While the Bears were going through their Jason Campbell-or-Jay Cutler drama, the San Francisco 49ers were going through one of their own.
Starting quarterback Alex Smiths recovery from a concussion last Sunday had him still going through the evaluation process as late as Friday. If not Smith, then Colin Kaepernick, one of the 2011 quarterback draft class that included Cam Newton, Andy Dalton, Jake Locker and Blaine Gabbert.
The real problem, however
The 49ers offense runs, literally, through Frank Gore. The weekly goal of the Bears defense is to render the opposing offense one-dimensional by shutting down the run first.
Not always a simple task. The Bears went 18 straight games without allowing a back to rush for 100 yards; there have been two in the past two weeks, Chris Johnson (141) in Tennessee and Arian Foster (102).
The Bears will including Foster, Gore and Johnson, the Bears will face top-eight rushers in six straight games beginning with the Titans.
But Gore is their immediate problem.
The 49ers are the NFLs No. 1 rushing offense with 170 yards per game. Over the last 25 games Gore has rushed for 1,964 yards and 13 touchdowns on 422 carries, seventh in the NFL over that span.
Hes one of the better running backs in the NFL, if you ask me, said linebacker Brian Urlacher. Very underrated, doesnt get a lot of pub but he does a lot of the dirty work for them. Just get a bunch of guys to the football. Theres going to be some missed tackles. Thats just the way the game goes.
But if we get 11 guys to the football, wrap him up, we should be OK. Hes going to make some plays, though. Hes a good running back.
Very, very good in fact. San Francisco is 18-1-1 when gore and running back Kendall Hunter combine for 20 or more carries. It is a formula favored by the Bears but San Francisco just does it better.
They run the ball, Urlacher said. Theyre big up front, big, athletic offensive linemen, great skill players. They dont make a lot of mistakes with the football. Theyve allowed some sacks but they run the ball so well, they dont get behind the sticks so much. They just keep trying to pound it.
Kaepernick vs. Smith
While the Bears will never say it, they would much prefer to face an San Francisco offense directed by Kaepernick.
The reason: The Bears defensive scheme likes impatience in a quarterback. Smith does not have nearly enough of that at this point of his career. The Bears do sound more afraid of what he wont do turn the ball over than what he will.
I just think hes a great quarterback, said defensive tackle Henry Melton. But I think they really love that running game, and hes just kind of there to just dont mess up the game, kind of.
He doesnt want to get that turnover just like every quarterback shouldnt if youve got a great defense, Melton said. You should try to not have any turnovers. Thats what I see him back there doing.
Hes actually doing a good bit more. Smith ranks No. 1 in the NFL in completion percentage (70.0) and is third in the league in passer rating (104.1). The 49ers are getting the Bears backup; the Bears hope they are getting San Franciscos.
Theyre both extremely mobile. No. 7 Kaepernik has got some juice but Alex has some mobility, too, said defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli. Nice job in the pocket, a little bit of option football in there, and they stretch you with personnel packages.
Theyve got a great formula going for them.
The attention of the week has focused on Jason Campbell dealing with a San Francisco defense that allows a league-low 14.1 points per game. But the firepower coming to bear on the Chicago defense is cause for concern.
The 49ers start seven No. 1s on offense Smith, Gore, three offensive linemen and two wide receivers. They have three No. 1s, two 2s and a 3 on the bench.
They know how to run the ball, they have a plan and they stick to it, Marinelli said.
Only five teams have given the ball away fewer times than San Franciscos nine.