Beasley will be banging vs. Bears

There will be a whole lot of banging going on Sunday when the 49ers unveil their newly-tweaked offense against a Chicago Bears defense looking to regain its Monsters-of-the-Midway form. And at the epicenter of that banging will be Niners fullback Fred Beasley, who figures to go helmet-to-helmet quite often with Bears star linebacker Brian Urlacher.

"My job is to get on him," Beasley said Wednesday.

The Niners plan to get on opponents quickly this season with a more aggressive offensive approach designed by new coach Dennis Erickson. Most of the changes will be seen in the team's passing attack, which was growing stale and predictable last year under former coach Steve Mariucci.

But every good passing game begins with a good running game. That's where the Beasley/Urlacher matchup becomes key as both teams attempt to set the tone in their season opener at San Francisco's 3Com Park.

"We have to establish the running game," Beasley said. "We can't let them dictate what we're going to do on offense. We've got to establish the running game, got to get the running game going, then pass off our run. We can't let them dictate how we're going to run it or where we're going to run it."

Urlacher definitely sets the tone for Chicago's defense. The three-time Pro Bowler set a team record with 214 tackles last season, even though the rest of the defense struggled around him. Despite his heroics, Chicago dropped from second in the NFL in rush defense in 2001 – when Urlacher finished fifth in the league MVP voting – to 26th last season.

So the Niners will worry about where Urlacher is on the field more than many of the players around him.

"You just run right at him," Beasley said. "You cannot out-run him. He just feels speed and he makes big plays and he's bringing back that old style of Chicago Bears defense by himself pretty much. He makes the difference on their defense, but the best way to beat his speed is to run straight at him."

Said Erickson, "You have to know where he is at. He runs, makes plays, blitzes, does everything. You have to keep good control of him."

And Erickson has just the guy to keep Urlacher under control.

"I don't know that there's a better fullback in this league than Fred," Erickson said.

Beasley's assignment won't always be to take Urlacher out of plays, but he'll be the lead enforcer in that role. It will be first-team All-Pro Urlacher against second-team All-Pro Beasley, and something will have to give.

"He doesn't mess around when it comes to blocking," Urlacher said. "So we better step it up and get ready to play against him. Anytime I get to play a team that runs a lot of leads, it is fun. I'm trying to be more physical this year, so we'll see if I get off to the right start or not."

So, undoubtedly, will Beasley.

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