Behind Enemy Lines: 49ers/Bears, Part II

In Part II of an exclusive two-part series,'s Craig Massei and's John M. Crist continue their back-and-forth interaction with five questions from Craig to John. Is Brian Urlacher better than ever, who is the real Rex Grossman, and can the weather possibly be as bad as last season's Wind Bowl? These Q&As and more inside.

Craig Massei, Editor in Chief, Are the Bears really as good as their unbeaten record, or has their schedule and an early run through the NFC North helped them get off to such a great start?

John M. Crist, Editor in Chief, The Bears were expected to roll through a relatively weak schedule and claim another NFC North title this season, but I firmly believe that this division is a little better than the experts think. Take a look at last weekend, for example. Few football fans doubt that Green Bay is one of the worst teams in the league, but they went in to Miami and dominated a disappointing Dolphins team from start to finish. The Lions gave the Jets everything they could handle, and although New York is far from a playoff team right now, their offense has been mighty good most of the season. Then Minnesota went into Qwest Field and destroyed Seattle, last year's Super Bowl representative from the NFC. The schedule has certainly been kind to the Bears, but there is such a narrow margin between good teams and bad teams in the NFL. This could be the best Bears club in a generation.

Craig Massei: Do the 49ers need to smear kryptonite on their uniforms this week to slow down Brian Urlacher or what? What makes that guy so good, and is he even better now than he was earlier in his career, particularly last season when he was NFL Defensive Player of the Year?

John Crist: I had been writing this season that the Bears defense has been playing at an incredibly high level despite relatively little action from Urlacher on the stat sheet. Guys like Tommie Harris and Lance Briggs were getting more ink here in Chicago, and deservedly so. But if you watched the second half of that Arizona game, Urlacher was a man possessed. If Edgerrin James got the ball, it was a virtual guarantee that No. 54 was drilling him at the line of scrimmage. And Edge hadn't had a fumble in a calendar year before Urlacher stripped him on the play that resulted in the Charles Tillman touchdown. The talent around him is as good as ever and allows other players to make an impact, but when it's crunch time, there isn't a better defensive player in the league right now. As far as the kryptonite goes, whether or not Urlacher has an S on his chest, I can't imagine it would help much.

Craig Massei: How much of a blow will it be to that defense to not have Pro Bowl safety Mike Brown around the rest of the season? How will the Bears compensate for his loss?

John Crist: Brown can be replaced in the secondary in terms of run support and pass coverage, but it doesn't matter who they put back there, they will never be able to fill the leadership role he brings to this defense. Not only are we talking about a Pro-Bowler at the safety position, but he has a nose for the football like few other players in the league. Before he got injured in the fourth quarter at Arizona, he scored his seventh career defensive touchdown on a fumble return, an all-time franchise record. The Bears had an incredible defense last season, as well, but they were quite vulnerable down the stretch when Brown was on the sidelines nursing an Achilles' injury. They were flat-out destroyed in Pittsburgh on the ground and dismantled through the air in the playoff loss to Carolina. Todd Johnson, a solid special-teamer with a penchant for big hits, will get the starting assignment on Sunday. But even if he does play well, replacing Brown's intangibles is an impossible task.

Craig Massei: Is the real Rex Grossman the guy we saw in the first five games this season or the guy we saw trying to give away the game in Week 6?

John Crist: Even though I am a Florida State graduate and a through-and-through Gator Hater, I have always believed that Grossman had what it took to be a very good NFL quarterback. He doesn't have ideal size or the quickest feet, but he has a big-time arm, is a student of the game, and is positively unflappable in the huddle. With as good as the Bears defense was expected to be, the Bears offense only needed to be a middle-of-the-pack unit in order for this team to be a Super Bowl contender. Little did we know that Grossman would be leading the highest scoring team in the NFL through six games. Despite the fact that's he's a fourth-year player, in many ways, this is still his rookie season in terms of experience. He's not as good as the guy who looked flawless in throwing four TD passes against Detroit in Week 2, but he's not as bad as the guy who turned it over six times against Arizona in Week 7 either. He knows that he made some poor decisions and tried to force the ball downfield, but I expect he will be much more apt to take what the San Francisco defense gives him this week.

Craig Massei: Speaking of the Bears being at home, particularly after last year's game there against the 49ers, how windy is it expected to be Sunday in the Windy City?

John Crist: Just in case you didn't know this fact out in San Francisco, Chicago was actually nicknamed 'The Windy City' because of its infamous history of long-wnded politicians who were full of empty promises, not for the playing conditions that the 49ers were subjected to at Soldier Field last season. As of right now, it's supposed to be partly sunny with a high of 55 degrees this Sunday. But believe me, this time of year, Bear Weather is always ready to rear its ugly head.

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