The Chicago Bears head out to San Francisco to take on the 49ers in a Monday Night Football showdown. The Bears will certainly be without Jay Cutler, as the concussed quarterback will sit out a week while he recovers. On the other side of the field, Alex Smith practiced three days but hasn’t faced any contact as of Saturday. If Smith can’t go, backup Colin Kaepernick will bring his “WildKap” style up against the Bears defense.
It was going to be a tough game for the Bears even with Cutler, but without him, it’s looking that much tougher. Jason Campbell is a capable backup, but he’s still a bit rusty and will face a tough challenge against a very physical San Fran defense. To help us prepare for this Monday Night Football showdown, we’ve enlisted the help of Eric Melendez, editor of Niner Noise for our weekly Q&A. Here are my questions and Eric’s answers:
1. We got word today that San Francisco head coach Jim Harbaugh had a minor heart procedure. Is he alright? Is he going to be able to coach on Monday night?
Harbaugh returned to the 49ers practice facility on Friday, one-day after having a minor heart procedure, and he is expected to coach on Monday night. It has been reported Harbaugh “likely” had an electrical cardioversion performed. Which is described as a “non-invasive, outpatient procedure that takes less than a minute and is a controlled electrical shock used to reset the heart’s rhythm. Patients can resume normal activities the day after the procedure.”
This is how Harbaugh describe what happened:
“I’m fine, I’m fine. No limits. Going about everything as normal. Had a little irregular heartbeat. I’ve had that before. Now that I have the procedure, a cardiovert, it’s amazing. It gets the heart rate back to normal. Atrial flutter is something I’ve had for a while, most of my life.”
2. Speaking of guys who may or may not be available on Sunday, let’s start with your concussed quarterback, Alex Smith. We’ve seen that he’s been practicing the last couple of days, but still hasn’t been cleared for contact. Do you think he plays on Monday? If he doesn’t, how do you think Colin Kaepernick will fare against the Bears?
For the fourth straight day Alex Smith was at practice, however, he was wearing a black non-contact jersey. Smith seems to be on track to start even though he has not been medically cleared to play on Monday. Harbaugh said Colin Kaepernick took a few extra snaps than usually at Friday’s practice, but he likely said this to give the Bears some doubt about who will start. Bears fans will likely see Smith under center on Monday night.
The Bears defense could have a field day if Kaerpnerick starts. He is fast, has confidence and a strong arm, but is still learning how to play in the NFL and has a raw delivery when throwing. The 49ers offense would lean more heavily on Frank Gore to move down the field, but with the Bears rushing defense that is easier said than done.
3. From Chicago’s point of view, it’s looking like Jay Cutler isn’t going to play and Jason Campbell will step in. Does it change the way the Niners prepare for the Bears? Given Cutler’s shaky history in night games including his 5 pick game the last time the Bears played in San Francisco, are the Niners disappointed they might not get to face him?
The approach for the Niners will likely stay the same even with Jay Cutler out. Cutler does love to throw INT’s when facing the 49ers, but San Francisco has more of an advantage with Campbell starting, so no disappoint. One advantage for the 49ers is the Bears offense will mostly be running, which the 49ers are tops in the NFL at stopping. With Campbell starting San Francisco’s pass rush will be relentless to force him to make mistakes and cause turnovers.
4. This game sets up as a low scoring battle, with a couple of the best defenses in the league set to go at it. The key to the Bears’ defensive success is not a big secret – it’s all about takeaways. What’s the key to San Francisco’s defensive success? Which positional group on the Niners D is their strength? What is their defensive weakness?
The key to San Francisco’s defensive success is the front-seven with the linebackers and D-linemen. They not only stop the run consistently each game but they also generate a pass rush, lead by Aldon Smith and his 9½ sacks, that stalls offensive drives. The weakness on defense is the cornerbacks who are vulnerable in one-on-one coverage. Even though CB Carlos Rogers is having a decent season, you only need to look at last week’s tie against the Rams to see how he struggles in man coverage. Rogers and the 49ers corners made the Rams look like the Greatest Show on Turf was back in St. Louis. This is why Campbell starting for the Bears gives the 49ers an advantage in the game.
5. What’s your prediction for the game? Please include a final score.
I agree the game will be low scoring because it will be a defensive battle. Both offenses will score, but whichever team wins the turnover battle will come out on top. The 49ers defense will pressure Campbell into mistakes which will give the 49ers offense a short field to score. 49ers win 16-10.
Thanks again to Eric from Niner Noise. Be sure to head over there to check out my answers to his questions and get some insight from the Niners’ point of view before the big matchup on Monday Night Football.