The Chicago Bears face an uphill battle on Monday night as they face the 6-2-1 San Francisco 49ers in prime time. They’ll do it without starting quarterback Jay Cutler, who’s recovering from a concussion suffered last week in the first half of the Bears’ loss to the Houston Texans.
Can the Bears pull off a win under the lights to fend off the hard-charging Green Bay Packers and maintain control of the NFC North? Well of course they can. What are my keys to a Chicago Bears victory? Let’s see.
Don’t get Gored
It’s unclear if Alex Smith is going to play for the Niners. He practiced a few days this week, but wore a special non-contact jersey, so he hasn’t been fully cleared to resume live action. If he can’t go, Colin Kaepernick will suit up. Regardless of the San Francisco quarterback, you can count on Frank Gore to get the rock for the Niners. He’s still the engine that drives that offense. The Bears cannot let him get the best of them. If they shut him down, I like their chances to pull off the upset win.
The Niners rank 1st in the league in rushing offense, racking up over 170 yards per game. Meanwhile, they rank 28th in passing offense, only gaining a shade over 195 yards per game and that’s with starter Alex Smith at the controls. The Bears should load up the box and shut down the run and dare whoever is playing quarterback to try to beat them.
No Soup for You
Jason Campbell (my nickname for him is “soup”) will be starting for the Bears in place of Jay Cutler. The last time the Bears went to San Francisco to face the Niners, Jay Cutler tossed five interceptions in the Bears’ 10-6 loss on Thursday Night Football. It may very well have been Jay’s ‘rock bottom’ in terms of his carelessness with the ball.
Jason Campbell is among the active league leaders in interceptions percentage. That means he doesn’t give the ball away, only tossing an interception on about 2% of his attempts. If he can limit the mistakes, the Bears can pull out a win.
The Bears have had their troubles against tight ends in the past and San Francisco tight end Vernon Davis is one that can give teams trouble. Big Vern hasn’t been having his best season, but he has the potential to blow up at any time. The Bears rank 17th vs opposing tight ends.
Get Special Again
Devin Hester has 8 of his 19 return TD’s under the lights. The Bears have been trying to pop a return TD all season but haven’t quite been able to pull it together. They came awfully close a couple of weeks ago vs the Titans, but still haven’t gotten Hester into the endzone.
Niners punter Andy Lee and kicker David Akers among the best in a business, but the Bears need to find a way to break through and capitalize if they make any sort of mistake.
Ground and Pound
The Niners are among the league’s best in stopping the run and are tops in scoring defense. It’s going to be a tough road, but the Bears need to commit to the run. Mike Tice can’t turn his back on Matt Forte and Michael Bush and needs to try to get them going. It will help to take the pressure off Jason Campbell and open up some play action passing to Brandon Marshall and the returning Alshon Jeffery.
The Bears haven’t won in San Fran since 1985, so history is not on their side, but if they follow my blueprint, they can make history. You know what happens when the Bears win in San Frans? That’s right, they also win the Super Bowl.
What are your keys to the game? What do the Bears need to do to secure a victory. Post your ideas in the Comments and as always…