots. So, it puts it on the quarterback and the guys on offense to execute and be consistent in sustaining drives."
Gabbert has a 1-2 record in three starts for the 49ers this season and has thrown for 767 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions.
A trademark of a Fangio-led defense is to keep the play in front and to not allow the home-run ball. That means San Francisco will have to be patient on Sunday and be content with taking what the defense gives them.
Chicago has allowed just six pass plays of 40 yards or more, which ranks ninth in the NFL. Additionally, the Bears have surrendered the fewest runs of 20 yards or more with three and are one of eight teams to have not allowed a run of 40 yards or more this season.
San Francisco has recorded five scoring drives of at least nine plays since Gabbert became the starter.
"He runs the same scheme," Gabbert said of Fangio. "He's a 3-4 guy, but he's doing what their personnel allows him to. They're not too exotic. They do have some exotic blitzes, but they just play what they're going to play and make you execute against it."
One major point of emphasis for the 49ers offense will be to improve on third down. San Francisco has only converted 2-of-20 third-down attempts the last two weeks combined.
Gabbert said those struggles start with being unsuccessful on early downs.
"On our scoring drives, we were efficient on first and second down, so we weren't in a lot of third downs in those drives," Gabbert said. "And then of course when we weren't scoring, we weren't efficient on first and second downs."
The signal-caller also took the opportunity to praise two of the skill players who've played well in recent weeks.
That started with Garrett Celek, who set career highs against the Arizona Cardinals last Sunday with six receptions for 71 yards. The tight end has also scored in back-to-back games, marking the first two touchdowns of his career.
"He's doing a tremendous job and he's winning," Gabbert said. "He's beating guys in man coverage. He's finding the zones when they're in a zone coverage. He's playing great right now. Run blocking, pass blocking, catching the ball and making big plays as well."
Gabbert also had good things to say about Shaun Draughn, the teams starting running back for each game the quarterback has started this season. The running back has set single-game career highs in most statistical categories – 58 rushing yards and 40 receiving yards to name a few – and has proven he can be an every-down 'back in the NFL.
"From a protection standpoint, knowing the run game, the pass game, catching the ball out of the backfield, it's been a tremendous asset to this offense and this team," Gabbert said.