Brian Urlacher’s one-handed interception was headed to the highlight reel as soon as the Chicago linebacker tumbled to the ground after somehow batting the ball to himself in the host Bears’ 41-10 victory Sunday over the San Francisco 49ers at Soldier Field.
Wearing bright orange jerseys and showing their speed on defense and special teams, the refreshed Bears, after a week off, took a 24-0 first-quarter lead and had a 41-0 cushion by halftime. At 7-0, Chicago is off to its best start since the 1985 season’s Super Bowl champions won their first 12 games.
Urlacher’s acrobatic interception, in which he batted Alex Smith’s pass and caught it as he was being knocked down by the 49ers’ Justin Smiley, was one of four turnovers the Bears generated in the first half. All four led to touchdowns. Urlacher’s play came on the heels of a national sports magazine survey of NFL players in which he was rated the second-most overrated player to Terrell Owens.
Asked whether he had any reaction to the poll, Urlacher, last year’s NFL defensive player of the year, said: “No, I don’t. Watch the film. I don’t know what people are saying. All I can do is go out there and play hard and try to help my team win.”
Bears quarterback Rex Grossman did his part too.
“I’m just glad I went out and did what the coaches asked me to do, respond from having a poor game and learn from some of the mistakes I made and continue to get better,” said Grossman, who threw three touchdown passes.
Grossman rebounded from a four-interception, two-fumble performance in the team’s previous game, a 24-23 victory on Oct. 16 at Arizona. Against the 49ers, he completed 23 of 29 passes for 252 yards. The 24 first-quarter points set a franchise record for the opening period, and the 41 in the first half tied a mark set in 1948 against Washington.
“At halftime you just think to yourself, ‘How did it get out of control so fast?’ ” said 49ers defensive lineman Bryant Young. “It happened so fast we were just trying to find a way to get it resolved.... We have to give ourselves a chance.”
San Francisco, now 2-5, averted a shutout in the fourth quarter on a 23-yard field goal by Joe Nedney and a 16-yard touchdown pass from Smith to Antonio Bryant.
Six plays after Urlacher’s interception, Grossman’s five-yard touchdown pass to Muhsin Muhammad made it 17-0.
Smith was stripped of the ball in the 49ers’ next series, and Tommie Harris picked it up and ran to San Francisco’s 13-yard line. That set up a one-yard touchdown by Cedric Benson and a 24-0 lead with a minute to go in the opening quarter.