It's 2nd-and-16 midway through the first quarter. The Bears are on the 49ers' 49-yard line. They line up with TE Desmond Clark on the right side of the line, WR Bernard Berrian split wide left, and WR Rashied Davis in the slot. FB Jason McKie and RB Cedric Benson are stacked behind QB Rex Grossman in the I-formation. San Francisco's defense employs its base 3-4 defense, with both outside linebackers on the line of scrimmage.
At the snap, Clark releases freely from the right side of the line past two blitzing linebackers. At the same time, Grossman fakes a handoff to Benson. Grossman drops behind his two backs and looks downfield. He finds his man and is able to step into his throw because Benson and McKie have picked up the two blitzing linebackers. The offensive line seals off the defensive rush to the left, giving Grossman plenty of time to throw. He finds Clark, who released straight down the hash mark at the start of the play before quickly cutting inside 49ers S Michael Lewis 20 yards downfield. Grossman hits him with a high pass just after the cut, and Clark extends upward for a 31-yard reception.
This completion was set up by the play fake just after the snap. The Bears had been pounding Benson inside up until that point so the play action froze the secondary, allowing Clark to find room in the middle of the field. It was the perfect place for him to be because few quarterbacks in the league throw the seam pass better than Chicago's signal-caller.
The completion was possible also because of both Benson and McKie picking up the blitz. The Bears' coaching staff has never been impressed with Benson's ability to pass block, but they have spoken of his desire to get better. Fortunately, it looks as if the hard work is paying off.
BEARS ON DEFENSE
It's the first play of the 49ers' ensuing drive. They line up in a two-tight-end set before motioning the strong-side tight end across to the weak side, while also pulling the receiver in as an extra blocker. It is an unbalanced line with four blockers on the right. The Bears' two interior tackles, Darwin Walker and Dusty Dvoracek, recognize the motion and switch positions, placing Walker on the strong side. The rest of the defense shows a base 4-3 like normal.
At the snap of the ball, the San Francisco center and right guard pull right, leaving an opening for Dvoracek to run through. He rushes hard up the middle, jumping athletically over the attempted cut block of the left guard before moving into the backfield. At the same time, Walker has fought off a down block of the right tackle, who attempted to seal him inside. Walker maneuvers his way down the line by powering through the outside arm of the tackle, who's in the midst of an obvious holding penalty. He finally breaks away from the lineman's grasp and meets 49ers RB Maurice Hicks, who is attempting to run head on off tackle. Hicks bounces off the meaty Walker and is taken down by Dvoracek, who was trailing the play the whole time.
The biggest offseason worry for this team came from the defensive tackle position. From what I've seen of both Walker and Dvoracek, the three DTs the Bears lost – Alfonso Boone, Tank Johnson, and Ian Scott – will not be missed. On this one play, Walker showed his immense interior power and his ability to stretch out plays by holding his position along the line. Dvoracek showed not only his pursuit skills but also his athleticism, hopping gracefully over the offensive guard's chop block. Even if Tommie Harris needs a few extra weeks to heal, the Bears D should be just fine.
Jeremy Stoltz is an Associate Editor for Chicago Sports Weekly. He is a regular contributor to Bear Report and BearReport.com.