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When the San Francisco 49ers take on the Chicago Bears on Sunday night in the first regular season game ever at Levi's Stadium, they will have history on their side. The Bears have not won a game on the road against the 49ers since the season that saw the birth of "The Fridge" in 1985. Among those losses is a 32-7 thumping the 49ers put on the Bears in Colin Kaepernick's first ever NFL start. The theme all week out of Chicago has been that this is time for them to get payback for that blowout.
With that as a backdrop here are 5 burning questions to which the answers will be key to the outcome of the game.
1) Can the 49ers force Jay Cutler into mistakes? – Jay Cutler is a great fantasy football quarterback. Week after week he puts up big numbers. The problem is that he is usually good at giving the defense a few opportunities at interceptions each week as well. Cutler's performance last week against the Buffalo Bills was a perfect example of this as he threw for nearly 350 yards and 2 touchdowns. That was the good. The problem was that he also threw two interceptions.
The last time that Cutler faced the 49ers was back in 2009. On that night he put up over 300 yards passing and completed 34 of 52 passes. The only problem was that 5 of those 34 completions ended up in the hands of 49ers defenders as a bad 49ers team beat Chicago 10-6.
There is one problem though. The best way to force Cutler into mistakes is with a solid pass rush. Unfortunately for the 49ers this is an area they struggled with last week against the Dallas Cowboys. On Sunday the 49ers were able to pressure Tony Romo only 12 times on 40 drop backs. That won't cut it against Chicago.
One thing to keep an eye on would be if Vic Fangio is able to talk Jim Harbaugh into dressing 6 defensive linemen on the active roster after only have 5 against the Cowboys. This could be made possible with the release of LaMichael James. The addition of Tank Carradine or Quinton Dial into the rotation in certain situations could help energize the pass rush.
2) Will the 49ers defense be able to contain Matt Forte? – The Bears are loaded with high profile weapons on offense in Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffrey, Martellus Bennett and Santonio Holmes. The one that often goes unrecognized is possibly the most dangerous weapon, Matt Forte.
Last week against Buffalo, Forte had 169 yards of total offense, 87 yards on 8 receptions to go with 82 yards on 17 carries. On the flip side the 49ers are coming off a game in which they allowed 5.4 yards per carry to DeMarco Murray.
With Navorro Bowman out, the 49ers have turned to Michael Wilhoite. On Sunday, he and fellow inside linebacker Patrick Willis finished with the worst run defense grades on the team at -1.5 per ProFootballFocus. They both need to step up this week.
One thing playing in their favor however could be Marc Trestman. If Trestman calls a game similar to the one he called last week against the Bills, 51 passes and only 18 runs, he will be playing into the 49ers hands. Vic Fangio's defense excels against teams that are one dimensional.
3) Will it be Monday Night redux for Colin Kaepernick? – The last time these teams met Colin Kaepernick was making his debut as a starting NFL quarterback, and he shredded the Bears defense for 2 touchdowns in the first half as the 49ers built an insurmountable lead.
This time around Kaepernick will face a Bears defense that allowed E.J. Manuel to complete 72% of his passes on them. Not good when you consider that Manuel completed only 58% of his passes in 2013. If Kaepernick can build upon his performance from Dallas it should be a big night.
4) Is an expanded role for Bruce Ellington in the offing? – After the release of LaMichael James early in the week there has been reports that Ellington has spent time working with the running backs in practice. Ellington showed himself to be an explosive threat when given the opportunity during the preseason. Perhaps we will see Greg Roman and Jim Harbaugh begin to use Ellington in a role similar to how the Seahawks use Percy Harvin and the Green Bay uses Randall Cobb.
5) How will the turf at Levi's Stadium hold up? – During the preseason games everyone raved about how Levi's Stadium was state of the art. Unfortunately the same could not be said about the playing surface. The 49ers have already replaced the turf twice, changing to the same type of surface they used at Candlestick during the most recent installation. The turf went without any activity until an international soccer match last Saturday night. Reports from those on hand stated that the turf was still having issues.
Prediction Time: 49ers 30 Bears 17
Check into the webzone Sunday night as Jack provides updates an analysis on game in live blog.