Bears vs. 49ers — What to Watch 4

Bears rookie left tackle Braxton Jones faces a big challenge against 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa — and others — in his NFL debut. Justin Fields will be in the spotlight — but will need lots of help — against a stout 49ers defense.

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Bears quarterback Justin Fields (1) scores on a 22-yard run in the fourth quarter of a 33-22 loss to the  49ers on Oct. 31 last season at Soldier Field.

Bears quarterback Justin Fields (1) rushed 10 times for 103 yards against the 49ers last season.

Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

KEY MATCHUP

This is a huge test for an unsettled Bears offensive line — and nowhere more than at left tackle, where rookie Braxton Jones will be starting and likely to get a heavy dose of 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa, who had 15.5 sacks and an league-best 21 tackles for loss last season.

Jones, a fifth-round draft pick from Southern Utah who at this time last year was preparing for Tarleton State, has met every challenge so far since earning the initial look as a starter in OTAs. He knows what he’s up against — as best he can know — but isn’t selling himself short, either.

“He’s a great player,” Jones said. “Obvious a vet in this league. Everybody knows who Nick Bosa is. You’ve got to respect what he does. I think it’s a good chance to go out and attack a player and have a great game.”

TRENDING

The Bears were 3-0 in the preseason, but preseason is not much of a barometer. For what it’s worth, the Colts were 0-4 in season openers when Matt Eberflus was the defensive coordinator —allowing an average of 28 points in losses to he Seahawks (28-16) in 2021, Jaguars (27-20) in 2020, Chargers (30-24 in overtime) in 2019 and Bengals (34-23) in 2018.

The 49ers are 2-3 in season openers under Kyle Shanahan, including a 41-33 victory over the Lions at Ford Field last season.

PLAYER TO WATCH

A year ago at this time, Justin Fields was a backup to Andy Dalton in an ill-fated apprenticeship plan that seemed doomed from the start. Now he’s the unquestioned starter, a team captain and the player who sets the tone not only for the offense, but the defense as well.

“There’s a lot more confidence knowing it’s his show, he’s the guy we’re looking at,” veteran defensive end Robert Quinn said. “And everyone else is embracing it around him, making sure they do their jobs but helping him be successful as well. It’s a joint thing. Everyone’s gotta do their part.”

Though Fields has had moments of being spectacular — including a 22-yard touchdown run against the 49ers last season — much of his success at this stage is likely to depend on his supporting cast. If the Bears can run the ball and protect him, he’ll have a chance to reach another level.

X-FACTOR

Eberflus has looked the part of NFL head coach. But game-day management is a new challenge, one that vexes even the best head coaches. Eberflus knows that’s a work-in-progress like everything else.

“We’ve been working on that since the last preseason game,” Eberflus said. “We’re continuing to educate and go through scenarios. Somebody once said those situations are like snowflakes —they’re all different. Time, time outs, score, field position, all that. I think it’s important we keep educating ourselves so we do a good job on game day.”

The Latest
The Sun-Times’ experts offer their picks for the Bears’ game Sunday at the Giants:
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Four suspects were arrested and are believed to have stolen at least three vehicles before they struck a Toyota driven by the 55-year-old woman.
The man, 57, was in the 1500 block of West 72nd Street when someone he knew attacked him, police said.
The man, 24, was near a sidewalk on the 3800 block of West Gladys Avenue around 7:50 p.m. when someone fired shots, hitting him in the arm and the chest, police.