It seems that there is much concern over the two QB’s for Monday Night football in week 11. There is also some concern over one of the coaches.
No matter what health concerns seem to be looming for either team, a game will be played between the Chicago Bears (7-2) and the San Francisco 49ers (6-2-1) at Candlestick park. The focus has been on Jay Cutler of the Bears and Alex Smith of the 49ers who each suffered a concussion during their respective week 10 games. As it stands now, Jay Cutler is still questionable for Monday Night and has not practiced with the team as of Thursday. Alex Smith, on the other hand, returned to practice on Wednesday after being cleared by doctors for non-contact drills. Smith is expected to start on Monday Night.
Week 10 was not a good week for Quarterbacks overall as Michael Vick of the Eagles also suffered a concussion and Ben Roethlisbeger of the Steelers suffered a shoulder injury and a partial rib dislocation.
Also being treated medically earlier today was 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh who had a minor procedure for an irregular heartbeat. The following press release was issued by the 49ers regarding Jim Harbugh.
“Coach Harbaugh is not at the facility today under doctor’s orders. He is having a minor procedure done at Stanford Hospital today for an irregular heartbeat. We anticipate that he will be back at the facility tomorrow, but do not have any further information to share at this time. Assistant head coach and special teams coordinator Brad Seely will be overseeing today’s practice and meetings. When more information regarding coach Harbaugh is available we will pass that along.”
While health seems to be a major concern for both teams as of now, a crucial game awaits both squads on Monday Night. Both teams enter week 11 as leaders in their respective divisions looking to secure some separation from the other teams. The Packers have won 4 in a row while the Bears winning streak had just been snapped at 6 games. The 49ers , meanwhile, have the surging Seahawks to fend off as Seattle has just gotten their 6th win while the 49ers had to settle for a tie with the Rams.
This Monday Night showdown will most likely come down to the two QB’s playing whoever they may be. If Jay Cutler plays for the Bears, Chicago certainly has a better chance at winning. Cutler certainly makes plenty of mistakes throwing 10 picks already this year but he can still create a spark on offense, especially with Brandon Marshall who has 67 receptions, 904 receiving yards, and 7 TDs.
“Hopefully Cutler plays,” 49ers RB Frank Gore said. “It’ll be a good game. We want their best, you know? I want Cutler to play. The Bears are like a playoff team, they have a great record… we want their best shot… We want their best like they want our best. I know they’d want Alex Smith to play like I said we’d want Cutler to play.”
San Francisco has a great defense allowing just 196.8 passing yards a game (5th best in NFL). The one area of the field that the defense might need to improve on (especially if Cutler is starting) are turnovers. While they are middle of the road when it comes to overall turnovers, the 49ers are in the bottom third in interceptions only getting 6 all season. If Cutler does play, he will most likely make a few bad passes that the 49ers secondary must capitalize on to secure a victory.
If Jason Campbell plays, then the Bears will have to rely on their running game more. Matt Forte has run the ball 123 times averaging 4.7 yards a carry. While last Sunday’s game against the Texans did not go well for him, he might actually do better against the 49ers. While San Francisco still has a good defensive rushing team (7th in the NFL allowing 95.3 yards on the ground per game), the 49ers have allowed over 100 yards rushing in each of the last 4 games in which they are 2-1-1.
As for the 49ers offense, the focus has to remain the same with a run balanced offense, maybe falling towards run heavy against the Bears. Chicago is certainly a hard team to run against allowing 92.3 yards a game rushing (4th best in the NFL) but the Bears are the team right now that are forcing more turnovers than anyone else in the NFL. They have an NFL best in total takeaways with 30 and interceptions with 19. Their turnover differential is +14, 2nd only to the Patriots (+16).
What makes them more scary is their ability to turn interceptions into points. They have returned 7 picks for TDs this season (NFL Best). There seems to be a team every year that feeds off of turnovers and this year it’s the Chicago Bears.
With all that being said, run heavy offense might be the way the go with an emphasis on ball protection as the Bears have 17 forced fumbles this season as well (tied for NFL best with Patriots). While the 49ers have been run on quite a bit lately, they have also done a bit of rushing themselves with over 100 yards rushing in each of the last three games. Frank Gore (5.4 yards per carry) and that rushing attack will have their hands full with the Bears.
As for Alex Smith, he will have to make smart and efficient throws like he has been doing all season. He can’t make any mistakes throwing the ball or the Bears will jump on them and perhaps score. Now Smith has only thrown picks in 3 games this season but seeing what he is up against makes anyone think that this will be the fourth game.
When it comes to personal health, Smith might want to look out even more coming off a concussion and then going against Chicago. The Bears have 26 sacks total this season (tied for 6th best) while the 49ers have allowed 29 sacks this season (tied for 2nd most allowed).
While on pace to start for Monday Night’s game, nothing is for certain with Alex Smith.
“Contact, obviously, is the final straw,” Smith said Wednesday. “But I was able to go out there today. I had the black jersey on, which is a little redundant seeing as how we don’t get hit in practice. But I feel good out there.”
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Written by Daniel Trucios