The Bears' chances to win tonight seem to have improved with word that Alex Smith could not get the final thumbs-up from neurologists to start tonight's matchup at Candlestick Park as he recovers from a concussion he sustained eight days ago.
So as this becomes the Campbell-Kaepernick quarterback matchup as Jay Cutler also recuperates from the same injury suffered last Sunday, the Bears' defense faces a younger, less patient signal-caller on the other side of the ball. While Colin Kaepernick has yet to throw an interception in 26 attempts this season, he figures to get rattled a little more than Smith, who's thrown just 10 picks since the start of the 2011 season.
Matter of fact, Smith had a stretch of 249 attempts without a pick spanning from last Nov. 24, 2011-Sept. 23. Kaepernick, on the other hand, is the team's third-leading rusher (177 yards on 21 attempts). While the only quarterback close to Kaepernick's tuck-it-and-run style the defense has faced this season is Cam Newton (who really didn't in the Bears' one-point win), safe to say they'll take that over the gradual maturity Smith has shown over the past two seasons.
As a team, San Francisco's turned the ball over just nine times since Dec. 1, something the Bears and their NFL-leading 30 takeaways need to disrupt. If they accomplish that, the bigger question becomes if the struggling offense can make it pay off behind Jason Campbell. If it's successful in doing so, and consistently against the kind of defense that stacks up against the Bears, rushing Cutler's return becomes less important and blogs and talk shows will begin an entirely new debate.
But first things first: Campbell, Mike Tice, and the rest of the offense have to outsmart and outbattle an outstanding unit led by a scary linebacking corps (Aldon Smith's 9 12 sacks rank second in the NFC). The Niners' defense doesn't seem to let its offense's turnovers rattle it either, allowing just 16 points the nine times they have coughed the ball up. But the Vikings, Giants and Rams have figured out enough ways to beat (or tie) them. Let's see if these Bears can.
Since the win there in that glorious 1985 season, the Bears have made seven trips to San Francisco and been outscored 239-42. They'll be happy to get out of there one point better tonight, and keep their one game lead in the division over Green Bay.
Tune into Comcast SportsNet at 4:30 p.m. to preview the game live on "United Bears Recap". Then, flip over to us immediately after the Bears-49ers game goes final for "Chevy Dealers' Bears Postgame Live." I'll be joined by Dan Jiggetts, Jim Miller and Hunter Hillenmeyer to break down the game for 90 minutes, take you live to postgame press conferences and locker room interviews with Kip Lewis, more analysis from John Mullin and share your reaction via Twitter using hashtag BearsTalk