Going into Monday night's game between the Chicago Bears and the San Francisco 49ers, the question was, which team had the better backup quarterback, the Bears with Jason Campbell or the 49ers with Colin Kaepernick?
The answer became apparent quickly, and by the end, Kaepernick not only proved to be the better backup, but played well enough to spark a full-on quarterback controversy between himself and starter Alex Smith. He completed 16 of 23 passes for 243 yards and two TDs without an interception as the 49ers (7-2-1) completely overwhelmed Chicago (7-3) in nearly every facet of the game.
Is Kaepernick the guy moving forward?
"I usually tend to go with the guy who has the hot hand," 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said, "but we have two quarterbacks who have a hot hand."
Harbaugh said there were signs late in the week that Smith wasn't completely over the concussion he suffered last week against Arizona and made the call Sunday night that Kaepernick would start. At that point, Smith's status was still unknown and it wasn't until Sunday morning that Smith was ruled out by team medical director, Dr. Dan Garza.
"I wanted to come out and show what I was capable of and show I could be the starter and that's what I've been trying to prove," Kaepernick said.
Kaepernick's first NFL start couldn't have gone much better. The 49ers scored on their first four possessions to build a 20-0 lead and opened up a 27-0 margin with a five-play, 62-yard touchdown drive to start the second half. All of that came against a defense considered by some -- including President Barack Obama -- as the best in the league.
The question as to which defense is better was answered, too -- at least in the eyes of 49ers LB Aldon Smith.
"I think we showed tonight who it was," said Smith, who finished with 5.5 sacks and took over the NFL lead (15). He finished 1.5 shy of the NFL single-game sack record, which was set by Kansas City's Derrick Thomas in 1990.
When the game turned: It was quickly obvious that this game would be one-sided. Kaepernick had the 49ers looking like one of the league's most dynamic offenses, and with Campbell under center for Chicago, the Bears never got anything rolling. An eight-play, 96-yard touchdown drive that spanned the first and second quarters was the dagger, giving San Francisco a 17-0 lead.
Highlight moments: At one point, Campbell fumbled in the end zone, it was picked up by LG Chilo Rachal, a former 49er. He tried to throw the ball out of the end zone. It was originally ruled intentional grounding but later a safety. It was one of the stranger plays that has occurred in the NFL this year. ... On a 10-yard TD pass to WR Michael Crabtree, Kaepernick went through his progressions, scrambled and threw a perfect ball for the score. It may have appeared simple, but only because Kaepernick made it look that way. ... RB Frank Gore is more than just a runner -- check out this block that he made on Bears ILB Lance Briggs.
• 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick -- 16 of 23 for 243 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs
• 49ers LB Aldon Smith -- 7 tackles, 5.5 sacks
• 49ers TE Vernon Davis -- 6 catches, 83 yards, 1 TD
What they said about Kaepernick:
• 49ers TE Vernon Davis -- “Colin is the man. I think Colin did a great job. I'm very proud of him. I take my hat off to him because he stepped up today. He did some great things out there to help us win this game."
• 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh on what impressed him -- “The accuracy, the poise in the pocket, again we saw the running ability, play-making ability, understanding of the game plan. He just executed really well."
• Bears coach Lovie Smith -- "He had a heck of a night against us, so right now of course we're pretty impressed with him. His first start, to play like that on the national stage, normally it doesn't work like that."
• 49ers WR Kyle Williams -- "I know the talent that he has, we all know the talent that he has and what he is capable of. But him just coming out there and just balling like that, making every throw, it's tough to say that you expected him to come in and make every single throw like he did."
What the 49ers are tweeting:
Shout out to all my teammates for playing a great game tonight and holding it down! Special shout out th to the O line..... Yall balled!!!!— Colin Kaepernick (@Kaepernick7) November 20, 2012
Tonight was fun. Great challenge against a great defense and great players. Complete team win.— Joe Staley (@jstaley74) November 20, 2012
My guy jus made this 4 us at benihana's lol instagr.am/p/SPbGd4hzMJ/— Perrish Cox (@pcox16) November 20, 2012
great team win tonight. kicked ass in every phase.— Bam Davis(@AnthonyDavis76) November 20, 2012
Great way to bounce back. Now the goal is to stay consistent.— jonathan goodwin (@jgoody59) November 20, 2012
Numbers you should know: Aldon Smith finished with the most sacks ever against Chicago (5.5) and the second-most in 49ers history in a single game. Fred Dean set the franchise record with six against New Orleans in 1983.
Going forward: Bears -- Chicago must rebound quickly with an important NFC North game next week at home against Minnesota -- a team that beat San Francisco earlier in the season. After running off a six-game winning streak, Chicago has lost its last two and is tied with Green Bay at 7-3. 49ers -- The main storyline the next week regarding the 49ers will be the quarterback situation, where Kaepernick and Smith appear to be in competition for playing time. Perhaps lost in Kaepernick's performance is that Smith had completed 25 of his last 27 passes over the previous two games for 204 yards, four TDs, no INTs and is the NFL's third-rated passer. The 49ers have road games in New Orleans and St. Louis the next two weeks.