ESPN is reporting San Francisco 49ers QB Alex Smith has been ruled to play on Monday Night Football against the Chicago Bears. Second-year QB Colin Kaepernick will make his first-career NFL start on national TV. The 49ers have not confirmed the report and the team is not required to list inactive players until 90 minutes before the game.
Smith, who suffered a concussion last week against the Rams, practiced all week but while wearing a non-contact black jersey. The report said Smith “was unable to get clearance from a neurologist one week after suffering a concussion.” The quarterback currently has the NFL’s third best passer rating (104.1) and has started the last 28 games for the 49ers, including the playoffs.
Kaepernick has shown flashes of being a reliable QB when inserted into games this season. After Smith was knocked out of the game in the second quarter last week, Kaepernick completed 11-of-17 passes for 117 yards and rushed for 66 yards and a touchdown. He was instrumental in the second half in bringing the 49ers to the brink of a victory against the Rams. This season he has completed 16-of-26 passes for 206 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions.
Whether Smith or Kaepernick started for the 49ers, the offense will have a tough time moving down the field against the Bears defense that ranks first in the NFL in takeaways and second in fewest points allowed. The one area where Kaepernick has an advantage over Smith at quarterback is his threat to run if no receivers are open. He has rushed for 177 yards and three touchdowns on 21 carries this season. This will give a boost to the 49ers rushing attack that is ranked first in the NFL.
While Smith not playing came as a surprise for Niner fans, the Bears will also be without their starting QB Jay Cutler who is also out for the game with a concussion. Backup QB Jason Campbell will be making his first start since October 16, 2011, when he was knocked out for the season with a broken collarbone.
Fans can expect a big game from the Bears and 49ers defenses tonight with two backup QB’s making their first start of the season on Monday Night Football. Both defenses are tops in the league and will look to force the opposing quarterback to make mistakes. The 49ers have the advantage over the Bears as they are already a run-first offense which is best in the league and they will not need to rely on passing to win the game.