Soldier Field did not need a scoreboard Sunday. It needed an abacus.
Points were coming so fast at times in the first half that it appeared even some of the tailgaters outside were completing passes into the San Francisco 49ers' end zone. The Bears set a franchise record with 24 points in the first quarter, tied the 1948 mark of 41 points for a half and rinsed away the stain left from their showing against the Arizona Cardinals two weeks ago.
The Bears were back in business, winning by more than 25 points for the fifth time in seven games.
They also finally demonstrated they can win with time on their hands, something that could prove helpful if they again get home-field advantage for a playoff game. Sunday was the Bears' first win after an open date under coach Lovie Smith. They lost games after a week off in 2004 and 2005, in addition to their playoff loss to Carolina last January.
With the 49ers making five turnovers, four leading to scores, San Francisco quarterback Alex Smith observed, "I think we made it really easy on them."
This one was decided almost before the coin came down. The Bears led 10-0 nearly before their defense even needed to buckle a chin strap.
Offensive coordinator Ron Turner immediately addressed any question about the running game, calling more runs (three) in the first five plays than he had in the entire first quarter against Arizona (two). Thomas Jones responded with 40 yards on his first six carries plus 7 more on a swing pass from Rex Grossman. The offense drove 41 yards in the game's first five plays before stalling at the San Francisco 25. Robbie Gould then converted from 43 yards, his ninth field goal in nine tries from 40 yards or beyond.
Adrian Peterson forced a fumble on the ensuing kickoff, and Cameron Worrell recovered at the San Francisco 15. Three plays later, Jones was stacked up at the 7, stutter-stepped and burst around an undefended right side for a TD and a 10-0 lead. The assault continued when Brian Urlacher blitzed, was picked up by guard Justin Smiley and still jumped to deflect Alex Smith's pass and fight off Smiley to make a highlight-film interception at the San Francisco 41. Grossman threw to Bernard Berrian for 13 yards and Desmond Clark for 17 as the Bears moved to the San Francisco 5. Muhsin Muhammad then cut into the center of the end zone and took a Grossman pass off the back of defender Mark Roman for a 17-0 edge.
Urlacher then flushed Smith out of the pocket, where Lance Briggs hit him, forcing a fumble. The ball bounced at the 30, and Tommie Harris grabbed it and sprinted to the 49ers' 13. A 12-yard throw to Clark and a 1-yard dive by Cedric Benson and the Bears had a 24-0 lead.
What went right: Almost everything. Jones had more rushing yards (45) in the quarter than he did in the entire Arizona game. The defense allowed Smith two completions for a net zero yards and turned two of his pass plays into turnoversa fumble and an interception.
What went wrong: The defense allowed a first down. But just one. Brad Maynard had to punt. But just once.
Quote: "We were just wondering how it got out of control that fast." San Francisco defensive lineman Bryant Young
Changing sides on the field did little to change the 49ers' fortunes against the Bears.
A punt to the Bears' 34 was returned 42 yards by Devin Hester to give the Bears the ball at the San Francisco 24. A third-down conversion on a 12-yard pass to Clark put the Bears inside the red zone. Four plays later, Grossman executed a precision ball fake that sucked in the San Francisco defense and left Clark alone in the end zone for a TD and a 31-0 lead.
Gould ran his string of consecutive field goals for the season to 20 with a 36-yarder late in the quarter. The 49ers finally moved into the Bears' end of the field, but a fourth-down completion to Antonio Bryant was jarred loose by hits from Charles Tillman and Todd Johnson and recovered by Ricky Manning Jr. at the Bears' 30. Soon after, Grossman found Clark working free down the middle, and Clark made it 41-0 with a 26-yard catch, his second TD reception of the game.
What went right: Virtually every pass play the Bears called. Grossman completed 9 of 11 in each quarter, finishing the half with 202 yards, a passer rating of 144.5 and three touchdowns.
What went wrong: The Bears were guilty of a penalty. Just one. For 5 yards.
Quote: "It was kind of funny, honestly. What do you do? You say there's two halves, but 41-0 at halftime, you just have to work on fundamentals again or something, I don't know. That's pretty amazing." Defensive end Adewale Ogunleye on what a 41-point lead felt like.
Forty-one points in two quarters and then nothing. Well, almost nothing. The Bears may have set a franchise record for longest drive without a score when they took over at their 11 and ran off nine minutes on a drive to the San Francisco 2.
The drive picked up six first downs but fizzled up close as the Bears elected to try punching in on fourth down instead of adding to the point total with a chip-shot field goal.
What went right: The Bears, who allowed zero passing yards in the first quarter, allowed zero rushing yards in this quarter, on four 49ers runs.
What went wrong: The offense was stopped on three plays from the San Francisco 2 after a Jones first-down run. Two incompletions and Jones stopped a yard short of the end zone. What's wrong with the Bears' red-zone offense? (This is a joke).
Quote: "It's two halves. The second half we treat just like that first half. For the second half, we talk about it being 0-0, and you have to play two halves of football." Lovie Smith after the Bears failed to generate any points after halftime.
The shutout disappeared with a less-than-spectacular second half, because of the Bears relaxing, the Bears playing subs or the 49ers shaking off their daze.
The 49ers controlled the ball for nine plays on the first drive of the third quarter and then for nine and seven plays on their next two possessions.
Joe Nedney converted a 23-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter after the 49ers drove from their 1-yard line to the Bears' 5. One possession later they went from their 37 to the Bears' 16 in six plays before Smith threw 16 yards to Bryant for a touchdown to make the final score 41-10.
Rookie sack man Mark Anderson took down Smith for an 8-yard loss on San Francisco's final possession, forcing a fumble that Israel Idonije recovered at the 49ers' 9-yard line. Brian Griese ran out the clock.
What went right: The Bears got out of the game with no apparent major injuries and took the ball away from the 49ers five times in the game.
What went wrong: The 49ers moved the ball more than the Bears would have liked, piling up 192 of their 262 total yards on three possessions.
Quote: "We gave up 10 points in the second half. We've got to do better in the second half. It's hard when you're up 41-0 and you know the game is pretty much over, but if you want the goose egg, you have to go get it." Defensive end Alex Brown