O'Sullivan threw for 126 yards and a touchdown in his limited time while Smith struggled, and the San Francisco 49ers beat the Chicago Bears 37-30 on Thursday night.
Although the third preseason game usually is a dress rehearsal for the opener, head coach Mike Nolan would not select O'Sullivan as the starter this week. This game might convince him.
After two mediocre outings against Oakland and Green Bay, O'Sullivan couldn't have performed any better against the Bears.
He was 7-of-8 with a perfect 158.3 passer rating in his third preseason start. He led the 49ers (2-1 preseason) to field goals on the first two possessions and a two-play, 77-yard touchdown drive on the third one. He hit Vernon Davis with a 40-yard pass and then scrambled to his right before throwing a 37-yard touchdown pass to Jason Hill to give the Niners a 13-10 lead less than a minute into the second quarter.
That should be enough to beat out Smith, who came on early in the second quarter and was 6-of-17 for 83 yards and a touchdown.
He entered the game after Chicago's Garrett Wolfe fumbled the kickoff following Hill's touchdown pass, giving the Niners possession on the Bears' 16. Moran Norris ran it in from the 1 to make it 20-10.
Smith also led the Niners on a 62-yard drive that ended with a 12-yard touchdown pass to Dominique Zeigler, giving the 49ers a 27-20 lead with 9:28 left in the third quarter. Otherwise, it was a rough night for him.
Shaun Hill replaced him late in the third quarter and was 6-of-7 for 60 yards against the Bears' reserves. But after Thursday's game, the starting job appears to be O'Sullivan's.
Orton was 10-of-17 for 147 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions for Chicago (0-3). He had four passes of 18 yards or more, including a 55-yarder to Mark Bradley – a big improvement over the first two preseason games, when his longest completion was 17 yards.
He and Grossman had split time with the first team in practices and the first two preseason games, with neither gaining a big statistical advantage. Even so, Smith went with Orton. And Grossman did nothing to prove him wrong, going 1-of-4 for 6 yards.
He entered the game with 9:21 left in the third quarter and got booed less than a minute later – nothing unusual there. A frequent target at Soldier Field, he heard the boos when Keith Lewis broke up a pass to Marty Booker.
Bears running back Kevin Jones carried 3 times for 30 yards in his first preseason appearance. He started by breaking off a 34-yard run on the first play from scrimmage of the third quarter, not a bad entrance for a guy who got derailed by season-ending injuries to his foot and knee the past two years.
Coming off surgery to repair a torn right anterior cruciate ligament, he was initially told he would not be ready until October.
Chicago's Danieal Manning delivered two big kickoff returns – a 60-yarder and 75-yarder in the first quarter – to set up a 21-yard touchdown catch by Rashied Davis and a 21-yard field goal by Robbie Gould that made it 10-6.
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