8:49 PM CST, November 16, 2012
What more can this Bears defense do to carry the ballclub?
The Bears rank fifth in total defense and first in interceptions with 19. They have returned seven interceptions for touchdowns.
With Jay Cutler out with a concussion, the already stout and opportunistic Bears defense will be called upon to deliver even greater contributions. Last season's post-Cutler execution on both sides of the ball was lacking and the Bears lost five of their last six to finish 8-8 and out of the playoffs.
Entering Monday night's game in San Francisco, the Bears have seven victories, as they did in 2011 when Cutler broke his thumb. After suffering a concussion Sunday night against the Texans, Cutler has been ruled out for the 49ers game, and his future availability remains uncertain.
"Defensively, we just (have) to worry about what we have to do," Bears defensive lineman Henry Melton said. "Not having Jay, you know he doesn't say a lot around the media and everybody else, but he is a leader in the locker room. Last year … not having him around hurt us … not having him really (being) vocal there. But this is only a minor setback."
Jason Campbell will have his opportunity to distinguish himself from last year's failed backup Caleb Hanie. But the Bears defense could take an awful lot of pressure off Campbell if it continues to force turnovers and provide great field position, if not points.
"It is bigger than just this Monday," Melton said of the big picture for the Bears. "We expect to be going deep into the playoffs. We'd love to have (Cutler) for this one game, but it is a long season and we are going to need him for it."
The 49ers offensive approach generally has been conservative, even with Alex Smith behind center. With Smith's overall health in question because of a mild concussion suffered last weekend, the 49ers figure to pull in the reins even further and pound running back Frank Gore.
"They are more of a downhill, power scheme," Bears defensive end Corey Wootton said. "They lead the league in rushing average per game. So we have to come and really stop the run and get physical with them.
"(Smith) doesn't turn the ball over very much; I think he manages the game very well for them. He's very quick. A lot of people don't see him as a runner, but he can get outside the pocket and make some plays happen. We're just trying to get to the quarterback and disrupt him, make him have a bad game. That's basically what we try to do."
Brian Urlacher knows the key to controlling Gore and the rest of the 49ers will be a group effort.
"Get a lot of guys to the football," the linebacker said. "He is very underrated. He doesn't get a lot of pub, but he does a lot of the dirty work for them. Just get a lot of guys to the football. There are going to be missed tackles. It's just the way the game goes. If we get 11 guys to the football and try to wrap him up, we should be OK."
Copyright © 2013 Chicago Tribune Company, LLC