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3 Bears most responsible for Week 1 win vs. 49ers

Bears, Dante Pettis, Dominique Robinson, Roquan Smith

The Chicago Bears don’t have too many expectations for the 2022 season. Yet with their first game of the season in the books, they find themselves with a 1-0 record after beating the San Francisco 49ers, who made it all the way to the NFC Championship Game last season, by a score of 19-10. It’s safe to say that not many folks saw this one coming.

The 49ers, of course, underwent some big changes this offseason, with their biggest being Trey Lance taking over under center in place of Jimmy Garoppolo. Lance struggled to get much going against the Bears defense, although he also had to battle the torrential downpours at Soldier Field that took place all day long. Still, that shouldn’t take away from a strong Chicago performance.

The Bears got off to a slow start, but ended up scoring 19 unanswered points in the second half to run away with this game. It was a very encouraging performance against a strong 49ers squad, and it could be a sign that Chicago may be better than many folks expected this season. With that in mind, let’s look back at the Bears win from yesterday and pick out the three players that were most responsible for the team’s upset victory.

3. Roquan Smith

Throughout training camp, Roquan Smith made it clear that he would be looking for a contract extension. He ultimately never got one, but decided to suit up for the Bears this season anyway. Whether that will be the case come next season remains to be seen. But Chicago will certainly be pleased he’s on their team for now.

Smith has established himself as one of the best all-around linebackers in the NFL, and his skills were on full display against the 49ers. Smith racked up a team high nine tackles, one pass deflection, one QB hit, and 0.5 sacks as well. Smith led from the heart of the Bears defense, and without his presence at the center of Chicago’s defense, everything would have fallen apart.

This wasn’t the flashiest performance from Smith, but he made an early statement to the Bears front office that he means business this season. Not extending Roquan Smith while they had the chance to do so this offseason could come back and hurt Chicago, and he made another statement that he is worth the money he’s asking for to start the 2022 season.

2. Dominique Robinson

Dominique Robinson was a fifth-round pick of the Bears in the 2022 NFL Draft, meaning this game against San Francisco was the first of his career. Robinson certainly had a game to remember to open his career, despite playing less than half of Chicago’s defensive snaps.

Robinson finished his first ever NFL contest with seven tackles, 1.5 sacks, one tackle for a loss, and two QB hits. Robinson lived in the 49ers backfield when he was on the field, and he played a big role in limiting Lance’s ability to extend plays in the pocket. Lance never was comfortable under center for San Francisco yesterday, and Robinson played a big role in that.

The early returns on Robinson certainly look promising. Anytime you can hit on a late round draft pick, that’s a win, but Robinson already showed up in the first game of his career. If players like Robinson can continue to be unexpected contributors on the Bears defense, they could become a sneaky good team this season, and surprise more folks along the way.

1. Dante Pettis

For all intents and purposes, Dante Pettis is the fifth wide receiver on the Bears depth chart, and he probably only suited up for this game because Velus Jones Jr. was forced to miss it. If N’Keal Harry and David Moore didn’t suffer injuries during training camp, there’s a decent chance Pettis wouldn’t have made the Bears 53-man roster. But he did, and he made the biggest play of the game for Chicago yesterday afternoon against his old team.

Pettis only played 23 snaps on offense, and got targeted once in the air by Justin Fields. Luckily for Pettis, he turned that one target into a 51 yard touchdown that changed the tide of the game. Up until this point in the game, Chicago had looked lifeless on offense. They would proceed to score touchdowns on their next two drives after Pettis’ explosive play on their first drive of the second half.

Chances are this play won’t result in Pettis getting more playing time, but he proved he can be a viable player when he’s on the field. The Bears don’t have a ton of targets for Fields at wide receiver, so any production they can get helps. Even though Dante Pettis didn’t do anything outside of this one play, it’s clear they wouldn’t have won without it, making him the biggest contributor to Chicago’s win.