The San Francisco 49ers are set for their first of two straight road games on Sunday, with a Week 13 matchup against the Chicago Bears from Soldier Field.
San Francisco enters the game coming off of back-to-back losses following its Week 10 bye. Additionally, the 49ers are one of two teams still searching for their first road win of the season.
Meanwhile, Chicago has been surging of late. The Bears are winners of three of their past four games with the lone loss coming in a narrow defeat to the Denver Broncos. Most recently, Chicago defeated the Green Bay Packers on Thanksgiving Day from Lambeau Field.
Despite their recent success, the Bears have still struggled at home. Chicago has just one win from Soldier Field this season, that coming in Week 4 against the Oakland Raiders.
Here are the top five things to watch for the 49ers in Week 13.
1. Another milestone for Boldin
A week after passing Randy Moss on the NFL's all-time receptions list, Anquan Boldin is just 36 receiving yards shy of reaching 13,000 for his career. Since returning from a hamstring injury, Boldin has 93 yards in back-to-back games. If and when he reaches the milestone on Sunday, Boldin will become just the 18th receiver in NFL history to reach 13,000 receiving yards. Six of those players are currently in the Hall of Fame with more sure to come.
Additionally, Boldin (984 career receptions) is 16 catches away from 1,000. That will probably come in the weeks ahead, but it's worth keeping on the radar. 2. "The Belldozer"
Garrett Celek is the starting tight end, but the 49ers offense likes to operate out of two tight end sets. With Garrett Celek out with an ankle injury, Blake Bell is the next man up. The rookie caught a career-high three passes for 67 yards in Week 12 against the Arizona Cardinals.
San Francisco's 2015 fourth-round pick will continue to see an increased opportunity against the Bears. All four of Blaine Gabbert's touchdown passes over the last three games have gone to tight ends.
3. Vic Fangio's Bears defense
The 49ers will see a familiar face on Sunday running Chicago's defense. Fangio spent four seasons as San Francisco's defensive coordinator and now holds the same position with the Bears.
Chicago's defense hasn't allowed more than 20 points in any of its last four games. Additionally, the Bears pass defense ranks second in the NFL.
4. Pack the defense
San Francisco is allowing just 15.8 points per game at home and hasn't allowed more than 20 points in any contest. But it has been a much different story on the road. Away from Levi's® Stadium, the 49ers are giving up 35.2 points per game and haven't allowed less than 27 points in any road contest.
The run defense has been a big part of that. After allowing Seattle Seahawks running back Thomas Rawls to go for 209 yards at CenturyLink Field, San Francisco held Cardinals running back Chris Johnson to 12 yards on 17 carries the very next week. Finding a way to replicate its performances at home is the biggest point of emphasis for the 49ers defense this weekend.
5. Improving on third down
There's not much to add here. San Francisco is just 2-of-20 on third down over the past two weeks after not converting a single third down against the Cardinals last Sunday. San Francisco's 32-percent conversion rate on third down ranks 30th in the NFL.
Part of improving on third down means winning of first and second down to set up 3rd-and-manageable. That will help give the defense longer breaks on the sideline and hopefully improve the team's efficiency in the red zone.