Welcome back to "The Blitz Package," your weekly destination for notable news, nuggets and intriguing Chicago Bears storylines. This week's topic: the dreaded jaunt to the San Francisco Bay area.
The Bears' first road trip of the season could not be more daunting. Especially coming off a loss like Sunday's 23-20 overtime stinger against the Bills.
Now the Bears are headed west, for a Sunday night prime time game, against a 49ers team that has averaged 12 wins per season since Jim Harbaugh became head coach in 2011.
Oh, and the Niners will also be celebrating the grand opening in the regular season of their new home, Levi's Stadium with a quarterback in Colin Kaepernick who possesses exactly the kind of skillset that can twist the Bears' defense like a circus balloon.
But perhaps there's a shred of good news in all this. The Bears' itinerary, after all, has a subtle difference from their past trips to the Bay Area. For starters, they're flying out Friday evening. They'll also be landing on a new runway.
Old destination airport: SFO. As in San Francisco International Airport.
New destination airport: SJC. As In San Jose International Airport.
Yep, Levi's Stadium is situated in Santa Clara, approximately 40 miles from where Candlestick Park sat on the San Francisco Bay. And the change of venue has to be welcome to a Bears organization that repeatedly suffered third-degree burns at Candlestick.
The Bears last road win over the 49ers? Way back in 1985. Their current losing streak against the Niners away from Soldier Field? Eight consecutive defeats by an average score of 34-6.
Need help recounting the Bears' past 10 trips to California to face the 49ers? Grab some Mylanta and settle in for an unsettling detour down memory lane.
Jan. 6, 1985
Final score: 49ers 23, Bears 0
What went wrong: A hungry Bears team on the rise received notice that they had not yet fully arrived, outgained 387-186 and losing to the eventual Super Bowl champions in the NFC Championship game. The Bears' vaunted defense struggled to pressure 49ers quarterback Joe Montana (18-for-34, 233 yards, one TD) with the San Francisco offense operating on a steady diet of short dropbacks and quick passes. And the Bears' offense never got anything going, shutout for the first time all season and amassing only 37 net passing yards and 13 first downs. Steve Fuller, who became the starting quarterback after a season-ending injury to Jim McMahon (ribs and kidney) in early November, was sacked eight times with only 13 completions.
You should know: Current Bears quarterbacks coach Matt Cavanaugh was Montana's back-up in '84 and actually threw one pass in garbage time during that NFC title game. It was a 3-yard completion to running back Derrick Harmon.
Quote of note: "This is the worst ever. When you wait 10 years for the chance, and you get this close, and get turned back, it`s hard to deal with. It's the hardest thing I`ve ever had to deal with." – Bears star Walter Payton
Oct. 13, 1985
Final score: Bears 26, 49ers 10
What went right: What didn't? Proving themselves as the class of the NFL, the Bears improved to 6-0 with a resounding road win over the defending Super Bowl champs. Kevin Butler's four field goals aided the cause. A trademark defensive effort that created seven sacks and surrendered only 45 yards after halftime certainly helped. But the most impressive sign of the Bears' dominance came during a sleeper-hold, 13-play, 66-yard touchdown drive in the second half on which Payton carried the ball nine times for 52 yards, including the 17-yard TD run that provided the game's final score. So much for the 49ers' taunts in the previous meeting that the Bears should have remember to bring an offense on their next trip.
Said tackle Jim Covert: "We remembered to pack our offense this time."
The Bears' six consecutive wins to open the season marked the franchise's best start since 1942 and that was a winning streak they'd eventually double before suffering their first defeat of the 1985 season.
You should know: The Bears felt disrespected in the NFC title game nine months earlier when 49ers head coach Bill Walsh used offensive guard Guy McIntyre as a fullback. Their response? At the tail end of this Week 6 win, they gave William "The Refrigerator" Perry the first two carries of his career, good enough for 4 rub-it-in yards. Said Bears fullback Matt Suhey: "I think the Fridge is after my job." Perry made a bigger splash on the national scene eight days later when he took a handoff on "Monday Night Football" against the rival Packers and turned it into a 1-yard touchdown plunge.
Quote of note: "We had to put last year behind us. What better way to do it than to beat the team that we lost the championship to?" – Bears defensive end Dan Hampton
What went wrong: Jerry Rice not only set an NFL-record by catching a touchdown pass in his 11th consecutive game, he wound up catching three of them. All from Steve Young, who came on in relief of Montana after the 49ers' starter hurt his hamstring in the first quarter. Young only completed nine of the 19 passes he threw, but four of them went for touchdowns. Young also totaled 43 of the 49ers' 198 rushing yards. And that was more than the Bears could say for their No. 2 quarterback, Mike Tomczak, who started in place of McMahon and proceeded to throw four interceptions.
