First, the bad news: Neither Jay Cutler nor Jason Campbell have ever beaten the San Francisco 49ers. They are a combined 0-4 with nearly identical passer ratings in the low 50s for those games.
Now for the possibly very bad news: The San Francisco 49ers are the toughest team to score on in the NFL: 14.1 points per game allowed, seven-tenths of a point less than the No. 2 Bears.
Three teams have scored 24 or more points on the 49ers. Two of them did it in Candlestick Park and none of them lost (St. Louis tied last Sunday).
How they did it provides a possible template for the Bears:
Team Pts. Keys
Vikings 24 Adrian Peterson 25 carries (86 yards), 34 runs plus seven by QB Christian Ponder;
2 TD passes, both to a tight end;
Zero sacks allowed.
Giants 26 Ahmad Bradshaw 27 carries (116 yards), none longer than 23 yards;
3 interceptions of Alex Smith (of 5 all year);
Zero sacks allowed.
Rams 24 Stephen Jackson 29 carries (101 yards);
Danny Amendola 11 rec. (102 yards) of 12 targets;
2 sacks allowed.
A model for coping with San Franciscos defense, which is third in the NFL for fewest yards per game (292.1) compared to the Bears at No. 5 with 307.3, starts to take shape.
N.Y Giants 26 49ers 3
The 49ers are extremely difficult to run on. But teams successful against have been persistent. The Giants trailed 5 minutes into the second quarter yet stayed with a balanced game plan 28 pass plays, 37 runs and the 49ers eventually cracked on offense
Minnesota 24 49ers 13
The Vikings completed nine passes to Percy Harvin but the ones doing the most damage were ones of one yard and two yards to tight end Kyle Rudolph for touchdowns. The Bears are working rookie Evan Rodriguez, drafted as a tight end, cast as a fullback from opening day, into tight end work.
Minnesota averaged just 3.6 yards per carry. But they ran Peterson 17 times in the first half and the combination of Peterson (11) and Toby Gerhart (8) 18 in the second.
St. Louis 24 49ers 24
St. Louis followed the lead of the Vikings and Giants by running Stephen Jackson 29 times for 101 yards. No carry went for longer than 10 yards, so Jackson only averaged 3.5 yards.
But the Rams threw 12 times toward Danny Amendola, who caught 11. A key was ball control, between Jacksons running, backup Darryl Richardson adding 58 yards on seven carries, and Amendolas receiving, with no pass play going longer than 16 yards.
The Rams netted just a tie for the game. But it was in San Francisco and they controlled the ball 40 of the overtime-games 75 minutes despite the Rams having 13 penalties assessed.
Matt Forte has carried no more than 22 times (twice) in a game this season and no more than 16 times in his other six games. He is averaging 4.7 yards per carry, down a notch with the 2.4-per against Houston when he and Michael Bush combined for just 19 rushes.
That will not be enough to beat the 49ers. The Bears lost two of the three times their carries total was below 25, the other (19) being the win over Carolina when they were miserable at staying on the field (23:22) and ran just 53 plays.
Forte is the perfect complement for Campbell, who is quick to check down to safety receivers rather than take sacks waiting for longer-developing plays. Fortes reception total (22) is down dramatically from this point of last season (42) with Cutler looking so predominantly for Brandon Marshall.
Running a lopsided offense through Marshall against San Francisco is not the way teams have beaten the 49ers so far.
Cutler vs. Campbell
Not having Jay Cutler for the San Francisco game may be addition by subtraction.
Cutler has played the 49ers twice in his career, lost both, and was anything but the kind of game manager that has done well against San Francisco this season.
The 2009 game was arguably Cutlers worst as a pro, throwing five interceptions, all in San Franciscos side of the 50. One was to a nose tackle on a play originating at the 49ers 1-yard line. The last was on the final play of the game, in the end zone starting from a snap at the 12.
Pressure was not available as an excuse. Cutler was not sacked in the game and took a total of six hits, leading to musing that the 49ers decided that letting Cutler throw was more beneficial than trying to tackle him.
Campbell has the reputation of a game manager, getting the football out of his hands quickly, on time, rather than Cutlers tendency to wait longer and throw harder.
We dont have much film to go on from Campbell, said San Francisco defensive end Justin Smith. But watching some of his other stuff, when hes played. Preparing for Cutler, but we wont be shocked if its Campbell back there.