Bears QB Barkley gets first career win over Niners
Quarterback Matt Barkley got his first NFL win.
Wide receivers Josh Bellamy and Cam Meredith got some redemption.
Rookie running back Jordan Howard racked up his fifth 100-yard game.
And everyone got to play in the snow, which fell non-stop throughout the Bears' 26-6 domination of the San Francisco 49ers.
It all added up to the Bears' third win of a disappointing season that also includes nine losses. The victory over the 1-11 Niners should leave the Bears with a lower draft pick but a higher level of pride and confidence.
Barkley, a California kid who played his college football at USC, said Sunday's conditions at Soldier Field were some of the worst he's ever experienced.
With 1:43 left in the first half, the Bears trailed 6-0 and Barkley was 0-for-3 throwing the ball.
For most of the first half, watching the snow fall was infinitely more entertaining than the two offenses stumbling around trying to find the end zone.
"It took me a quarter or so to get used to throwing the ball with those conditions," Barkley admitted. "I really had to adjust my arm angle and almost push the ball out instead of flinging it because my thumb would slip out."
But Barkley completed 4 of 5 passes on an 81-yard drive that gave the Bears a 7-6 halftime lead. Prior to that the Bears had 34 yards of total offense.
After that, the combination of Barkley's passing (11-for-18, 192 yards, 97.5 passer rating) and Howard's running (117 yards on 32 carries) was more than enough to complement a Bears defense that limited the 49ers to 147 yards -- 111 fewer than the Bears had allowed in any of their first 11 games.
Barkley easily outplayed 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, whose poor performance gave vocal Bears fans plenty of ammunition for their criticism after his pregame protest of kneeling during the national anthem continued.
Kaepernick completed 1 of 5 passes for 4 yards and was sacked five times before he was benched in the fourth quarter. At that point, the 49ers had minus-21 passing yards. They finished with 6.
After brilliant careers in high school and college, Barkley waited almost four years to start his first NFL game -- last week -- and seven more days for his first win.
Asked about his confidence level, Barkley said: "It's at an all-time high in this league, just knowing that I can play, and that we can make plays as an offense."
Meredith, who had multiple drops a week earlier, had receptions of 28 and 17 yards on the Bears' first TD drive and finished with 67 yards on 3 receptions. Bellamy, who dropped the potential game-winner in the end zone last week, had game highs of 4 catches and 94 yards but also dropped 2 catchable passes that could have been worth at least another 50 yards.
A brutal drop by Bellamy was negated by a holding call on the 49ers, and seven plays later he redeemed himself with a leaping 24-yard grab along the west sideline. That set up Howard's 2-yard TD run, which gave the Bears a 14-6 lead.
On the Bears' next possession Barkley continued to put it up with amazing accuracy considering the conditions. And Bellamy kept defeating the 49ers' coverage, catching passes of 22 and 31 yards to set up Howard's third TD run. The 5-yard score with 6:19 left in the third quarter put the Bears ahead 21-6.
Bellamy had a conversation with his quarterback after one of his drops.
"He came up to me and said, 'Keep feeding me,'" Barkley said. "I'm not going to stop giving those guys the ball because I know they can make big plays. He needed that."
The 49ers' obsession with containing Howard frequently left Bears receivers singled up in coverage.
"That was an adjustment mid-game, where we called deep play-action, and guys were running wide open," Barkley said. "Props to (offensive coordinator) Dowell (Loggains) and the whole coaching staff for getting us ready and making adjustments like that during the game."
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