Fright Night in Chicago

To be sure, it was a Halloween night horror show Sunday in the Windy City for the 49ers, who were so bad in their 23-13 loss to the Chicago Bears that it was downright scary.

Or perhaps just downright horrible.

Niners coach Dennis Erickson certainly wouldn't disagree with that assessment, at least on one side of the ball.

"We played so poorly offensively," Erickson lamented as his team returned from its bye week with a truly forgettable offensive performance that produced just 162 net yards - the lowest output by the 49ers in a game since 1978.

For the second time in their past four games, the 49ers bombed before a national Sunday night television audience, wasting a defensive effort that was good enough to win - and also provided San Francisco with its only touchdown - because its offense could do so little right.

In dropping to 1-6 against the previously equally inept Bears (2-5), the 49ers rushed for just 62 yards against the NFL's 29th-ranked rushing defense, averaged just 2.7 yards a carry on the ground and had two turnovers - the second of which Chicago turned into the game-clinching touchdown.

With the 49ers driving for a potential game-tying field goal, Chicago rookie Nathan Vasher returned an interception 71 yards for a touchdown with 3:52 remaining that seemed like a fitting exclamation point for San Francisco's horrid offensive display. It was one of several poor passes thrown by 49ers quarterback Ken Dorsey, who suffered through a painful 16-for-36, 122-yard effort that was even more dismal than those numbers might suggest.

Dorsey was forced to start in place of regular Tim Rattay, who was held out because of a forearm injury. Dorsey threw numerous ugly passes, missed open receivers several times, displayed questionable arm strength and couldn't make plays in a game where all the Niners needed was a few from their offense.

"We can point to the quarterback, or you can point to this or that," Erickson said. "But it's not just one thing. It's everybody. We didn't perform very well at quarterback, receiver, or up front. It was just a combination of different things ... you just can't win."

And then there was the play of San Francisco's defense, which helped put the 49ers ahead twice in the first half and valiantly kept them in the game the rest of the evening until shoddy play by other San Francisco units turned the game in Chicago's favor.

Led by the tremendous play of tackles Bryant Young and Anthony Adams and linebackers Derek Smith and Jamie Winborn, the Niners limited Chicago to just 81 yards in the second half - and 254 overall - and allowed the Bears only one field goal on seven possessions after halftime.

And that field goal was set up by a drive that began at the San Francisco 39-yard line after Andy Lee's poor 34-yard punt was returned 14 yards by Chicago's R.W. McQuarters.

"The goal was to come out here and put our best foot forward and try to get a win," said Young, who had a game-high 10 tackles, two sacks and also recovered a fumble. "We wanted to do our part to try and help this team win. It's definitely frustrating for me. What else can you do?

What else, indeed.

The San Francisco defense sacked Chicago rookie quarterback Craig Krenzel five times and forced him into turnovers that provided 10 of the Niners' 13 points.

The first turnover turned the momentum in San Francisco's favor after Krenzel - who was making his first NFL start - connected with receiver Bernard Berrian for a 49-yard touchdown pass on Chicago's second offensive play to give the Bears a stunning 7-0 lead just two minutes into the game.

After the Chicago defense forced its second consecutive three-and-out on San Francisco's next series - the Niners would have seven three-and-outs during the game on which they failed to pick up a first down - the Bears threatened to take total command by driving to the San Francisco 9-yard line on their next series.

But linebacker Brandon Moore knocked the ball out of Krenzel's hands on a third-down blitz. Krenzel tried to pick up the ball but had it knocked away again by tackle Tony Brown. This time, as the ball went squirting free toward the sideline, safety Dwaine Carpenter picked it up at the 20 and returned it 80 yards for a touchdown to tie the score.

It was San Francisco's best offensive play of the game. And it came on defense.

The Niners' defense didn't stop there. Four plays later, Ronnie Heard recorded the first interception this season by a San Francisco defensive back, setting up a 48-yard field goal by Todd Peterson to give the Niners a 10-7 lead after one quarter. Peterson also connected on a 51-yarder after the Niners assembled a 43-yard drive - their longest of the game - to take a 13-10 lead midway through the second period.

The Bears then scored the game's final 13 points, though their offense was going nowhere. Paul Edinger's 45-yard field goal that tied the game 13-13 at halftime - Edinger also hit from 52 and 27 yards - was set up by Jerry Azumah's 73-yard kickoff return.

"It was a tremendous defensive effort," Erickson said. "The defensive coaches did a nice job and that kept us in the game until the end. Defensively, we fought hard, played our rear ends off and made a lot of plays to give the offense a chance to win."

The offense couldn't take advantage. In fact, it never even came close. San Francisco never got past the Chicago 30-yard line the entire game.

And that, folks, is why the 49ers remain one of the three one-win teams in the NFL today - and why the Bears no longer fall into that category.


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