Bears Roar Early, Hang On Late

The Bears were nothing short of dominant on both sides of the ball in the first half against the 49ers, but two dubious plays on offense are sure to dominate the Sunday headlines. Rex Grossman fumbled yet another snap from center, and then he threw an interception that was returned 52 yards for a touchdown. On the bright side, Chicago outgained San Francisco 279-44 by halftime.

CHICAGO (AP) – Rex Grossman showed his good and bad sides.

He fumbled another snap and had an interception returned 52 yards for a touchdown. But along with the mistakes came the moments of brilliance that have teased the Chicago Bears the past few seasons.

Grossman played the first half and passed for 211 yards and two touchdowns, and the defending NFC champions held off the San Francisco 49ers 31-28 in a preseason game on Saturday night.

Grossman led the Bears to a touchdown on the game's opening drive, a field goal on their second possession, and touchdowns on the third and fourth series. He completed 13 of 20 passes yet provided more fodder for his critics.

On the field-goal drive, Grossman fumbled a snap after botching two exchanges with center Olin Kreutz on Monday night at Indianapolis, and Walt Harris returned an interception 52 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter.

Although he shows Pro-Bowl skills at times, Grossman can't seem to eliminate the mistakes. But the Bears (3-0) continue to do enough to win.

A defense missing Pro Bowl defensive tackle Tommie Harris, still rehabilitating from a season-ending hamstring injury, did its part. The starters played into the third quarter, and the 49ers finished with just 206 total yards.

San Francisco's Alex Smith was 4-of-8 for 47 yards before giving way to Trent Dilfer in the third, after two sharp performances in the preseason.

Running backs Michael Robinson and Maurice Hicks, who are sharing the rushing load while Frank Gore recovers from a broken hand, were non-factors. Robinson ran for 25 yards, while Hicks had 19.

 TE Desmond Clark (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

It was not a good showing for a 49ers team that has playoff aspirations after going 7-9 last season.

San Francisco (1-2) could not contain Bernard Berrian, who caught three passes for 79 yards and a touchdown, but the Bears got a scare in the first quarter when wide receiver and return specialist Devin Hester left with a shoulder injury.

Also, the Bears' running game remained in neutral after gaining 2.4 yards per carry in the first two preseason games. Cedric Benson carried 19 times for 33 yards, and Adrian Peterson ran for 27. Both scored touchdowns.

Exactly one year earlier against Arizona, fans at Soldier Field serenaded backup quarterback Brian Griese with a "Griese! Griese!" chant and booed Grossman. And the debate between fans over who should start picked up steam after Monday's game.

Grossman handled the first snap flawlessly, then unleashed a pass that – although underthrown – had enough on it to reach an open Berrian along the left side for a 45-yard gain. That put the ball on the San Francisco 15 and set up a 2-yard scoring run by Benson.

Hester set up the second drive with 29-yard punt return, but then came the groans.

Hester, starting at wide receiver with Muhsin Muhammad inactive, was injured trying to block. He stayed down for a few minutes, then jogged to the sideline.

Grossman immediately connected with Desmond Clark for a 30-yarder that put the ball on the 19, but the cheers turned to jeers two plays later when the quarterback fumbled the snap. He recovered, and Robbie Gould ultimately hit a 37-yard field goal, though the ball bounced in off the right upright for a 10-0 lead.

The lead was 17-0 after Grossman hit Berrian with a 25-yard completion on the first play of the second quarter, and it was 24-7 midway through after he hit Desmond Clark with a 2-yard strike in the back of the end zone. Harris picked off a screen at the 49ers' 48 with about 3:15 left in the quarter and ran it all the way back to cut the lead to 24-13.


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