After a painful loss in a downpour at Levi's® Stadium, the 49ers entered Week 8 on a low note, losing four-straight games and dropping their record to 2-4 – a place the 49ers did not expect themselves to be at the beginning of the season. Now, they're going back to the drawing board to make fundamental improvements to their performance.
The San Francisco team has a challenging road ahead of them, which includes facing back-to-back divisional games. First, heading to Chicago to take on the Bears, then going up against the Arizona Cardinals and Los Angeles Rams. Securing a win on the road in Week 8 would be a game-changer for the team's outlook on their season, and defeating the 3-4 Bears will give the 49ers the confidence to battle two dominant NFC West teams.
The Chicago Bears are just as hungry for a win, as they head home after a blowout 38-3 loss against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Rookie quarterback Justin Fields is coming off of a rough outing in Week 7, posting 184 yards and three interceptions. The offensive line's performance doesn't lend much help, allowing a league-leading 26 sacks through seven games.
Reflecting on the 49ers performance in Week 7, it can be hard to find the positives after a devastating loss. However, there are areas of progression that came out of their contest against the Indianapolis Colts that can help them in Week 8.
Linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair received the 49ers top grade on defense (83.4 overall) with a total of nine tackles, five stops and allowing only 10 yards on his two targets. All-Pro Fred Warner also executed on defense, earning his highest overall grade of the season (81.1) including an 87.0 coverage grade. Warner recorded six total stops and allowed catches on all three of his targets for a total of zero yards.
One of the biggest threats to the Bears offense is the "smaller bear," also known as 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa. Against the Colts top-ranked O-line, Bosa generated four quarterback pressures, including three quarterback hits. In total, Bosa has registered 23 tackles, five sacks and a forced fumble entering Week 8, as he looks to exploit the weaknesses on Chicago's offensive line.
The absence of Bears linebacker Khalil Mack (foot) is a relief for quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, as he and the offense aim to find a rhythm that has been up and down for much of the season. The 49ers saw moments of synergy on offense, such as the opening drive against Indianapolis that put the first points on the board in Week 7. However, these moments have been overshadowed by the lack of third down conversions and lost turnovers.
Chicago's Sunday forecast predicts much clearer skies than last week's Nor Cal rainstorm, which is great news for wide receiver Deebo Samuel, who performed admirably despite the conditions. Of Samuel's 10 targets, the wideout registered seven receptions for 100 yards and a touchdown against the Colts. Meanwhile, tight end Charlie Woerner stepped up and played a career-high 30 snaps against the Colts, earning the highest grade of the team (91.6 overall).
Samuel isn't the only player coming off of a 100-yard game, as Elijah Mitchell earned a career-high 107 rushing yards. Mitchell helped the 49ers get back to their run game, totaling 21 carries against the Colts compared to San Francisco's Week 5 total of just 12 touches.
"We're sitting here at 2-4 and there's a lot of football left to play," said head coach Kyle Shanahan. "I've got one focus and that's trying to make sure to find a way that we play as good as we possibly can against Chicago, so when this week ends we're 3-4."
Playing in harmony on offense and limiting penalties on defense are two of the key factors for the 49ers to become a dominant team. Not only performing, but practicing and preparing at full potential in Week 8 while on the road is a step in the right direction for San Francisco to regain its confidence and finally walk away with a long-awaited win.