San Francisco coach Mike Singletary didn't exactly hand it to his old team. Instead, Cutler handed the desperate 49ers a much-needed win.
Frank Gore ran for 104 yards and a touchdown, Cutler threw a career-high five interceptions with his last coming in the end zone on the game's final play and San Francisco snapped a four-game losing streak with a 10-6 victory Thursday night.
"I wouldn't say he was trying to force the issue," 49ers safety Mark Roman said of Cutler. "He was trying to make plays at a time when they needed a play to be made. We knew the ball was going to be in the air and we knew if we would be sound in our coverages we'd have opportunities."
Niners quarterback Alex Smith won for the first time in eight starts since Week 2 in 2007, 17-16 against St. Louis -- but it was interesting until the end.
After Singletary elected to punt against his former team on fourth-and-6 from the Chicago 34 with 2:53 left, Cutler drove the Bears to the San Francisco 12 with 13 seconds remaining. After an incompletion on first down, Michael Lewis picked off Cutler's next attempt in the end zone as time expired. That sealed San Francisco's first victory since a 35-0 rout of the Rams back on Oct. 4.
Cutler showed up for his postgame news conference still dressed in his uniform, minus his pads and jersey.
"It was tough. I have to apologize to the defense," he said. "I think the offense as a whole has to apologize. They played a great game and kept us in there even through all the turnovers."
The game was far from a pretty display by two struggling teams still hoping to make the playoffs.
Four days after the 49ers (4-5) committed four turnovers that led to 24 points in a 34-27 loss to Tennessee, they were penalized nine times and Smith threw an interception and was sacked twice.
Cutler took chances away all game from Chicago (4-5), which had 10 penalties and lost its second straight and fourth in five. Patrick Willis wreaked havoc on the Bears with 11 tackles.
"It's nice to be on the other sideline of that, that's for sure," Smith said.
The five interceptions by Cutler are tied for the most by a Bear since Zeke Bratkowski threw seven in a 42-7 loss to Baltimore on Oct. 2, 1960.
Cutler threw four or more interceptions for the second time this season and has an NFL-worst 17 in all. He became the first Bear since Billy Wade in 1962 to have two four-interception games in a season.
"I've played Thursday games before and been successful," Cutler said. "It didn't affect us. We saw everything coming. They didn't have any surprises for us. We just didn't execute."
The Bears received field goals of 50 and 38 yards from Robbie Gould in a game that quickly became about who could keep possession of the ball and make the fewest mistakes.
"We did just enough on the offense to win the game," Singletary said.
It marked the first time Singletary faced his former team as a head coach. The Hall of Fame linebacker spent all 12 of his NFL seasons with the Bears, capturing two Defensive Player of the Year awards, being selected to 10 Pro Bowls and winning the Super Bowl following 1985 season.
Singletary wanted little to do with the hype of him facing the Bears, insisting he couldn't think about anything but coaching the 49ers to victory to save the season.
"They're just another team on the schedule," Singletary said afterward.
San Francisco won its seventh consecutive home game against the Bears, including one in the playoffs. Chicago's last victory at Candlestick Park came during the Bears' 1985 Super Bowl season with Singletary leading the defense. The Bears had won the previous three in the series.
Gore ran for a 14-yard touchdown run one play after Cutler's second interception late in the second quarter as the Niners took a 7-3 halftime lead.
"Everybody has a bad day at work, that's just it," Bears defensive end Alex Brown said of Cutler. "We have to be there to have his back and we do."
Joe Nedney added a 21-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter after missing a 39-yarder wide right on San Francisco's opening drive -- his first miss of the season from inside 40 yards.
Neither quarterback had impressive numbers. Smith was 16 of 23 for 118 yards and Cutler 29 of 52 for 307. Chicago outgained San Francisco 350-216.
Niners tight end Vernon Davis fired up the Bears with his trash talk Tuesday, saying: "I think we can destroy their front." Davis and Bears defensive lineman Adewale Ogunleye got into a pregame jawing session and some of the Chicago captains intentionally avoided shaking Davis' hand before the coin toss.
Davis dealt out his own punishment when he bowled over Bears linebacker Nick Roach, sending him to the sideline briefly on his only catch of the half. Davis committed two false start penalties.
"It was a big relief," Davis said. "It's truly a blessing to be able to get this. We just have to keep winning."
San Francisco punted with 2:53 left to give the Bears a final chance.
- The Bears lost TE Desmond Clark to a neck injury and CB Zackary Bowman to an abdominal injury.
- Niners LB Takeo Spikes left the game in the second quarter with a strained left hamstring and didn't return.