It will be a battle of backup quarterbacks on Monday Night Football. San Francisco 49ers quarterback Alex Smith will not play against the Chicago Bears due to a concussion suffered last week, according to ESPN's Chris Mortensen:
Alex Smith will not play tonight for 49ers, unable to get clearance from neurologist after suffering concussion last week, per sources.— Chris Mortensen (@mortreport) November 19, 2012
There was a lot of optimism coming from the Bay Area regarding Smith's status for this huge NFC showdown as the week progressed. According to Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee, Smith participated in four straight days of non-contact practice last week.
In that same report, Barrows quotes 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh as saying that backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick was getting "a little bit more work than normal" in case Smith wasn't able to go.
Kaepernick filled in admirably for Smith in last week's tie against St. Louis. He completed 11-of-17 passes for 117 yards and ran for 66 yards. He led scoring drives late in the fourth quarter to give the 49ers a brief lead and then tie the game to force overtime.
Smith is having the best season of his career up to this point. He is completing 70 percent of his passes with 13 touchdowns and five interceptions. In his last two games against Arizona and St. Louis, he had completed 25 of his last 27 attempts with four touchdowns.
Smith's reported absence will change the game plan for the 49ers against a stout Bears defense that has forced the most turnovers in the NFL. Expect to see a lot more running and quarterback options with Kaepernick under center.
Smith joins Bears quarterback Jay Cutler, who is also dealing with a concussion suffered last week, on the sidelines. In a battle between two of the premier defensive teams in the NFL, having backup quarterbacks starting should make this even more of a low-scoring affair than it was going to be.