Niners defensive tackle DeForest Buckner is having a career season with 11 sacks and is coming off a standout performance against the Seahawks: 11 tackles, four tackles for loss, two sacks and three quarterback hits. The 6-7, 300-pound Buckner has 6½ sacks and nine tackles for loss in his last six games.
Buckner figures to be pretty motivated Sunday after getting snubbed for the Pro Bowl. He’s an alternate, behind the Rams’ Aaron Donald, the Eagles’ Fletcher Cox and the Bears’ Akiem Hicks. Only Donald (16½) has more sacks than Buckner.
Bears rookie left guard James Daniels figures to be tested most by Buckner. But Buckner moves around, so left tackle Charles Leno, center Cody Whitehair and right guard Bryan Witzmann will be put to the test, too.
The 49ers are on a historic pace for the fewest takeaways in NFL history. They have just two interceptions and five takeaways for the season — none in the last six games and just two in the last 10 games. They also are last in the league in turnover-differential (minus-22). But they have won three games, including the last two, without getting a takeaway.
The Bears’ defense is at the other end of the spectrum. The Bears lead the NFL with 26 interceptions and 35 takeaways and they also lead in turnover differential (plus-13).
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Safety Deon Bush is expected to play for injured starter Eddie Jackson, who suffered a sprained ankle returning an interception against the Packers last week. Bush, a hard-hitting fourth-round draft pick from Miami in 2016, mostly has played on special teams in his three seasons with the Bears.
“He’s been waiting for this opportunity,” defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said. “One thing about Deon, he works hard. Football’s important to him. He wants to do well. I’m anxious to see him play.”
Bush did not distinguish himself in six starts as a rookie in 2016. But he’s more experienced in Fangio’s defense and is surrounded by better and more experienced players in this defense. Like Sherrick McManis at nickel, he has a better chance to succeed.
The Bears are coming off an emotional victory against the Packers that clinched the franchise’s first NFC North title and playoff berth since 2010. They still have a chance at the No. 2 or even No. 1 seed by winning out but could be due for a letdown. The 49ers (4-10) are 4-3 at home, beating the Broncos and Seahawks in their last two games.
“I think what separates the great teams from the good teams is they know how to focus each week and not make any game more significant than the other,” coach Matt Nagy said. “That’s where we’re at right now.”