You should know: In addition to Tomczak's four interceptions, Bears running backs Walter Payton and Dennis Gentry lost fumbles as the Bears finished minus-5 in the turnover battle. Payton, who ran for only 533 yards in his final season during a strike-shortened '87 campaign, had seven rushes for 18 yards in his last game in San Francisco.
Quote of note: "You put this matchup on paper and it`s even. But once the game starts, things happen." – Tomczak
Dec. 24, 1989
Final score: 49ers 26, Bears 0
What went wrong: The Bears final game of the 1980s went down as a sixth consecutive loss, capping a brutal 6-10 campaign that was the organization's first losing season since 1982. Four different Bears (Tomczak, Jim Harbaugh, Brad Muster and Neal Anderson) contributed to a five-turnover night in the finale, miscues San Francisco turned into 13 points. The 49ers, meanwhile, were on their way to a second consecutive Super Bowl championship behind MVP quarterback Joe Montana. Montana threw only 21 passes against the Bears, completing 10 for 106 yards and a touchdown before being pulled to rest. His 112.4 rating for the season set a new NFL record.
You should know: As a result of their 6-10 nosedive, the Bears picked up the No. 6 pick for the 1990 draft, a selection they used on Southern Cal safety Mark Carrier.
Quote of note: "We can toast the past and we can taste the future. We just have to forget about this year." – Bears coach Mike Ditka
Dec. 23, 1991
Final score: 49ers 52, Bears 14
What went wrong: With a chance to win the NFC Central, the Bears instead faceplanted on "Monday Night Football" in the NFL's final game of the regular season. All night long, the defense chased its tail against Steve Young. Defensive coordinator Vince Tobin couldn't blitz Young because he had to respect receivers Jerry Rice and John Taylor and tight end Brent Jones. The defense also couldn't pressure Young because they had to respect his running ability. The result: the 30-year old quarterback threw for 338 yards and three TDs and rushed for 68 yards and another score. He wasn't sacked and didn't turn the ball over.
The Bears were behind 24-0 when they finally scored in the third quarter on a 26-yard Jim Harbaugh to Neal Anderson TD pass. That marked the Bears' first points at Candlestick in six years and more than 14 quarters.
You should know: The 49ers closed the regular season with six consecutive wins to finish 10-6 but missed out on the playoffs as the Bears (11-5), Cowboys (11-5) and Falcons (10-6) earned the NFC's wild cards. It was the first time since 1982 that the 49ers missed the postseason. The Bears, meanwhile, lost their playoff opener at home 17-13 to the Cowboys.
Quote of note: "We didn't come out and play our game. We didn't play relaxed. I think we were too tense. I can't put a finger on it." – Bears safety Shaun Gayle
Jan. 7, 1995
Final score: 49ers 44, Bears 15
What went wrong: After scraping into the playoffs as a wild card, then upending the Vikings in the Metrodome in the NFC's opening round, the Bears got familiar treatment once again at Candlestick. They entered as 17-point underdogs and left as 29-point losers. Easy to forget that an Alonzo Spelman fumble recovery and Kevin Butler's 39-yard first quarter field goal provided an early 3-0 lead. The 49ers then responded with 37 consecutive points. They had seven scoring drives, one turnover and only two punts with fullback William Floyd scoring three touchdowns.
You should know: Steve Young's 6-yard TD run made it 30-3 just before halftime and ended with Gayle delivering a shot on the 49ers quarterback a few beats after he reached the end zone. Young then spiked the ball at Gayle's feet and a brief brawl broke out as the 49ers came to their quarterback's aid. Said Jerry Rice: "We had to protect our livelihood. This is the guy that's going to get us over the hump."
Quote of note: "I've played some pretty good 49er offenses out here. But I'd say this one is probably better than any of the others. It may be one of the best offenses ever." – Bears defensive end Trace Armstrong
Dec. 17, 2000
Final score: 49ers 17, Bears 0
What went wrong: On "Jerry Rice Day" in San Francisco, a celebratory send-off afternoon for the star receiver in his final 49ers home game, the Bears instead found themselves unable to contain Terrell Owens. Owens broke a 50-year-old NFL record for receptions in a game with 20, turning those into 283 yards, including a 27-yard TD from Jeff Garcia in the third quarter. Equally troubling for the Bears: an anemic offensive effort that produced 104 total yards on 12 possessions, an average of 8.7 yards per drive. Yep, per drive. Against a defense that finished the season ranked 30th in the NFL. The 49ers' offense meanwhile averaged 6.0 yards per play. Their time of possession: 39 minutes, 8 seconds. It's a wonder the final score wasn't more lopsided.
