By Ann Killion
November 13, 2009

What we learned from the 49ers' 10-6 victory over the Bears at Candlestick Park ...

1. The outcome of the game was less about what the 49ers did to win than what the Bears did to lose it. Sure, the 49ers ended their four-game skid and got their first victory since Oct. 4. They also trail the Cardinals by only 1½ games in the NFC West, putting them in decent position to steal the division title.

But Thursday's game was a battle of ineptitude. And the 49ers' victory came gift-wrapped and hand-delivered from Bears quarterback Jay Cutler. Cutler threw five interceptions -- including one on the last play of the game. Instead of it becoming the game-winning touchdown, Cutler's final pass landed in the hands of safety Michael Lewis, preserving San Francisco's win.

The Bears outgained the 49ers (350-216) and put together some good drives. But time and time again, Cutler killed his team with an interception. The 49ers continue to flounder on offense. A more competent offensive outfit would have turned Cutler's gifts into a bonanza -- not a mere touchdown and field goal.

But Alex Smith -- who earned his first victory as a starter since Sept. 16, 2007 -- kept his soul-crushing mistakes to a minimum, throwing just one interception.

"We did just enough on offense to win the game," coach Mike Singletary said. "The one thing we did do well toward the end of the game was put a drive together that took time off the clock."

All season long, Singletary has promised that his team is a playoff team. A month ago, when the 49ers were 3-1, everyone could believe in the force of his convictions. But four humbling losses, a change at quarterback, an identity crisis at quarterback and a suddenly porous defense changed the minds of all but the true believers.

This week, Singletary promised the prime-time audience would see his young team come of age.

"I think we took a step," Singletary said.

With a big push forward from Cutler.

2. It's bad news when the quarterback opens his post-game remarks by apologizing to the defense. But that's what Cutler did. Cutler became the league leader in interceptions on Thursday night -- and that was just in the first half. His five interceptions give him 17 for the season, putting him well ahead of Jake Delhomme, who has 13.

"I have to apologize to the defense," Cutler said minutes after the game ended. "The offense, as a whole, has to apologize."

Well, he was right at least about the first part. But Bears linebacker Lance Briggs said that Cutler's mea culpa wasn't necessary.

"No apologies needed," Briggs said. "Next week, Jay's going to throw the winning touchdown."

However, Cutler's interceptions are becoming a huge issue. When he was traded to the Bears last April, Cutler was supposed to be the quarterback the Bears had been searching for. Denver was supposed to have received the short end of the deal.

But Kyle Orton's Broncos are 6-2 and appear to be headed for the playoffs. Cutler's debut was a four-interception game against Green Bay. Eight games later, the Bears are 4-5, in third place in the NFC North and are suffering a crisis of confidence. And Cutler is at the center of it.

"I think it knocks you back a few steps when you throw that many interceptions," said coach Lovie Smith. "Yes it hurts you ... Jay is trying to make a play on every one but you just have to use a little bit better judgment on some of them, especially the ones in the red zone. Just can't have it."

3. Vernon Davis needs to learn about this cool thing called the Internet. The 49ers' flamboyant tight end made news, even during a short week, by giving the Bears some bulletin board material.

"I think we can destroy their front,'' Davis said on Tuesday, speaking of the Bears defense. "The guys up front, I think we can destroy them. I don't see anything spectacular about their front line."

Davis praised defensive end Adewale Ogunleye: "I like Ogunleye. I like the way he's playing up front. He's about the only player I like on their defensive line. I think he's doing a good job."

Before the game, he and Ogunleye jawed at each other on the field.

"I was just trying to get my team fired up," Davis said Thursday.

Davis' words may have worked to take himself out of the game. Tied for the league lead in touchdown receptions, Davis didn't get in the end zone and only had three receptions (for 16 yards). His most notable accomplishments were a couple of false start penalties that hurt the 49er drives.

But Davis was unapologetic for giving the Bears a reason to want to shut him down.

"I was getting my team focused and motivated and ready to go," he said. "I think it worked.

"I didn't think my comments would make it all across the world."

4. There are a lot of No. 50 Bears jerseys hiding in the back of America's closets. And a lot of them were pulled out on Thursday night. Candlestick Park was swarming with fans in Singletary jerseys, which made it unclear whether they were rooting for the Bears or the 49ers -- or simply the man.

While Singletary did a good job of playing down any emotions he might have had in facing his former team for the first time as a head coach, Bears fans don't have quite as easy a time seeing their legendary linebacker roaming the sideline for another NFC team.

"It's such a conflagration between the immovable force and the unstoppable object that I fear for the earth. It could spin off its axis," actor George Wendt told the San Jose Mercury News. Wendt, a Chicago native, famously played a fan of Da Bears on Saturday Night Live.

"This could be the end of time," he added. "The only thing more threatening to the universe, as we know it, would be the Cubs winning the pennant."

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