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Sacks, safety highlight great Bears defense

Posted Dec 4, 2016

The Bears defense had its best game of the season Sunday at Soldier Field, shutting down the 49ers attack with a relentless pass rush.

The Bears already had Sunday's Week 13 game against San Francisco in hand when the Soldier Field crowd erupted in elation. Leading 24-6 with two minutes to go, Chicago's defense had the 49ers pinned back at their own 8-yard line. Out of the shotgun, San Francisco reserve quarterback Blaine Gabbert took the snap and looked downfield to throw. But before he had time to do much of anything, Bears rookie linebacker Leonard Floyd was in his face, charging up the middle of the field after spinning around right tackle Trent Brown. Floyd wrapped Gabbert up around the waist and tossed him two yards back for a safety.

It was the exclamation point on a fantastic day for the Bears defense. Make that, an exclamation two points.

The Chicago defense dominated the entire game, capped off by Floyd's safety, helping the Bears to a 26-6 victory over the 49ers. Chicago had constant pressure on San Francisco's quarterbacks, taking away any chance for the 49ers to do anything in the passing game. At the same time, Bears defenders keyed in on the run, halting the Niners' runners in their snowy tracks.

"It feels great," outside linebacker Pernell McPhee said of the defensive performance. "We knew coming in that this is a game we could dominate and we went out there and did it."

Heading into the game, the Bears identified San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick as the key to slowing down the 49ers' attack. Kaepernick is a dangerous player both as a passer and runner, accounting for 409 total yards just a week ago at Miami. The Bears thrived by collapsing the pocket around Kaepernick, not giving him any room to operate. He finished with 20 yards rushing on six attempts, all of which came in the first half.

The 20 yards rushing wasn't a lot for Kaepernick - in fact they were his fewest yards in seven starts this season - but it was a heck of a lot better than what he did as a passer on Sunday. Kaepernick completed just one of five passes for four yards, before being removed from the game for Gabbert on San Francisco's opening drive of the fourth quarter.

Gabbert completed four passes for 35 yards in the game's final 15 minutes. San Francisco finished the game with 39 passing yards, which is the fewest yards allowed through the air by Chicago's defense since November 13, 2005, when the 49ers had 28 passing yards.

Not only did the Bears shut down the 49ers' offense, they punished their opponent. The Bears had a season-high six sacks on the day, with pressure coming from everywhere. Hicks and Young each finished with a pair of sacks, while Willie Young and Eddie Goldman had one apiece.

Despite missing starting inside linebacker Danny Trevathan and safety Adrian Amos because of injuries, and with fellow linebacker Jerrell Freeman still suspended, the Bears defense was disruptive all game long. San Francisco's offense had just 10 first downs on the afternoon and only two in the second half. After 49ers kicker Phil Dawson made a 28-yard field goal late in the second quarter, San Francisco never crossed midfield again, with the remainder of their offensive snaps taking place in their own territory. And the Bears never let their opponent in the end zone, the first Bears foe held without a touchdown since 2012.

The icing on the cake was Floyd's safety, the first two-pointer recorded by the Chicago defense since October 2011. The rookie first-round pick was carted off the field after being hit in the neck two week ago, and missed last week's contest versus Tennessee as a result. But he came ready to play on Sunday, finishing with four tackles, including the two sacks.

Floyd was so amped up after being out that he began to press early in the game. But teammates and coaches told him to calm down and let the game come naturally. Once the rookie took that advice, he was able to dominate.

"(Leonard) was just trying to force himself to make a play. But I told him (not to do that), just let the play come to you," McPhee said. "He sucked it up at the end and went and got a big play."

The safety brought the Soldier Field faithful to their feet, capping off a nearly perfect performance from the Chicago defense.