We’ve already had an in-depth discussion on what both the offense and defense must do in order for the Chicago Bears to beat the Detroit Lions, and now it’s time to take a deeper look into the game’s pivotal matchups.
In this episode, Will DeWitt goes through his weekly five matchups and three keys that you must pay attention to in this week’s game.
First up, let’s analyze the five critical matchups.
1. Prince Amukamara vs Marquise Goodwin
Even though Amukamara has been overall pretty solid with his coverage this season, only allowing 16 catches on 26 targets, this is a matchup that makes me sweat largely due to Goodwin’s speed and ability to make big plays.
In fact, over a third of Goodwin’s yardage has come on the offense’s left sideline, which is Amukamara’s side. Amukamara is only allowing a throw his way every 19 snaps, which is the third-best mark in the NFL, but, with his elite speed, Goodwin doesn’t need a ton of touches to make an impact. In fact, he only has seven catches over his last three games but has put up 229 yards off those limited receptions. Goodwin also leads the team in targets, so expect the 49ers to throw his way early and often.
What worries me in this matchup is not just the big plays given up, but also the potential for some of those untimely, drive-extending penalties. Since the bye week, Amukamara has been called for four penalties (73 yards) half of which have come on third down.
So, Goodwin’s impact is going to depend strictly on Amukamara’s ability to cleanly cover him. It’s a tall task, especially without Adrian Amos’s help over the top. If the past few weeks are any indication, Amukamara is going to make one of those costly mistakes, and perhaps a big game-altering catch.
Edge: Marquise Goodwin
2. Jordan Howard vs Reuben Foster
Even though Foster has not played much this season due to injuries, when he has – he’s played very well. Just how well? Foster was just named the NFL’s defensive rookie of the month. He only had six tackles against Seattle, but in the two weeks prior, he led the team in tackles with 24 and is arguably the best defender on the field.
Howard, on the other hand, is coming off his worst performance of the season largely due to the offensive line being severely overmatched by the Eagles’ front-seven. Looking at the matchups up front, the Bears offensive line should have a much better job generating push and creating running lanes.
That will lead to a big one-on-one matchup between Howard and Foster. Even though Foster has been great in blowing up runs, he’s had issues securing tackles at times as he has four missed this season.
Just like every week, Howard doesn’t need to win this matchup on every down, but if he can find a way to fight through contact when these two collide and gain additional yardage here and there with one busting for a big gain, Howard wins.
Edge: Jordan Howard
3. Akiem Hicks vs Brandon Fusco
Beaten and battered, Hicks has had a tough past couple of weeks and doesn’t have a sack since the bye week. Fusco isn’t the biggest or strongest guard in the league and has given up the 10th most pressures (23) but only two sacks.
Fusco’s job extends passed protecting Garoppolo though. Hicks is one of the league’s best interior run defenders with his combination of speed and strength, and if he can make sure Fusco can’t create an interior run push, this 49ers offense will have a hard time moving the ball.
Hicks does have five sacks and two fumble recoveries at home this season, and in last year’s matchup, he won NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors by putting up two sacks and a forced fumbles. Here’s to a repeat performance from No. 96.
Edge: Akiem Hicks
4. Danny Trevathan vs Carlos Hyde
I’ve been waiting to say these words for about a month now – Welcome back, Danny Trevathan! I don’t need to rehash all of the ways’ the Bears defense has suffered in his absence. We’ve talked about it a ton on the podcast, and heck … you have eyes, you’ve watched this defense take steps in the wrong direction.
Chicago has given up over 150 yards rushing twice in their last three games, and you have to expect Trevathan wants to be the captain to right the ship. In fact, I’d go out and say his return is the biggest key for the Bears to slow down Hyde.
He’s been solid both on the ground and through the air. His 49 receptions lead the team and the 49ers will try to put the ball in his hands in a variety of ways. That’s where Trevathan comes in. The linebacker will be tasked with tracking Hyde down every time he takes a handoff or catches the ball in the flat.
Not playing a game in nearly a month, and the Bears taking their time making sure he’s 100 percent before his return, Trevathan should provide the much-needed spark for this defense. This is a matchup I expect Trevathan to win, but if he fails, so will this Bears defense.
Edge: Danny Trevathan
5. Kyle Long vs DeForest Buckner
Just like Hicks, Long is been dealing with injuries this season. That has led to a dip in his effectiveness. Long has given up two sacks, one hit, and eight hurries this year in his limited action. He has a tough matchup as he’ll be tasked with slowing down the 49ers leading pass rusher in Buckner.
Buckner has been a force all season with his two sacks, 16 hits, and 21 hurries. The two sacks may not be bothersome, but Buckner has found himself in opponents’ backfields more times than not, which affects offensive rhythm. This is due to his size. At 6-foot-7 and 300 pounds, he can beat blockers in multiple ways due to his shear strength.
Buckner can set edges, gain penetration and simply wreak havoc in backfields. I expect the Bears to help Long as much as possible in this matchup, and honestly, if Bradley Sowell is playing at left guard, I can see Buckner flipping the side of the ball he lines up on to take advantage of the struggling lineman.
Last year, this would’ve been a push. But with Long’s injuries, the club on his hand, and Buckner’s hot-streak, this matchup is not leaning in Chicago’s favor.
Edge: DeForest Buckner