|IR/PUP/NFI||S Cameron Worrell (IR-shoulder); LB Marcus Reese (IR-shoulder); LB Rod Wilson (IR-knee); WR Airese Currie (NFI-foot); CB Alfonso Marshall (PUP-knee); LB Joe Odom (IR-ankle); WR Mark Bradley (IR-knee).||WR P. J. Fleck (IR-shoulder); S Mike Rumph (IR-foot); LB Jeff Ulbrich (IR-arm); WR Rashaun Woods (IR-thumb); TE Eric Johnson (IR-foot); DE Chris Cooper (IR-shoulder); WR Derrick Hamilton (PUP-knee); OT Jonas Jennings (IR-shoulder).|
|Out||QB Rex Grossman (ankle); WR Bernard Berrian (thumb); OT Fred Miller (jaw).||LB Saleem Rasheed (knee).|
|Doubtful||C Jeremy Newberry (knee).||None.|
|Questionable||RB Thomas Jones (rib); S Todd Johnson (shoulder).||OG Eric Heitmann (neck); RB Maurice Hicks (knee); WR Rasheed Marshall (thigh); CB Ahmad Plummer (ankle); QB Alex Smith (knee).|
|Probable||G Ruben Brown (chest); DT Terry Johnson (back).||WR Arnaz Battle (knee); RB Frank Gore (foot); G Justin Smiley (knee).|
Rookie quarterback Kyle Orton will make his ninth start on Sunday. He had a down game against New Orleans after a good run and is hoping to rebound against a defense allowing over 300 passing yards per contest. Fullbacks Bryan Johnson and Jason McKie have returned from the Physically Unable to Perform list. Marc Edwards performed admirably in their absence, opening holes for Thomas Jones. Edwards was released to make room for McKie and Johnson. Justin Gage took over at wide receiver after rookie Mark Bradley was lost two weeks ago. He has responded with 6 catches for 75 yards and a touchdown in a game and half since Bradley's injury. Offensive guard Ruben Brown is expected to make his return after missing a month with a partially torn pectoral. Roberto Garza started for Brown, and has proven to be a valuable asset. Thomas Jones has been nursing a rib injury that forced him to miss the second half against New Orleans. Rookie Cedric Benson and reserve Adrian Peterson responded with huge performances. They'll figure to get more time if Jones cannot play. Keep an eye on the battle between right tackle John St. Clair and the rejuvenated Bryant Young (8 sacks). St. Clair will start for Fred Miller who is missing the game with a jaw injury.
The 49ers' linebacking corps is depleted by injuries, an especially difficult situation since they're employing the 3-4 alignment brought over from Baltimore under Head Coach Mike Nolan. Brandon Moore is starting at inside linebacker since they lost Jeff Ulbrich for the season a month ago. Saleem Rasheed has been ruled out as well. Defensive back Mike Rumph was counted on for key contributions and was also lost for the year. In the secondary, Shawntae Spencer and Mike Adams have taken on greater responsibilities, while Bruce Thornton has been a pleasant surprise. He has held his own starting at cornerback for Ahmed Plummer who has missed more than a month with an ankle injury. With the losses at linebacker, they might go back to some 4-3 looks meaning Andre Carter will be back in a three-point stance (he was converted to linebacker from defensive end).
The 49ers will look to apply pressure on Kyle Orton, who threw two interceptions and lost a fumble against the Saints last week. If they're running the 3-4, it likely means they'll be blitzing from one or more places on each passing down. In spite of the Bears having come a long way to establish an identity as a running team, they might look to a different strategy this week. They may look to attack the vulnerable 49ers' secondary early to get out to a big lead, and then literally run and hide the rest of the way. Look for more short drops and help from the tight end and running back if the Bears want to minimize Bryant Young's impact on the passing game.
The Bears' defense is relatively healthy. Jerry Azumah's hip has him appearing on the injury report for the first time in a few weeks. His injury could be more of a factor on kickoff returns, where he makes his greatest impact. If his condition worsens, losing him as the third cornerback could be especially troublesome to nickel and dime packages. Defensive end Adewale Ogunleye is nursing a sore hamstring. Ogunleye has had a difficult time staying healthy since he's become a member of the Bears. He suffered an ankle injury early in the season that slowed him considerably. He has steadily improved over the last few weeks, and is showing signs of the form he took from the preseason into the beginning of the year. Kwame Harris, who has struggled this year, will be working against Ogunleye.
The 49ers' offense is being held together with scotch tape and saliva. The relatively untested Cody Pickett starts at quarterback for rookie Alex Smith, who is almost ready to return from a knee injury. Ken Dorsey is also very close to being ready to return from an ankle injury. The void at tight end is especially painful. Billy Bajema, Steve Bush and Trent Smith have combined for only 9 receptions in the place of Eric Johnson, who was not able to make it back from a foot injury suffered before the season started. On the offensive line, a normally solid interior has some bumps and bruises. Center Jeremy Newberry and guard Eric Heitmann are questionable. Rookies Adam Snyder and David Baas are waiting in the wings if either of them cannot play. Whoever is lined up in their spots will be facing Ian Scott and Tommie Harris. Left tackle Jonas Jennings will miss the rest of the season with shoulder surgery. Anthony Clement has started while Jennings has been hurt. Alex Brown will draw this assignment. San Francisco has allowed 25 sacks, with a good number coming from that side of the line (even when Jennings was playing the first few weeks of the season).
The 49ers beat Tampa Bay two weeks ago by running 39 times for 158 yards. The Bears and Bucs play similar defensive schemes. Expect San Francisco to minimize difficult situations for Pickett by giving the Bears a steady dose of Kevan Barlow. The Bears will seek to clamp down on the run, forcing Pickett into predictable down and distance scenarios. With almost no production from the tight end, sending Hunter Hillenmeyer or Mike Brown in blitz situations could be an order of the day.
NOTE: There will be no Noots' Notes for the San Francisco game.