Unbearable start to season
Walking slowly off the field Sunday at 3Com Park after the Bears' humbling 49-7 loss to the 49ers, Brian Urlacher seldom looked up and never removed his helmet.

His team didn't show up during the game, and Urlacher felt ashamed to show his face after it.

"I'm embarrassed right now," Urlacher said, summing up the prevailing feeling in the locker room. "It's the worst game we've had since I've been here."

Urlacher has been around for only four seasons, but he spoke for the eras encompassing Dick Butkus, Mike Singletary and Bill George. The margin of defeat was the worst in a Bears season opener and the fourth worst in franchise history.

An inspired, aggressive 49ers defense limited the Bears to 127 total yards, created five turnovers and sacked new quarterback Kordell Stewart five times. Stewart, in one of the worst showings of his nine-year NFL career, completed just 14-of-34 passes for 95 yards and three interceptions. A 3-yard TD pass to tight end Desmond Clark was hardly enough to qualify as a silver lining on a day clouded with concern.

"After a defeat like this, I don't feel good about anything," coach Dick Jauron said. "They deserve the credit and we deserve the criticism."

Critics will attack a retooled Bears offense under Stewart that looked like it still had plenty of work to do under the hood, and the Bears' special teams that were anything but special. Stewart's shaky performance, in particular, invited the type of scrutiny that he received last season in Pittsburgh before being benched in favor of Tommy Maddox.

Already, offensive coordinator John Shoop was asked Sunday if he had considered pulling Stewart in favor of Chris Chandler or Rex Grossman when things went bad. Shoop answered a resounding, "No."

For his part, Stewart offered no excuses but had no explanation either beyond the obvious.

"We got our [butts] whupped," he said. "I didn't play well at all and turned the ball over three times and couldn't find the rhythm. Whether you're Santa Claus or Jesus or whatever else, you just can't make those mistakes."

On defense, the Bears literally made 49ers quarterback Jeff Garcia look like Johnny Unitas, allowing the most points in a half—33 in the first—since the Baltimore Colts hung 34 on the Bears on Oct. 4, 1958.

"I don't know what happened," Urlacher said. "Everything went bad for us."

Things bottomed out in a hurry for the Bears as the 49ers scored 23 points in a span of 7 minutes 21 seconds in the second quarter.

The descent began on the Bears' scoring drive in the second quarter, one play before Stewart found Clark on a rollout right for the day's only touchdown. That was when veteran right guard Chris Villarrial hobbled off the field with a sprained right knee and was replaced by Josh Warner, a practice-squad player last season seeing his first NFL experience Sunday.

Villarrial didn't return, and neither did any momentum the Bears gained by getting as close as 10-7.

After the defense forced the 49ers to punt on the next series, the trouble began. With 7:34 left in the half, rookie Bobby Wade broke a cardinal rule for return men and caught Bill LaFleur's punt inside the 10-yard line at the 7. Cornerback Jimmy Williams ran through Dez White's weak attempt at a block and forced Wade to fumble. Williams recovered at the 6 and, three plays later, Garcia scrambled in from 3 yards out to make it 17-7.

White explained afterward that he was surprised Wade caught the ball inside the 10 and that may have affected how hard he tried to block Williams.

"But it's still my guy to block," White said. "[Wade] is an aggressive returner, and he's going to try to make some plays."

Wade claimed to know where he was on the field.