Game snapshot: 49ers vs. Bears

Taking an inside look at the 49ers and Bears and Sunday's game between the two team's at Chicago's Soldier Field:

KICKOFF: Sunday, 12 noon Central

SURFACE: Grass

TV: FOX, Sam Rosen, Bill Maas

SERIES: 59th meeting. The 49ers lead 30-27-1, with the Bears winning two of the last three meetings. Last year, the Bears defeated the 49ers 23-13 at Soldier Field.

2005 NFL RANKINGS: 49ers: offense 32nd (24th rush, 31st pass); defense 32nd (14th rush, 32nd pass). Bears: offense 27th (6th rush, 29th pass); defense 3rd (7th rush, 7th pass)

KEYS TO THE GAME: With QB Cody Pickett making just his second career start and playing behind a woeful offensive line, the 49ers cannot afford to fall in a big early hole. They have been outscored 125-34 on the road this season and don't have the offensive firepower to come from behind against one of the league's top defenses. San Francisco must win the turnover battle to keep the game competitive, and will attempt bring pressure from all angles at Bears rookie QB Kyle Orton, who is coming off a two-interception game. The Bears are leery of San Francisco's pass rush, and the 49ers' defense isn't as poor as its statistics might indicate. But in order to put Orton in difficult passing situations, the 49ers must first contain the Bears' strong ground game. Chicago would love to build a lead and limit how much it needs to rely on RB Thomas Jones, who is still dealing with bruised ribs.

FAST FACTS: 49ers: Have thrown for a combined 234 yards in four games (58.5 average) since QB Tim Rattay was benched and later traded. ... DT Bryant Young needs two sacks for team's first 10-sack season since Andre Carter had 12.5 in 2002. Bears: Have a league-high seven interception returns for touchdowns since the start of the 2004 season. ... WR Muhsin Muhammad has nine touchdowns and four 100-yard receiving games in his past nine games against San Francisco.

PERSONNEL NEWS

49ers

--- WR Brandon Lloyd didn't practice earlier this week because of a stomach ailment but was removed from the injury report Thursday and will start Sunday's game.

--- C Jeremy Newberry won't play against the Bears and might not even make the trip to Chicago for the game. Newberry has been hampered by knee and shoulder problems.

-- RB Kevan Barlow, who missed Wednesday's practice with a left quadriceps bruise, returned to practice later in the week, no longer is listed on the injury report and should start Sunday's game.

--- WR Rasheed Marshall returned to practice with a thigh bruise, but is still listed as questionable. The team will make a game-day decision whether Marshall or Otis Amey will return punts against the Bears.

BEARS

--- LG Ruben Brown was upgraded from questionable to probable and should start Sunday after missing four games with a partially torn chest muscle.

--- RB Thomas Jones missed most of the week of practice, raising speculation that he might be rested Sunday. He remains questionable with bruised ribs.

--- DE Adewale Ogunleye (hamstring) returned to practice late in the week and was removed from the injury report.

--- C Olin Kreutz (shoulder) returned to practice earlier this week and was removed from the injury report.

--- DT Tank Johnson was added to the injury report as probable with a stiff back, but he is expected to pla Sunday.

INSIDE THE CAMPS

49ers

Center Jeremy Newberry, the 49ers' only offensive player with a Pro Bowl on his resume, will not play in Sunday's game against the Bears.

Newberry has been hobbled by a chronic problem with his right knee. Newberry has no cartilage in his knee, causing a painful bone-on-bone grind. He has required painkilling injections to play in games.

But the last three weeks the pain had gotten so significant that Newberry has had the option of sitting out a game in order to heal.

"It's getting to the point where I need some time to rest," Newberry said.

When Newberry rests this week, it will give an opportunity to some of the 49ers' younger players to get on the field. Second-round draft pick David Baas and third-round pick Adam Snyder have yet to see significant playing time as rookies.

Guard Eric Heitmann is expected to see time at center in Newberry's place. Baas could see time at center, and Snyder would also rotate in at guard.

"I think they're all getting better," Newberry said of the young offensive linemen. "I think Eric would be fine at center. In one-on-one drills and pass protection, they're definitely making strides. They need to play. They need to get out and see more game time. That's the best way to become a better player."

The 49ers' offensive line has been one of the club's many problem areas. Left tackle Jonas Jennings is out for the season after undergoing surgery to repair a torn right labrum. Anthony Clement will start his sixth consecutive game at left tackle. The 49ers have also started to give Snyder work at left tackle, where he played one series last week against the Giants in place of Clement.

Bears

The depth of the Bears' offensive line that has paved the way for the No. 6 rushing attack in the NFL will be tested again this week.

For the fifth straight week, the line will be without one of its starters because right tackle Fred Miller is out for at least two weeks with a fractured jaw. Miller, a 10-year veteran, suffered the injury in a fall at home late Monday night and had surgery Tuesday. He will be replaced by sixth-year player John St. Clair, who filled in for left tackle John Tait four weeks ago in a 28-3 victory over the Vikings.

"John played well earlier when he replaced Tait," Bears coach Lovie Smith said. "So we feel good about that."

Offensive coordinator Ron Turner knows what St. Clair's biggest problem will be Sunday at Soldier Field against the 2-6 49ers.

"Bryant Young," Turner said of the 49ers' 12-year veteran defensive left end, who is second in the NFL with eight sacks. "He's a tremendous player, and he's playing at a really high level, so that's going to be the biggest thing."

The Bears didn't sign St. Clair until Sept. 14, three days after the season started and a week after the Dolphins released him. St. Clair started 14 games for Miami last season and said he's ready to handle the challenge of Young.

"I've been starting in this league for a while," the 6-foot-6, 318-pound former third-round draft choice said. "I know I can play. Everything is working well now that I know the system here."

Right tackle won't be the only offensive line position with a personnel change on Sunday. Left guard Ruben Brown, who started the first four games before suffering a partially torn chest muscle, is expected to reclaim that spot from Roberto Garza, who more held his own the past four games, all Bears victories.

The coaches are confident that the veteran group, which includes eight-year veteran center Olin Kreutz and fourth-year right guard Terrence Metcalf, can handle a little shuffling of the deck.

"The guys really have an experienced group," offensive line coach Harry Hiestand said. "They come to work every day, and they do a good job. Olin coordinates them well. We see a lot of different things that people are playing, (but) with the experience and the unit playing together, they're able to figure some things out."

That ability to adapt on the fly is what has impressed rookie quarterback Kyle Orton the most this season.

"If you look at our games, the first couple series, we might not be moving the ball, might not be running the ball as well as we usually do," Orton said. "They're just feeling out the defense, how they're going to attack them, and the adjustments that they make on the sideline, it's pretty unbelievable the way they can do that."

St. Clair said the key to success as a backup is to prepare even more diligently than the starters.

"It's difficult," he said, "but that's when practice plays in, studying all week. When you're not getting the reps with the first team, you've got to really study hard, harder than you would being on the first team because once you get in the game, you've got to perform at the top level."

The Bears suffered no dropoff when Garza stepped in for Brown, and they're confident St. Clair will perform at the same level.

"John's played for us," Hiestand said. "He's a hard-working guy, and he'll be ready to go. He's a pro, and he prepares every week to play, and now he's got an opportunity to play. When you have quality, experienced guys who have been through it before, it makes a big difference."


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