SAN FRANCISCO -- Lovie Smith plugged up the hole that was leaking points, but he didn't have enough fingers to plug the hole that starting leaking interceptions. And the hole that starting leaking penalty yardage.
And so the Bears ended up all wet again. This time they lost 10-6 to the 49ers at Candlestick Park.
The bad news is Jay Cutler went haywire with five interceptions, including two in the red zone. "We saw everything coming," Cutler said. "They didn't have any surprises for us. We just didn't execute."
Cutler now has 17 interceptions -- more than any quarterback in the NFL.
"It's hard to win a football game when you have five turnovers of the football," Smith said.
In the first quarter, Cutler threw his fourth interception of the year inside the 20. On the 1-yard line, he inexplicably threw into a crowd of 49ers. If nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin did not intercept the pass (he did), two other 49ers were in position to do so. The interception ruined what had been an impressive 88-yard drive.
"They had them all covered," Bears offensive coordinator Ron Turner said. "I called a play-action pass and they had it well covered. In that situation, we'd like to throw it away, but I'd like to also give him a better call."
The Bears still had a chance to win in the final seconds. Cutler led the Bears on an impressive drive that began at their own 20. They made it all the way to the San Francisco 12 with eight seconds left. Then Cutler threw for Greg Olsen but was intercepted by safety Michael Lewis in the end zone, giving him five red-zone picks on the season.
"We were trying to make something out of nothing," Olsen said. "He was trying to put the ball in the end zone for somebody knowing it was the last play."
With the exception of Cutler's final throw, Turner said his quarterback was not trying to force passes. "I thought he made good decisions, went where he was supposed to go," Turner said. "I didn't feel he was getting frustrated and trying to make something happen."
A few of the interceptions were not completely Cutler's fault. On one pass, Devin Hester fell down coming out of his break, making it an easy pick for Tarell Brown. On another, his pass was tipped at the line and redirected into the arms of 49ers safety Dashon Goldson.
And on a third, Cutler fielded a shotgun snap from center Olin Kreutz that was in the grass, and then threw for tight end Kellen Davis. But just before the ball got there, safety Mark Roman bumped Davis, knocking him out of the way so he could intercept the pass. Cutler argued with officials, apparently asking for a pass interference call, but it was to no avail.
It was a sloppy, poorly played game, hardly was the kind of showcase the NFL was hoping for on its first Thursday night event, even with the added intrigue of Mike Singletary coaching against his former team.
"They're just another team on the schedule," Singletary said after.
The teams had 19 penalties -- 10 of them were on the Bears. Even when things did go well for the Bears, it seemed as if it just wasn't their night. When Lance Briggs intercepted Smith after he threw while being hit by Israel Idonije, the play was called back because Adewale Ogunleye was offside.
And when Cutler completed a 40-yard pass to Earl Bennett in the fourth quarter, it was negated because Josh Beekman was penalized for being downfield illegally.
The Bears now have lost three of their last four and have a 1-4 record on the road with games against the Eagles and Vikings next on the docket.
"The confidence is down a little bit," Smith said. "It's shaken a bit after you lose the football game. But I think the team also saw how close we were to pulling this game out. ... This one hurts, but we'll come back."
Whether the Bears can come back this season remains to be seen.
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Chicago Bears lose to San Francisco 10-6
Cutler throws 5 picks, Bears lose ugly in prime time
Jay Cutler walks off the field after throwing an interception. (Jose M. Osorio/Tribune)