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SportsMondayTuesday: Overmatched Bears Can Still Win Super Bowl

Listen to Jim Coffman talk Bears today with Rick Kogan at 2 p.m. on WBEZ's The Afternoon Shift.


Don't despair, Bears fans.

Sports commentators commit many crimes against humanity but their biggest mistake when it comes to pro football is making too much of individual games.

It is partly understandable; there is almost always a week between games and you have to fill the programming and sports pages with something during those times.

But if the parity-drenched NFL has taught us anything in the past few years, it is that teams can be terrible for a couple games or even a sizable stretch of the season and still come back and win in the end.

Just last season, a truly mediocre Giants team barely squeaked into the playoffs at 9-7 and promptly got on a roll that ended with them hoisting the Lombardi Trophy in Indianapolis.

So just because the Bears totally stunk it up by the Bay last night in a 32-7 loss in the battle of the backup quarterbacks doesn't mean the season has come to an end.

Heck, I've even got a bright side: Thank goodness Jay Cutler wasn't back there getting pounded by Aldon (and Justin) Smith.

Of course, if it had been Cutler back there, maybe he would have moved around in the pocket well enough to avoid the rush a bit more than Jason Campbell did - especially in the first half when the game was still undecided and the 49ers hadn't totally pinned their ears back and devoted themselves exclusively to the pass rush, i.e., stopped worrying about the run.

But let's be clear about one thing: It is still too early to pronounce Jason Campbell not good enough for this job.

How so?

First and foremost, because there is every reason to believe Campbell was poorly prepared by the coaching staff heading into this game - just like he was poorly prepared to enter the season as Cutler's backup.

You may recall that Campbell wasn't sharp in the Bears' first three preseason games. He wasn't even throwing tight spirals most of the time. And yet, the Bears coaching staff decided that he was good enough to sit out the final exhibition against the Browns.

As I wrote at the time: Not smart.

Makes you wonder if they were too lackadaisical - and oddly overconfident - in preparations for Campbell this week, too, even knowing he would be facing a fast and ferocious 49er defense.

I'm also officially hopping on the The Offensive Line Is Offensive bandwagon - if there is room for me at this late date.

I have resisted excessively dumping on the players up front but last night was grim.

Chilo Rachal was just outclassed by Justin Smith and really had no business being in such a key matchup.

J'Marcus Webb should at least hold somebody and take the flag instead of letting his quarterback get killed.

And Gabe Carimi, yikes.

Hey Gabe, at least stand strong and try to pound someone out there. In the second half it wasn't enough that you were getting beat inside, outside and up the middle. There were stretches there where you resembled an overmatched infantryman. In other words, you were in full retreat.

Carimi is essentially a rookie (he only played five quarters before a season-ending injury last year) and there is nothing to be done about his lack of experience in the near term. I still believe he will hold down a tackle spot for the Bears for many years to come. But when we watch him being thrown back into the quarterback by a defensive end he outweighs by at least 30 pounds, well, we have to worry.

(Lance Louis also at times allowed himself to be absolutely physically dominated by a smaller player. Time to play with a little bit of pride, fellas.)

As for the other side of the ball, did everyone see how the 49ers used the pass to set up the run?

Colin Kaepernick came out throwing, his coordinator calling plays that gave him great chances to build confidence and momentum. He took advantage.

The 49ers' offensive strategy only reinforced why all those geniuses - including Lovie Smith - asserting all week that the Bears would have to establish the running game to help their backup quarterback get comfortable before contributing with his arm were so wrong.

First, you want your quarterback throwing some passes he is completely comfortable with during his first few times out on the field. Second and most importantly, teams need to pass when the defense thinks they will run and run when the opposite is the case. You can't let the defense completely dictate what you do but whether a team has six guys in the box near the line of scrimmage or nine has to matter - a lot.

Of course, if teams run as well as the Niners did last night (and man did they put on a power running clinic), it matters less what is going on in the passing game.

Analyst Jon Gruden was especially good last night when he was gushing about the various ways San Francisco used power formations and motion to overwhelm the Bears defense to the tune of an astronomical (and approximate)10 yards per play through three quarters.

* * *

Now it's time to get back to work and make sure the most important games of the season don't slip away.

And the most important games of the season are the next one - a home contest against division rival Minnesota on Sunday - and next month's home game with the Packers.

Winning just those alone might be enough to get into the playoffs with the same 9-7 record the Giants had last season. Win a couple more and they're back on a roll.


Jim "Coach" Coffman is our man on Mondays Tuesdays. He welcomes your comments.

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