8:30 PM ET, November 19, 2012
Candlestick Park, San Francisco, CA
Concussions have made at least one unavailable for Monday night's matchup at Candlestick Park between two of the league's toughest defenses.
San Francisco (6-2-1) and Chicago (7-2) lead the NFC West and North, respectively, and seem destined for the playoffs. The 49ers are hoping to go one step further this time and reach the Super Bowl, while the Bears were stopped one game short the previous season.
Those aspirations have been dealt a few major blows, specifically to the heads of Smith and Cutler.
Smith was hit hard twice in last week's 24-all tie with St. Louis, leaving the game in the second quarter after overcoming blurred vision to throw a 14-yard touchdown pass to Michael Crabtree.
Smith practiced again on Saturday, however his availability is still uncertain. He still hasn't been cleared to play by doctors, and the 49ers might not get a final verdict on his status until hours before Monday's game.
"Alex is still going through the protocol right now," offensive coordinator Greg Roman said Saturday. "And that's in the doctor's hands. When we know, you will probably know."
The Bears believe Cutler's brain trauma came on a helmet-to-helmet hit by Houston's Tim Dobbins late in the first half of last Sunday's 13-6 loss. Dobbins was fined $30,000 earlier this week.
Chicago announced Friday that Cutler wouldn't play this week, meaning Campbell is slated to start.
The Bears brought in Campbell in the offseason just for a situation like this after Cutler broke his right thumb late last season and Chicago went 1-5 without him to miss the playoffs.
Campbell completed 11 of 19 passes for 94 yards in relief last week, his first extensive playing time since a road win over the Texans with Oakland in Week 5 of last year. He's started 70 games over the past six seasons, and has 70 touchdowns compared to 50 interceptions.
"He's comfortable in the pocket, comfortable calling the plays," center Roberto Garza said. "Look at his track record. That speaks for itself. There's a reason why he's here, and there's a reason why he's in the situation he's in.
"He probably should be starting somewhere. He's that type of player. Unfortunately, we're in this situation, but he's gonna step in there."
Campbell has completed 51.0 percent of his passes for 239 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions in two meetings with the Niners, both resulting in losses at San Francisco with Washington and the Raiders.
While Chicago may be turning to a veteran backup, the 49ers may be giving Kaepernick his first start.
A second-round pick out of Nevada in the 2011 draft, Kaepernick's most extensive action came after Smith went out last week. He went 11 for 17 for 117 yards, while rushing eight times for 66 yards and a touchdown.
He is approaching as if he will start against the Bears -- the same way he prepares every week.
"Same reps as always. Nothing really changes," Kaepernick said. "I've always been out there preparing myself to start."
Kaepernick's running ability gives San Francisco a different dimension than Smith offers, but the Bears' defense is fifth in the NFL, and excellent against the run, allowing 92.3 yards per game.
Overall, Chicago gives up an average of 307.3 yards, and the unit leads the league with 30 turnovers and 19 interceptions. The Bears picked off Houston's Matt Schaub twice last week and held the Texans to a season-low 215 yards.
The Niners' Frank Gore will try to continue his success against the Bears. He's totaled 215 yards and a touchdown on 37 rushes while the teams have split the last two meetings.
San Francisco took the most recent matchup 10-6 at home on Nov. 12, 2009, when Smith and Cutler faced off on national television.
Another defensive struggle is likely since the 49ers are also among the best in the NFL, ranking third while allowing 292.1 yards per game -- 196.8 through the air.
They've also shown the ability to get to the quarterback, getting eight of their 17 sacks in the past three games.
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• Both teams must protect the football: This is a real area of strength for both of these well-coached teams. The 49ers just don't turn the ball over on offense, with only nine for the season, and we know the Bears' defense can create takeaways and big plays in bunches. With the possibility of backup QBs playing in this game, there is a chance that the play calling could be very conservative. Both defenses will try to dial up pressure to force mistakes. Both teams need to put the game into the hands of their run game and defense -- and not lose it with QB mistakes.
