49ers vs. Bears: Thumbs up and thumbs down

Which way does the thumb turn for the 49ers after their 10-6 victory over the Chicago Bears, including a five-pick day for the defense, a lackluster aerial attack, a heads-up Josh Morgan, RB Frank Gore, TE Vernon Davis, K Joe Nedney, a season-high in penalty yards, weak power rushing, LBs Matt Wilhelm and Patrick Willis, trouble covering TEs, savoring for Singletary and much more? Check inside.

Thumbs up: NFL teams don't lose games in which their defense records five interceptions. That Thursday's outcome was so close was a testament to what the five-pick effort from their defense meant to the 49ers. Quite simply, San Francisco wouldn't have ended its four-game losing streak without them, and it somehow seemed an appropriate exclamation point to a fine defensive effort that the fifth pick came in the end zone on the final play of the game.

Thumbs down: The Chicago secondary had been shredded in two of its previous three games, but the 49ers didn't do much to exploit the Bears through the air despite having some favorable matchups. The 49ers played it close to the vest in the second half offensively with a slim lead, which is exactly how they ended up losing a few close games at the end earlier this season.

Thumbs up: You've gotta love that old pickoff artist Aubrayo Franklin who made the defensive play that turned it around for the 49ers in the second quarter and got the Pick-fest going for his team. With the Bears facing third and goal from the San Francisco 1-yard line, Franklin rolled down the line of scrimmage instead of rushing upfield, reading the eyes of Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler, and he stepped right into the passing lanes as Cutler threw into the end zone, recording the first interception of his career and leaving Chicago with no points to show for an 18-play, 88-yard drive during which the Bears appeared to be gaining the upper hand.

Thumbs up: To the heads up play of wideout Josh Morgan, who recovered a Frank Gore fumble at the Chicago 6-yard line that allowed the 49ers to tack on a field goal that extended a one-point lead to four early in the fourth quarter. Gore took a direct snap on third-and-5 and rumbled 25 yards down the right sideline, only to have the ball knocked away from him as he was being taken to the ground. There were at least five Chicago defenders around the ball, but Morgan adroitly followed the play and dove for the loose ball as soon as it hit the turf. And when the pile of bodies finally was uncovered, Morgan was at the bottom of it with the football in his hands.

Thumbs up: Gore hates to put the football on the ground, but give it up for Frank after another fine game of offensive production. Gore was the best thing the 49ers had going on offense Thursday, recording the 17th 100-yard game of his career and helping put away the Bears at the end of the game while finishing with 104 yards on 25 carries. Gore was responsible for 125 yards – or 58 percent – of San Francisco's 216 offensive yards. He also scored on a 14-yard burst through the middle of Chicago's defense that showed Gore at his best and gave him a touchdown in three consecutive games.

Thumbs up: Let's give it up for Vernon Davis, who didn't back down to the Bears before the game or during the opening coin toss, making his way out to midfield and offering to shake hands with all the Chicago captains. Vernon got the cold shoulder from each one of those captains, who blew him off as he attempted to shake hands. Maybe Vernon – who earlier during pre-game did a little jawing with some of the Bears he had ripped earlier in the week – deserved some of that treatment for his incendiary comments, but he was the gracious one while it was the Bears who acted small.

Thumbs down: The referees blew it twice to take a fine catch away from Michael Crabtree on San Francisco's first offensive play. Quarterback Alex Smith threw a nice touch pass down the right sideline on first down, and Crabtree reached up with his right hand and then secured it in the air with his left above Bears cornerback Charles Tillman. Then he came down on the sideline with both feet in bounds for a wonderful catch and apparent long gain to jump-start the 49ers' offense. But officials ruled he didn't have control of the ball as he hit the ground, and after Niners coach Mike Singletary challenged the ruling – and replays seemed to indicate it indeed was a good catch – officials upheld their original decision, even though they got a second chance to get it right.

Thumbs up: Vernon Davis said earlier this week that the Niners "can destroy (Chicago's) front," and he backed that up by destroying Chicago linebacker Nick Roach on San Francisco's first offensive series. Davis ran a short crossing pattern from right to left and Roach was in position to blow up Davis as the ball arrived. Roach got in a good first initial lick, but Davis absorbed the contact and then ran over Roach, leaving the linebacker in his wake as he churned for more yardage. Roach stayed down on the ground with an injury after the contact.

Thumbs down: Joe Nedney sure knew how to take some air out of San Francisco's early momentum by missing a 39-yard field goal after the 49ers' first drive bogged down deep in Chicago territory. The 49ers lead the NFL in red-zone offense, but they need to come away with certain points when their kicker attempts a field goal within 40 yards. It was Nedney's first miss from within 43 yards this season. "Nedney has to make that kick, an he knows that," Niners coach Mike Singletary said Friday morning.

