Game breakdown: 49ers vs. Bears

Taking a look deep inside Thursday night's pivotal battle of NFC contenders desperate for a victory to stay in the playoff chase between the 49ers and Chicago Brears at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, with snapshot game details, series history, game plans, matchups to watch, injury impact, personnel updates and a look inside the Bears' camp before the big game.

KICKOFF:Thursday, 5:20 Pacific
SITE: Candlestick Park in San Francisco
RECORDS: 49ers, 3-5, tied for second in NFC West; Bears, 4-4, tied for second in NFC North
TV: NFL Network (Bob Papa, Matt Millen)

SERIES HISTORY: 58th meeting. Bears lead 29-27-1 in the regular season. They've won the past three meetings and four of the last five, although all of the victories were at Soldier Field. The Niners have won all three postseason meetings.

KEYS TO THE GAME: Both teams entered the season with run-first offenses. Due to poor run blocking, Bears QB Jay Cutler has had to shoulder too much of the offensive load. That won't change this weekend with the 49ers far stronger defending the run (93.2 yards per game) with LB Patrick Willis leading the way than the pass (241) minus injured CB Nate Clements and spotty safety play. San Francisco is having its own offensive line issues, and the switch to QB Alex Smith and arrival of WR Michael Crabtree has transformed the offense into a far more vertical attack. Smith has proven to still be turnover prone and with the Bears allowing 4.2 yards per carry, 49ers offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye needs to put more emphasis on RB Frank Gore.

FAST FACTS: Smith has lost his last seven starts. ... This is the first time since 1994 the Bears have allowed 40 or more points twice in the same season.

BY THE NUMBERS: 86 -- Points the Bears have allowed in their last two losses, 45-10 to the Bengals on Oct. 25 and 41-21 to the Cardinals last Sunday. 94.1 -- The 49ers are just 27th in the league in total offense, but they own a league-best percentage of scoring points when they get inside the red zone.

"I'm not happy with it. What do you think? Do you think I'm happy in this situation right now, happy with that (Cardinals) game? So, to confirm what you were thinking, no, I'm not (happy)." -- Bears coach Lovie Smith, when asked if he is angry about his team's 4-4 record.
"Obviously this is not the most exciting time in the world right now. I would say the biggest thing is we just have to continue working, we just have to continue going forward." -- 49ers coach Mike Singletary, on the 49ers' four-game losing streak.

49ERS GAME PLAN: The 49ers have a shortened week against the Bears, so it does not afford them much opportunity to make dramatic changes for a Thursday night game. At least the 49ers do not have to travel for this game. The basic formula for success remains the same. Offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye is going to want to use a steady dose of Frank Gore against the Bears. If Chicago keeps jumping an eighth defender into the box, the 49ers will try to use play-action passes to get the ball downfield. TE Vernon Davis has emerged as a top threat. He has been efficient at getting down the field on skinny-post routes, especially in the red zone. Michael Crabtree is getting more and more comfortable as the split end, so most of the plays in this plan will be stuff the 49ers have carried over from Crabtree's first three games since ending his 71-day contract stalemate. Defensively, the 49ers know if they mix up their looks on defense and get pressure on Bears QB Jay Cutler, they will have a chance to create some turnovers. Tarell Brown, a first-year starter at cornerback, is willing to take a chance here and there. Cutler might try to use Brown's aggressiveness to make a play over the top of the 49ers defense. S Dashon Goldson has to be assignment-sound in his technique and prevent the Bears from making big plays in the passing game.

BEARS GAME PLAN: Chicago's game plan is about as basic as can be. Based on their problems stopping the run in recent weeks, the Bears must make containing Frank Gore a priority.


49ers P Andy Lee, who ranks second in the NFL with a 42.5-yard net average, vs. Bears PR Devin Hester, who averages 11.0 per punt return but has yet to have a return for a touchdown this season.

49ers RB Frank Gore, who remains the central figure of the offense, vs. Bears LB Lance Briggs, who has taken over more responsibility on defense with the season-ending injury to Brian Urlacher.

49ers WR Michael Crabtree, who has quickly asserted himself as the 49ers' No. 1 wideout, vs. Bears CB Charles Tillman, who leads Chicago with two interceptions on the season.

49ers CB Shawntae Spencer, who takes over the responsibility as the team's top cover man, vs. Bears WR Devin Hester, who leads Chicago with 41 catches for 548 yards and three touchdowns.

49ers RG Chilo Rachal, who has been inconsistent this season but is coming off his best game against the Titans, vs. Bears DT Tommie Harris, who should be motivated to have a big game after getting kicked out of the last game for punching the Cardinals' Deuce Lutui.

49ers S Michael Lewis, who is bothered by a quad strain but is expected to play, vs. Bears TE Greg Olsen, who is Jay Cutler's favorite target on third downs.

Bears RB Matt Forte, who has been held to 66 or fewer rushing yards in six of eight games this season and is averaging just 3.6 yards per carry, vs. 49ers MLB Patrick Willis, who is third in the NFL with 77 tackles, and the 49ers run defense, which is allowing just 93.2 yards per game, fourth best in the league.

