Orton shines, but defense torched in Bears’ loss

Matt Trowbridge

Up was down and down was up Thursday, as the Bears’ biggest strength struggled, their supposed weakness flourished, and their dangerous special teams scared both sides in San Francisco’s 37-30 preseason victory.

First the special teams: Danieal Manning had two long kick returns, breaking two tackles inside his own 5 on the first one; Israel Idonije blocked a field goal; and Brandon Lloyd blocked a punt.

But Garrett Wolfe fumbled away a kickoff; Manning fumbled on his second return (recovered by Kevin Payne); Devin Hester got away with what should have been a safety on an ill-advised punt return that was ruled a touchback; and Robbie Gould missed a 48-yard field goal.

On offense, newly anointed quarterback Kyle Orton looked like far more than a “game manager,” and the battered and embattled offensive line played well. Orton led Chicago to scoring drives on four of his five possessions, completing 10 of 17 passes for 147 yards and two touchdowns for a 126.3 passer rating.

Orton was particularly good on third down, throwing third-down TD passes of 21 and 7 yards to Rashied Davis. He almost made it three, but Davis dropped a 6-yard, third-down pass in the end zone before a Gould 24-yard field goal that tied the game at 20-all.

Orton’s longest completion in his first two preseason games was 16 yards. He threw four longer than that Thursday, throwing 55 yards to Mark Bradley, 23 and 21 yards to Davis and 18 yards to Greg Olsen.

“Kyle Orton has done a great job managing the offense and he’s making the throws when he has to,” coach Lovie Smith said.

Orton was not sacked in the first half and the Bears ran for 47 yards on 12 carries, including an 11-yard run on fourth-and-1 by rookie Matt Forte from the 13 to setup Chicago’s second touchdown. Kevin Jones then opened the second half with a 34-yard run on his first run of the preseason.

But the 49ers torched Chicago’s first-string defense, which has 10 starters back from the units that finished with top-five NFL rankings in both 2005 and 2006.

The Bears got off the bus being run on as the 49ers scored their first four times against Chicago’s No. 1 defense. San Francisco ran for 11, 28, 4 and 16 yards on its first four plays, with Frank Gore making Brian Urlacher whiff on the 28-yarder. The 49ers stalled at the 11, but kicked a 28-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead.

Bear castoff J.T. O’Sullivan completed four passes in a row for 45 yards to lead a 74-yard drive to the 1 on San Francisco’s next drive.

The Bears’ defense then rose up and held Frank Gore to minus-1 yard on two carries and Dusty Dvoracek sacked O’Sullivan on third down to force another field goal.

O’Sullivan took the 49ers 77 yards on two plays on their next drive, with passes of 40 and 37 yards. O’Sullivan, cut twice by the Bears, completed 7 of 8 passes for 126 yards, one touchdown and a perfect 158.3 passer rating. He left with the 49ers ahead 20-17.

Chicago’s first-team defense gave up 27 points in two-plus quarters.

“We have to play better defense than that,” Smith said.

Assistant sports editor Matt Trowbridge can be reached at: 815-987-1383 or mtrowbridge@rrstar.com