They still have Frank Gore and a tenacious defensive front. That combination was enough to beat a slumping Bears team, and for that the 49ers owe no apologies. This was a must-win game for San Francisco and the 49ers found a way to win it.
There was some thought among 49ers fans that the team should have made a push to acquire Jay Cutler from the Broncos. The way the Bears' passing game played Thursday night -- with Cutler tossing five interceptions, including one on the final play -- validated for at least one night the 49ers' decision to install a more conservative offense.
This was an ugly game all the way around. I would blame the offensive lines as much as I would blame the quarterbacks. The Bears were more aggressive offensively because they had Cutler, but it cost them. The 49ers played it safe for the most part, making them frustrating to watch, but they won the turnover battle and that was the difference.
This game also demonstrated how overrated sacks can be when evaluating 3-4 defensive ends. The 49ers' Justin Smith dominated for stretches, creating problems for Cutler. And when the Bears lost left tackle Orlando Pace late in the game, Smith capitalized. Smith and nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin controlled the line of scrimmage. Manny Lawson also played a strong game.
It was barely enough to beat a mediocre team that gave away the football five times and finished with more penalty yards than rushing yards. The 49ers will have to play better to beat good teams. That they managed to snap a four-game losing streak was all that counted in the short term.
The 49ers, now 4-5, can get to .500 by beating the Packers in Green Bay next week. Their defensive front should be able to dominate that matchup. Aaron Rodgers almost certainly will not throw five interceptions. The 49ers will need more from their passing game and offensive line. That much hasn't changed.