Bears QB Jay Cutler, who threw for 369 yards and three touchdowns last week, vs. the 49ers pass defense, which has allowed 241.0 yards per game, 24th in the NFL. Cutler has already been sacked 19 times, but the 49ers have just 17 sacks, and no individual has more than three.


49ERS: LB Takeo Spikes saw limited practice time early in the week with a shoulder injury. The club expects him to be available for the game Thursday against the Bears. RB Glen Coffee will miss Thursday's game due to a concussion he sustained late in the game Sunday while he was blocking on a kickoff return. LT Joe Staley is expected to miss six weeks with sprains to the MCL and PCL in his left knee. He sustained the injury on the first play Nov. 1 against the Colts. Staley will not require surgery. CB Nate Clements is out six to eight weeks with a broken scapula, which he sustained while returning a punt in the first half against the Colts on Nov. 1. DE Demetric Evans sustained a sprain to the AC joint in his left shoulder. He is expected to miss three weeks with the injury. He sustained the injury against the Colts on Nov. 1. The remainder of the 49ers' injured players coming out of Sunday's game are expected to take part in full practice in preparation for the Bears and be available for action: G David Baas (shoulder), CB Tarell Brown (rib), TE Vernon Davis (shoulder), RB Frank Gore (eyelid), WR Jason Hill (ankle), S Michael Lewis (quadriceps), RB Michael Robinson (shoulder), S Curtis Taylor (shin) and TE Delanie Walker (shin, knee).

BEARS: DT Tommie Harris (knee), CB Charles Tillman (shoulder) and TE Desmond Clark (neck) were limited but all are expected to play Thursday. RB Garrett Wolfe (back/kidney) and strong safeties Al Afalava (shoulder) and Kevin Payne (back) did not practice Tuesday. Wolfe is out, but Afalava and Payne are questionable.



--- WR Devin Hester has 27 catches for 359 yards in the past four games with at least six catches and 81 yards each week. He's on pace for 82 catches and 1,096 yards for the season.

--- WR Earl Bennett, who did not catch a pass last season as a rookie, has 17 catches for 227 yards in the past four games, and he's on pace for a 64-catch, 854-yard season.

--- TE Greg Olsen has six TD catches in the past six games.

--- CB Charles Tillman (shoulder) was limited at Tuesday's practice but is expected to start Thursday.

--- S Josh Bullocks will start at strong safety if both Al Afalava and Kevin Payne, who are Nos. 1 and 2 on the depth chart, do not play.


--- TE Vernon Davis leads the NFC among tight ends with 477 receiving yards. Dallas' Jason Witten is the only NFC tight end with more catches than Davis, who has 42 receptions and seven touchdowns.

--- RB Michael Robinson will be the 49ers' backup at fullback and halfback, as well as an extra tight end. Robinson will be Frank Gore's primary backup after rookie Glen Coffee has been ruled out of Thursday's game with a concussion.

--- WR Isaac Bruce does not appear on the 49ers' injury report, but the club says Jason Hill replaced him as the No. 3 wideout because Bruce rolled his ankle late in the first half against the Titans.

--- DL Ricky Jean-Francois, a seventh-round pick, suited up for the first time last week against the Titans but did not get into the game. He is expected to be active again Thursday because veteran Demetric Evans is out another two games with a shoulder injury.

--- C Cody Wallace, a fourth-round pick in the 2008 draft, has been inactive for all 24 games of his NFL career and does not figure to suit up for a game as long as starting C Eric Heitmann is available.


The best way -- maybe the only way -- for the Bears to avoid the embarrassment of the past two losses is for the defensive line to step up.

While giving up a combined 86 points and 886 yards in losses to the Bengals and Cardinals, the Bears had a total of one sack on 77 drop-backs. The Chicago defense also was trampled for 397 rushing yards and 5.4 yards per run.

That's the kind of combination that results in double-digit losses and mass firings. To turn it around, the defensive line needs to play as it did in the first four weeks, when it was instrumental in getting 14 sacks and pacing a 3-1 start. Since then, the 4-4 Bears have had two sacks and one win in four games. Thursday night in San Francisco, on national TV against the 3-5 49ers, the Bears need a team revival. And a lot of individuals need to redeem themselves for the past four weeks.

"I think I do," said defensive left end Adewale Ogunleye, who had 4.5 sacks in the first four games but none in the last four. "I'm just going to speak for myself and the defensive line. I think we need to step it up a little bit better, a lot better to help this team out. For us to get to where we want to go, we've got to play a lot better on the defensive line."

It would seem they couldn't play much worse. With the exception of defensive right end Alex Brown, who has the Bears' only two sacks in the past 38 days, no members of the veteran defensive line have made much of an impact. Against the Bengals, the Bears defense allowed scores on the first seven possessions. Against the Cardinals, it was the first six.

"We got embarrassed, and it's not a good feeling," nose tackle Anthony Adams said. "So anytime something like that happens, you always want to go back on the field and correct your wrong. I always say the best medicine is just to be out there on the field. We get a chance to go back out there on the field and show back up on Thursday."

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