Opportunity to Dominate

The 49ers' offense has struggled mightily this season, and things show no signs of getting better with the NFL's third-ranked defense next on the schedule. The Bears have the chance to win in impressive fashion after being taken to the brink the past two weeks.

How anemic have the 49ers been this season?

  • They have been held without an offensive touchdown in five of their eight games.

  • They have started four quarterbacks this season, and the only one who has thrown a touchdown pass has not played since Oct. 2, after which he was benched and subsequently traded.

  • The 49ers average just 110.5 net yards passing a game, but have managed a total of just 234 yards passing in their last four games.

  • Their highest-paid offensive lineman was placed on injured reserve this week, and their best lineman might need to take at least a week off to let his various crippling injuries rest.

  • The 49ers, who went 30 offensive possessions earlier this season without scoring a touchdown, are currently on a streak of 26 possessions without reaching the end zone.

    "Really, it's the lack of consistency," 49ers coach Mike Nolan said. "You have to do something right before you get it in the end zone. It's not just getting in the end zone.

    "It's a process that we need to get consistency with our guys. Getting in the end zone is first getting in the red zone so you have opportunities. We haven't been in the red zone a tremendous amount, and that's where a lot of your scores come."

    Quarterback Cody Pickett will make his second start in a row. He never really had a chance in his first career start, which came last Sunday against the Giants. One-third of the 49ers' offensive snaps took place with more than 10 yards to go for a first down.

    The 49ers' offensive line committed eight penalties, and tight end Trent Smith dropped a pass deep down the field that would have put the 49ers inside the Giants' 20-yard line, if not resulted in a touchdown, on the first play of their second drive of the game.

    "We have to do a better job than that," 49ers center Jeremy Newberry said. "The defense is starting to play well, and we have to hold up our end of the bargain. In the games we've won, we've been a lot more productive on first and second downs."

    Pickett said he is confident entering his second start. He is just getting back into the swing of things at quarterback.

    Late in training camp, Pickett started playing special teams. As the team's No. 4 quarterback, he did not get any snaps in practice at his chosen position. Instead, he played receiver and free safety on the scout team.

    When the 49ers dealt Tim Rattay, who began the season as the starting quarterback, Pickett moved up to No. 3 on the depth chart. He spent one game there until Alex Smith sustained a knee sprain.

    Then, when new starter Ken Dorsey was sidelined with an ankle sprain, Pickett got his chance to play. Things are wide open as to who will be the 49ers' quarterback for the remainder of the season. Smith, the top overall pick in the draft, might not be back for another two or three weeks.

    "When Alex gets well, I don't want to rule him out," Nolan said. "It has a lot to do with how they're playing. If Cody's playing well next week, then he deserves the opportunity to stay in there. Right now, we'll just take it week by week."

    Pickett said he was disappointed in his one interception, when he threw ill-advisedly late in the first half against the Giants. At the time, the 49ers were trailing 3-0. On a third-and-33 from near midfield, Pickett tried to throw across his body to Arnaz Battle. Instead, Giants defensive back Brent Alexander made the interception and the Giants eventually scored a touchdown in the final seconds of the half for a 10-point lead.

    "I just have to try to be patient," Pickett said. "I can't try to force the issue like I did on that one play last week. As hard as that is, I have to be patient and take what they give you.

    "We just have to execute better. We have to be better with our pre-snap penalties and things like that. We can't put ourselves in first-and-long, second-and-long, and third-and-long opportunities. We have to keep our down and distance a little bit shorter than that."

    Not looking past the 49ers could be difficult, but the Bears try to remain focused against one of the worst teams in the NFL

    "I think that that's sort of dangerous just because you don't want to overlook anybody," said LB Hunter Hillenmeyer. "Even the worst team can beat the best team on a given day."

    While the Bears are saying all the right things in public, privately they have to see this is as more than a winnable game. It's an opportunity for the starters to sit the bulk of the fourth quarter with a big lead and rest up for a tough game against the Panthers.


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