|IR/PUP||OT Rob Droege (IR-knee); TE Gabe Reid (IR-knee); OT Marc Colombo (PUP-knee); FS Mike Brown (IR-Achilles); QB Rex Grossman (IR-knee).||LB Julian Peterson (IR-Achilles); DT Isaac Sopoaga (IR-back).|
|Out||CB Charles Tillman (knee); FB Jason McKie (knee).||DE William Andrews (shin); C Jeremy Newberry (knee).|
|Doubtful||OG Mike Gandy (hamstring); S Bobby Gray (groin).||LB Saleem Rasheed (knee).|
|Questionable||DE Adewale Ogunleye (leg).||DE Andre Carter (back); CB Ahmed Plummer (neck); QB Tim Rattay (forearm).|
|Probable||DT Alfonso Boone (knee); Brian Urlacher (hamstring).||LB Derek Smith (shin, ankle); DE Otis Leverette (ankle).|
The Bears (1-5) host San Francisco (1-5) Halloween Night in a game that will be plenty scary for fans of good football. The Bears have been circling the drain ever since Rex Grossman was lost to a season-ending knee injury at the end of their third game. The 49ers have been trying to find an identity all year in what has been deemed a rebuilding season now that Jeff Garcia and Terrell Owens are donning other uniforms.
Rookie Craig Krenzel is set to become the third starting quarterback of the season for the Bears. He played the entire second half against Tampa Bay and showed good presence in the pocket against the blitz. At right guard, Mike Gandy is doubtful with a hamstring injury. Rex Tucker has been getting reps there this week and is close to returning. Steve Edwards will also compete for the spot. Edwards has played very well as a substitute starter at both guards over the last two seasons. Ruben Brown is not likely to be moved from left guard. He has played at a level very near the form that earned him 8 Pro Bowls. Whoever starts at right guard will be matching up with Michael Haynes' former Penn State teammate Anthony Adams.
The 49ers' defense is very banged up. They lost playmaking linebacker Julian Peterson to a season-ending knee injury. Brandon Moore starts in his place. Their linebackers are active and while they do cover and apply pressure well, they can be run on. Defensive end Andre Carter has been bothered by a back injury all season. His pass rushing has been missed. Cornerback Ahmed Plummer (neck) is also questionable. If he's not able to play, the 49er pass defense will be very suspect. The glue for them has been former Bear safety Tony Parrish.
The Bears and 49ers played in the preseason. The 49ers blitzed the Bears mercilessly in that game, and it would come as no surprise if the same holds up this Sunday as well. Expect the Bears to use more rollouts and play action passes to move the pocket and protect Krenzel. Surprisingly, Offensive Coordinator Terry Shea has skewed his play calling since Rex Grossman was injured. The Bears went from a run dominant mix to a pass dominant mix during that time span. Perhaps he finally sees the light this week and gets back to the thing that won the only game for him. If he doesn't, and thinks "cute," "passing game," and "offensive genius," are things he should aspire to, he'll risk being branded the same kind of village idiot that Gary Crowton was. For all of Crotwon's ingenuity, his offensive attacks lacked commitment to the run, and while they were light years more exciting than John Shoop's, he enjoyed a very poor won-lost record. Let's hope history doesn't repeat itself this year.
Michael Haynes is expected to start for the second straight week at left defensive end while Adewale Ogunleye's lower leg heals. The team has been guarded about the actual prognosis for him. Defensive tackle Alfonso Boone has slowly worked his way back after a knee injury took him down early in the season. He could help the porous run defense of the Bears. Todd Johnson is slowly beginning to establish himself at free safety after replacing Mike Brown (Achilles). He'll need to play well since Bobby Gray is at least another week away from returning with a sore groin. R.W. McQuarters will start opposite Jerry Azumah at cornerback, although rookie Nathan Vasher will be breathing down McQuarters' neck for playing time. Cornerback Charles Tillman is still several weeks away from his return.
Brock Gutierrez is expected to start at center for the injured Jeremy Newberry. Depending on the alignment, he'll have the unenviable task of trying to either reach Brian Urlacher, or shed Ian Scott and Tank Johnson. Tim Rattay was a late addition to the injury report. His forearm has been bothering him for several weeks. If he cannot play, Ken Dorsey will get the call.
San Francisco will probably look at tape from the last 5 Bear games and determine its Kevan Barlow time. When combined with Rattay's sore arm, it's even more likely. They'll look to run him and throw to him, making him their workhorse until the Bears prove they can stop him. Expect the Bears to do everything they can to put pressure up the middle against an inexperienced center and into the face of a young quarterback. At some point the 49ers will set up play action, and the key matchup will be the 49ers unproven receivers against the Bears beat up secondary. Look for tight end Eric Johnson in many of those situations. He's one of the league's rising stars. Strong side linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer will face his biggest pass coverage test working against him. It sounds like the kind of horror show appropriately suited for Halloween Night.