KICKOFF: Sunday, 12 noon Central
SITE: Soldier Field in Chicago
RECORDS: Bears 6-0, first place in NFC North; 49ers 2-4, third place in NFC West
TV: FOX, Pat Summerall, Brian Baldinger
2006 NFL RANKINGS: 49ers: offense 17th (9th rush, 18th pass); defense 28th (21st rush, 30th pass). Bears: offense 14th (24th rush, 10th pass); defense 2nd (3rd rush, 4th pass)
SERIES HISTORY: 60th meeting. The 49ers lead the series 30-28-1, but the Bears have won in each of the past two seasons, with both games played at Soldier Field. Last season, the Bears won 17-9 thanks to the longest return in NFL history, a 108-yarder after a missed field goal by Joe Nedney on a day that featured 47 mph winds. A year earlier, the Bears won 23-13. The 49ers beat the Bears 28-14 at San Francisco in August in the preseason opener for both teams.
KEYS TO THE GAME: It's not difficult to pinpoint the big difference between the teams - while the 49ers are allowing 242.3 passing yards per game, the Bears are giving up just 243.2 in total yardage. The 49ers are giving up far too many big plays and now must contend with Bears QB Rex Grossman, who is second in the NFL at 12.71 yards per completion. However, Chicago's running game has continued to muddle along and coach Lovie Smith hinted RB Cedric Benson will be worked into the mix early. The good news for the 49ers is they expect to have their starting offensive line on the field together for the first time since the sixth play of the season. LG Larry Allen returns and must help control the line of scrimmage for the running game. RB Frank Gore needs to gain positive yardage on first and second down to avoid exposing QB Alex Smith to the Bears' fierce pass rush on long passing downs. The Bears have a concern with SS Todd Johnson starting in place of injured Mike Brown.
FAST FACTS: 49ers -- Smith's eight touchdown passes ties the team's total for all of 2005. ... WR Arnaz Battle has caught at least two passes in nine consecutive games. Bears: Have allowed fewer than 10 points in nine consecutive home games.
BY THE NUMBERS: 1 -- The number of pass completions the 49ers had with QB Cody Pickett in a howling wind at Soldier Field last season in the team's 17-9 loss to the Bears. 59 -- Points allowed by the Bears, their lowest yield after six games since 1934, when they permitted 34 points.
QUOTES TO NOTE
"We tried to emphasize some more technique in practice. The disappointment, I guess, from my standpoint is that we work on turnovers, we work on tackling, we work on swarming to the ball, we work on assignments. We specifically make a detailed effort in just about every area, so when it doesn't go well in the game, it's frustrating" -- 49ers coach Mike Nolan.
"Yeah, it's always good to have an opponent. It makes it easier." -- Bears QB Rex Grossman, when asked if it was nice to have an opponent this week after last week's bye.
49ERS GAME PLAN: The 49ers have a much-improved offense from a year ago, but things don't get much more difficult than going up against the Bears at Soldier Field. "We prepared for them a little bit in the preseason and we tried to get a feel for what they're like," 49ers quarterback Alex Smith said. "They're a good defense. They are really good up-front when you look at their D-line and their linebackers. They're good at what they do. They've been in that defense for a while. They play fast." The 49ers will have to attack the Bears with a mixture of the run and pass, and avoid long third-down situation. The 49ers have experienced success on the ground with running back Frank Gore. They expect to have their starting offensive line together for the first time since the sixth play of the regular season. Left guard Larry Allen, who is still considered a strong run-blocker, went down with a left knee injury on the first series of the season-opener against the Cardinals. He is expected to return to the lineup, along with left tackle Jonas Jennings, who has missed all or parts of four games this season with injuries. The 49ers would like to get the ball into receiver Antonio Bryant's hands early in the game to keep the Bears' defense honest. Defensively, the 49ers have been able to play respectable run defense, but their pass coverage has been a disaster. The 49ers hope to mix up their coverages and show a variety of blitzes in hopes of making things difficult for Bears quarterback Rex Grossman.
BEARS GAME PLAN: Bears players and coaches talk about it every week, but they're starting to realize the urgency of getting the running game on track. There's a chance backup Cedric Benson could be given a bigger percentage of the carries this week, but either way the Bears are determined to run the ball much more than the 16 times they toted it in their last game, the 24-23 Monday night escape in the desert Oct. 16. The Bears will be playing for the first time this season without SS Mike Brown, and they want to stop RB Frank Gore and make QB Alex Smith throw from in the pocket.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH
--- 49ers FB Moran Norris, who has taken over the starting job because of his strong blocking, vs. Bears MLB Brian Urlacher, who was credited with a career-high 25 tackles in the Monday night win over the Cardinals.
--- 49ers CBs Shawntae Spencer and Walt Harris, who have been San Francisco's two most consistent defensive backs though Spencer has often given too much cushion, vs. Bears WRs Muhsin Muhammad and Bernard Berrian, who have been the possession receiver and deep threat for the Bears.
--- 49ers RT Kwame Harris, who might split some time with backup Adam Snyder, vs. Bears DE Mark Anderson, who leads all NFL rookies with a team-high 6.5 sacks.
--- 49ers FS Keith Lewis, who will undoubtedly be tested in coverage when he enters in place of starter Mike Adams, vs. QB Rex Grossman, who's is fourth in the NFL with 10 touchdown passes but is coming off the worst game of his career. Grossman saw his passer rating drop from 98.2 to 82.1 with his four-interception game against the Cardinals.
--- 49ers WR Antonio Bryant vs. Bears CBs Charles Tillman and Nate Vasher. Bryant, while a member of the Browns last season, scorched the Bears for two touchdowns (33 and 28 yards) within 28 seconds of each other in the final 3:02 in Week Four to give Cleveland a 20-10 victory.
49ERS: LG Larry Allen (left knee) is expected to return to the starting lineup for the first time since the season-opener. LT Jonas Jennings (left hand) returned to practice this week and is slated to start against the Bears. Jennings has missed all or parts of four games this season with injuries. CB Walt Harris (left hamstring) is expected to return to the starting lineup after missing the Oct. 15 game with a strain. TE Vernon Davis (right fibula) is listed as out for Sunday's game. He might be able to return Nov. 5 against the Vikings, but more is more likely to be available Nov. 12 against the Lions.
BEARS: Safety Chris Harris (quad) was the only player who didn't practice early in the week, and he isn't expected to play Sunday. Wide receiver Mark Bradley (ankle), linebacker Leon Joe (hamstring) and defensive end Adewale Ogunleye (hamstring) all remained questionable for Sunday but practiced, as did cornerback Ricky Manning Jr. (hamstring), who is probable. Bradley doesn't have a spot among the first three wideout positions, so his presence isn't important. Ogunleye might be given another week off, and he hasn't been missed because of the play of rookie Mark Anderson.
Game breakdown: 49ers vs. Bears
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