You should know: The Bears offense never crossed midfield. Not once. Their deepest penetration of the day moved the ball to their own 47. That came after their longest play, a 13-yard Cade McNown to Marty Booker completion. McNown's numbers: 9-for-29, 73 yards, an interception and a rating of 26.1. That turned out to be his final start as an NFL quarterback.
Quote of note: "Jauron blinked into the camera lights after San Francisco 17, Bears zero and said he had no idea the 49ers' Owens had broken a 50-year-old NFL record with 20 catches. This was like Custer saying, 'What Indians?'" – Skip Bayless, Tribune columnist
Sept. 7, 2003
Final score: 49ers 49, Bears 7
What went wrong: And you thought last weekend's season-opening loss to the Bills was painful. Well, no opening day loss in franchise history was ever more lopsided than this one. Kordell Stewart in a John Shoop offense? With a shaky offensive line? What could go wrong? Just about everything did. Stewart took five sacks, threw three interceptions and lost a fumble. Rookie Bobby Wade fumbled a punt inside his own 10. Brad Maynard had a punt blocked. The Bears were outgained 391-127 and surrendered 23 points in the final 6 minutes, 1 second of the first half. Said linebacker Brian Urlacher: "This is not high school. We have good game plans. We have to come out and execute."
You should know: The Bears went 1-7 on the road in 2003, spiraling to a 7-9 finish that cost head coach Dick Jauron his job. Four of those road losses came by double digits.
Quote of note: "We got our asses whupped. I didn't play well at all and turned the ball over (four) times and couldn't find the rhythm. Whether you're Santa Claus or Jesus or whatever else, you just can't make those mistakes." – Stewart
Nov. 12, 2009
Final score: 49ers 10, Bears 6
What went wrong: Welcome to San Francisco, Jay Cutler. In a Thursday night meltdown, Cutler threw a second-quarter pass that was intercepted by nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin. On the next series, his throw toward Devin Hester was intercepted by Tarell Brown after Hester fell down. In the third quarter, Dashon Goldson snagged a tipped Cutler pass and Mark Roman also picked the Bears quarterback off. Yet still, with 2:47 left, the Bears got the ball back with a chance to drive for a game-stealing touchdown. Cutler took the offense 68 yards in 15 plays, all the way to the 49ers' 12. Yet how did it end? With a fifth Cutler pick, of course -- this one to safety Michael Lewis on a pass into the end zone toward tight end Greg Olsen on the game's final play.
You should know: Cutler threw at least one interception in 12 of his 16 starts in his first season as a Bear. He finished the year with 26 picks, six more than any other quarterback in the NFL.
Quote of note: "Jay Cutler can make all the throws. Some call him a phenomenal quarterback. A very heady, very smart guy. But I question, 'Does he make the team better?' And I don't think so. I don't think he makes that team better." – NFL Network analyst Deion Sanders after the game
Nov. 19, 2012
Final score: 49ers 32, Bears 7
What went wrong: A week earlier, Cutler was concussed by Texans linebacker Tim Dobbins shortly before halftime, turning the steering wheel of the offense over to Jason Campbell for the second half of that loss and the following week's Monday night showdown with the 49ers. San Francisco, meanwhile, had its own quarterback shuffling going on with Alex Smith out with a concussion and Colin Kaepernick making his first career start against the Bears. Long story short: Kaepernick was better than Campbell. The 49ers quarterback threw for 243 yards and two touchdowns. Campbell (14-for-22, 107 yards, one TD, two interceptions) didn't have quite the same confidence or poise in his 71st career start.
You should know: After starting the season 7-1, the Bears' loss in San Francisco was part of a 1-5 skid that ultimately kept them out of the playoffs. Included in the slump was a road loss to the Vikings sandwiched between home losses to the Seahawks and Packers. The Bears kept their playoff chances alive by beating the Lions in the season finale. But the Vikings' 37-34 upset of the Packers later that afternoon earned them the NFC's second wild card.
Quote of note: "I usually tend to go with the hot hand, and we've got two quarterbacks with hot hands. We'll make that decision when we have to make it." -- 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh, on whether he'd stick with Kaepernick as his starter once Smith was cleared