SAN FRANCISCO—The Bears hailed the 49ers as the best and flailed them like all the rest Sunday. By a score of 26-10, they staked their latest legitimate claim to the top of the National Football League.
``It`s only for a week, but we`re pretty good right now,`` said coach Mike Ditka, who had praised the world champion 49ers while plotting their burial.
Not since 1942 has a Bears` team been 6-0. They are a prime-time act, cantankerous and convincing, carrying the memories of elephants and an attitude to match.
They even unveiled their elephant backfield in the last seconds, letting 325-pound defensive tackle William Perry play fullback and carry the ball on the final two plays of the game.
``I just wanted to see if he could run with it,`` said Ditka.
``I was looking for the end zone,`` said Perry. ``When the 49ers saw that I was the ballcarrier, their eyes got real big.``
It was a 325-pound love letter to the 49ers and coach Bill Walsh, who had used 265-pound guard Guy McIntyre as a blocking back for a play or two in last January`s title game.
From the national anthem to killing the clock, Ditka refuses to get upstaged. Against the Minnesota Vikings in game three, Ditka ordered his troops to slap their hands over their hearts after Minnesota coach Bud Grant had extolled the manners of the Vikings during ``The Star-Spangled Banner.``
Now the Bears are three games up on their three closest NFC Central Division rivals, whom they play during the next four weeks.
``Today was our day,`` said Ditka. ``A great win for us. We beat a heckuva football team. We challenged them with our offensive and defensive lines. That`s as good as we can play. The lines got the game balls.``
Jim McMahon passed to a quick 16-0 lead and the defense squeezed the 49ers dry, holding them to 45 yards and only 3 first downs in the second half. To make certain they wouldn`t stir in the final quarter, Walter Payton ran them down.
The 49ers had closed to 16-10 by halftime and were looking to make a move in the third quarter when the Bears ended it with a classic touchdown drive in the final quarter that was vintage Payton.
``Walter had fire in his eyes in the huddle,`` said flanker Ken Margerum.
``Everybody knows we can count on Walter,`` said McMahon. ``He`s still a big part of this offense.``
Kevin Butler`s fourth field goal made it 19-10 with 13:09 left in the game. He hit from 34, 38, 27, and 29 yards, two of them coming after 49er fumbles.
``I thought the kicking game would play a big role because you just don`t pull out on the 49ers,`` said Butler.
With 11:14 to play and plenty of time for 49er quarterback Joe Montana to come alive, Payton ran the ball 9 times for 52 yards in a 13-play, 66-yard touchdown drive that consumed 7:33. When he skirted left end for the final 17 yards and his second touchdown of the day, the 49ers had only 3:41 left.
All they could do was lick the wounds of a puzzling 3-3 start after their 15-1 Super Bowl season.