SAN FRANCISCO—They wore red suits and rosy smiles, but these San Francisco 49ers were no gift-giving Santas Monday night.
They were the grinches who stole Christmas from the Bears.
The 49ers rolled to a 24-0 halftime lead en route to a 52-14 thrashing in front of 60,419 fans at Candlestick Park.
The Bears' defense, which entered the game ranked third in the National Football Conference, allowed the most points in the Mike Ditka era as head coach of the Bears.
Steve Young completed 21 of 32 passes for 338 yards and three touchdowns. Young finished the season with a passer rating of 101.8, best in the NFL.
More importantly, the loss cost the Bears (11-5) the NFC Central Division championship. The Detroit Lions (12-4) won their first title since 1983, and they have earned a first-round bye in the playoffs.
The Bears, now a wild-card team, will host the wild-card Dallas Cowboys Sunday at Soldier Field. That means the Bears will be practicing Christmas Day while the rest of the world is opening gifts.
Ditka and his embarrassed players will not soon forget the lobsided drubbing.
"What goes around, comes around. And what you sow, so shall you reap," said Ditka of the apparent attempt of 49ers coach George Seifert to run up the score.
"I don't know how much longer I'll coach, but I have a great memory. I proved that to the gray-haired guy (former 49ers coach Bill Walsh) one time." Asked when he thought the 49ers began to pour it on, Ditka responded:
"Right after the national anthem."
The 49ers (10-6) were eliminated from playoff contention last week, but they delivered an impressive message in front of a national television audience as they won their sixth straight. San Francisco lost six of its first 10 games.
"The 49ers are not in the playoffs because they didn't play well enough to get into the playoffs," said Ditka.
The Bears are now 3-15 in Monday night road games.
The 49ers ran up 486 total yards. The Bears had held Tampa Bay to just 106 total yards in their previous game.
Even without his main man-Joe Montana-throwing him the ball, Pro Bowl receiver Jerry Rice wound up the season with 80 receptions. He entered the game second in the NFC with 75 receptions for 1,227 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Rice added a pair of TD receptions in the first half Monday from Young. Montana missed the entire season with an elbow injury. Young had given way to Steve Bono because of a knee injury. But Bono sprained his knee last week and Young had to come back for the regular-season finale.
Rice slumped slightly in the middle of the season when it came to catching scoring passes, but he managed to eclipse 1,000 yards for the sixth straight season. In five career games against the Bears, Rice has caught 24 passes for 324 yards and seven TDs.
The 49ers marched 76 yards on nine plays during their first possession that culminated with a 2-yard rollout pass from Young to Jamie Williams for a 7-0 lead.