Thumbs down: You've got to break down to tackle in the NFL, but Shawntae Spencer put his head down instead on a screen pass with the Bears facing second-and-long late in the second quarter. That allowed Matt Forte to juke Spencer and break away to the outside on a play during which Spencer had outside containment. With the Bears backed up deep in San Francisco territory, Forte was able to break down the sideline and wasn't stopped until gaining 37 yards to get the Bears out to midfield.

Thumbs up: Fortunately for the 49ers, on the very next play after Forte's big gain, Devin Hester slipped on a deep sideline route and Tarell Brown was there to make his first interception of the season. Brown returned the pick 51 yards to set up the game's only touchdown on the next play. It was a fine return, but even better coverage by Brown, who turned his hips and didn't bite on Hester's go move before slipping, putting himself in perfect position to step up and make the big play.

Thumbs up: Brown was one of four San Francisco defensive backs to record an interception - not bad, considering San Francisco defensive backs had just four total interceptions to show for the team's first eight games. Brown was joined by safeties Mark Roman, Dashon Goldson and Michael Lewis, who recorded his pick in the end zone on the final play of the game. Roman's interception was his first since 2006.

Thumbs down: The 49ers committed a season-high 77 yards in penalties, and several of them were of the foolish variety that helped keep the Bears in the game. "That just can't happen. It won't happen," said an angry Singletary.

Thumbs up: Linebacker Ahmad Brooks continues to make his presence felt by making a big play here and there in a reserve role. He put nice pressure in the face of Cutler on a passing play late in the second quarter and knocked the pass right back at Cutler when the QB attempted to get rid of it.

Thumbs down: Tommie Harris made guard David Baas look bad a few times, and let's just say that's not the first time that has happened to Baas this season.

Thumbs up: Goldson is gradually developing into the kind of ballhawk the 49ers need at free safety, and he was in good position and made a nice play to reach back across his body to make a third-quarter interception that gave the 49ers the ball near midfield.

Thumbs down: It's pretty weak when a so-called power rushing team can't pick up a first down on fourth-and-inches. The 49ers faced that situation at the Chicago 45-yard line early in the third quarter, but their line got no drive off the ball and quarterback Alex Smith was stoned for no gain, giving the ball and field position back to the Bears.

Thumbs up: With Takeo Spikes going out with a hamstring strain, recent veteran pickup Matt Wilhelm stepped in and did a fine job next to Patrick Willis in the middle of San Francisco's defense, playing well against the run on base downs and contributing five tackles, the same number as the man he replaced.

Thumbs down: The 49ers have got to get their punt return situation in order. Brandon Jones twice allowed punts to drop in front of him and roll deep into San Francisco territory, and he managed just four yards on the one kick he did return, which at least is better than the three yards he lost on three returns last week.

Thumbs down: Facing fourth down at the Chicago 34-yard line with 2:53 remaining, the 49ers opted to send out punter Andy Lee, which obviously was the most conservative thing they could have possibly done. Naturally, Lee sailed his punt into the end zone for a net of 14 yards on the play, and the Bears began their final drive at the 20. The 49ers didn't want to chance a long field-goal attempt by Nedney, which would give the ball to Chicago around the 40-yard line should he miss, but really now. Lee is a fantastic punter, but he needs to come through with the pooch in that sort of situation.

Thumbs up: It must be pointed out yet once again what a great linebacker Patrick Willis is, and how important he is to what the 49ers do on defense. Willis finished with a team-high 11 tackles - eight in the first half – and he once again was one of the biggest individual reasons the 49ers were able to pull out a close victory.

Thumbs up: With Willis leading the charge, San Francisco's run defense couldn't have been much better. Reverting to their old ways after a letdown last week against Chris Johnson and the Tennessee Titans, the 49ers limited the Bears to just 43 yards rushing on 21 carries, a 2.0 average.

Thumbs down: The 49ers again struggled with covering capable tight ends. Rookie Greg Olsen gave them fits all evening, finishing with seven receptions for 75 yards. After what the likes of Houston's Owen Daniels and Indianapolis' Dallas Clark have done to the Niners in recent weeks, this is an area in which they should be getting better or at least giving more attention.

Thumbs up: It was ugly and sometimes disturbing to watch, but the 49ers found a way to end their four-game losing streak against a fringe contender that was as desperate for a victory as they were. It gave Singletary a hard-fought victory to savor against the team he played for as a Hall of Fame linebacker, and it puts the 49ers back on course for the decisive stretch of season that awaits them.

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