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|Avg Points Allowed||16.5||13.4|
Team Averages & NFL Ranks
|TEAM OFFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|TEAM DEFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|Pass Yds Allowed||CHI|
|Rush Yds Allowed||CHI|
Head to Head Matchups (Since 2001)
|Chicago leads 4-3|
|Nov 12, 2009||CHI 6, @SF 10|
|Oct 29, 2006||CHI 41, SF 10|
|Nov 13, 2005||CHI 17, SF 9|
|Oct 31, 2004||CHI 23, SF 13|
|Sep 7, 2003||CHI 7, @SF 49|
|Oct 28, 2001||CHI 37, SF 31|
Nine of Colin Kaepernick's 21 rushes this season have gone for at least 10 yards, that's 4th in the NFL among quarterbacks behind three starting QBs[+]
The last time 2 quarterbacks made their 1st start of the season against each other on MNF (other than in Week 1) was when New York Giants' QB Jim Crocicchia and San Francisco's QB Bob Gagliano faced each other in Week 3 of the 1987 season (on October 5, 1987). The 49ers won the game 41-21. Joe Montana (49ers) and Phil Simms (NYG) were the starting QB for those teams in Weeks 1 and 2 of the 1987 season. ** PLEASE NOTE: The 1987 game was a strike game. The last time 2 quarterbacks made their 1st start of the season against each other on MNF (other than in Week 1) in a non-strike occurrence was when Los Angeles Rams' QB Vince Ferragamo and Atlanta Falcons' QB June Jones faced each other in Week 12 of the 1979 season (on November 19, 1979). The Los Angeles Rams won 20-14. Both quarterbacks threw for 150+ yards, 2 TD and at least 1 INT. The Los Angeles Rams went on to lose to the Steelers in the Super Bowl that year. Source: Elias Sports Bureau
From Elias: Colin Kaepernick will become the 8th quarterback since 1999 to make his 1st regular season start on Monday Night Football. In 2011 two quarterbacks, Tyler Palko and Curtis Painter, started their first games on Monday Night Football and both lost. However, the four previous QBs to start their first game on Monday Night Football each won.[+]
QB TO MAKE 1st REGULAR SEASON START ON MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL SINCE 1999
From Elias: Colin Kaepernick's 1st career start will come on Monday Night Football, just the 5th QB to do that in the last 7 seasons -- Tyler Palko and Curtis Painter lost, while Aaron Rodgers and Philip Rivers won.[+]
The Bears have 15 interceptions when rushing four or fewer this season with five touchdowns allowed. Since the start of 2008, only one team (2008 Colts) has finished a season with more than 10 more interceptions than touchdowns using such pressure (2 TD, 13 Int).[+]
Fewest Attempts per Interception Sending 4 or Fewer - Last 5 Seasons
Since the start of last season, the 49ers have allowed 1.4 yards per rush after initial contact, the best rate in the NFL. In addition, only 5.7 percent of rushes against the 49ers during that time have been without contact, the fourth-lowest rate in the NFL.
Aldon Smith has recorded 23.0 sacks as part of a four or fewer man pass rush since the start of last season, most in the NFL. Smith's overall role has changed this season though, playing in 95.6 percent of the 49ers' defensive snaps. Last season, Smith played 50.8 percent of the team's defensive snaps.
Jason Campbell has attempted more than 1,500 passes since the start of 2008, with his average pass traveling 6.6 yards downfield. Of the 30 quarterbacks with at least 1,000 attempts during that time, Campbell's average throw distance ranks as the shortest. Jay Cutler's 8.2 average is tied for the ninth highest.
The 49ers have sent four or fewer pass rushers 78.8 percent of the time since the start of last season, the second-highest rate in the NFL. Both Jay Cutler and Jason Campbell have posted Total QBRs better than 60.0 against such pressure, with Campbell actually posting a better completion percentage.[+]
Passing Against 4 or Fewer Rushers - Last 5 Seasons
ESPN Stats & Information