SAN FRANCISCO -- Quarterback Colin Kaepernick had a memorable first NFL start on Monday night. The only question is whether it will lead to more in the immediate future.Kaepernick played about as well as possible as he stepped in for Alex Smith, who was declared inactive with a concussion. And the 49ers earned a key NFC victory with a 32-7 victory over the Chicago Bears in front of a national television audience.Kaepernick's final numbers: 16-for-23, 243 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions, 12 rushing yards.
With Kaepernick starring on offense and outside linebacker Aldon Smith posting a career night on defense, it made for a relatively stress-free night for Jim Harbaugh. The 49ers' second-year coach missed one day of practice last week to undergo a cardiovert to correct an irregular heartbeat. He was back at work the next day without any restrictions.Prior to the game, Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young, now an analyst on ESPN, said he believed Kaepernick should take a conservative approach against the Bears."Don't throw anything that you're not sure of," Young said on the sideline at Candlestick Park. "This is not the night to try new things against these guys. But it is the night to use your legs, run for first downs, maybe a touchdown, key conversions, trust your legs more than your arm tonight just to get things going."Kaepernick, a second-year pro, seemed sure of just about everything. He got off to a hot start, as he completed 12 of 15 attempts for 184 yards and one touchdown in the first half as they rolled to a 20-0 lead.After an impressive first half, Kaepernick opened the third quarter with another flurry of impressive plays:--Kaepernick got to the line of scrimmage on the 49ers' first play of the second half and changed the play. He handed off to Frank Gore over the left side for an 11-yard gain.--Kaepernick threw to Mario Manningham on such a way on a short inside route from the left side, that Manningham could pivot toward the sideline to pick up 37 yards.--On third-and-6, Kaepernick looked right, looked back right, slid to his left and hit Michael Crabtree on a 10-yard touchdown pass to give the 49ers a 27-0 lead.Meanwhile, the Bears started their own backup quarterback. And it looked that way.Veteran Jason Campbell completed just 4 of 8 attempts for 21 yards and one interception in the first half in place of Jay Cutler, also out with a concussion.The outcome was never in doubt, as the 49ers scored on each of their first four drives of the game. The last time the 49ers scored on each of their first drives was Oct. 27, 2002, against the Arizona Cardinals.Kaepernick opened with three consecutive completions, including passes to tight end Vernon Davis for 22 and 12 yards. The 49ers eventually settled for David Akers' 32-yard field goal.On the next drive, the 49ers took the ball 63 yards on four plays. Kaepernick dropped in a beautiful pass to Kyle Williams over the coverage of cornerback Kelvin Hayden for a 57-yard completion.On the next play, Kaepernick hit Vernon Davis for a 3-yard touchdown.This game also marked the return of Davis to the passing game. In his four previous games, Davis had nine catches for 101 yards and no touchdowns. On Monday, Davis had six receptions for 83 yards and a touchdown.Kaepernick hit Davis on a 32-yard pass on the next drive. Four plays later, Kendall Hunter scored on a 14-yard run to give the 49ers a 17-0 lead early in the second quarter.SACK MASTER: Outside linebacker Aldon Smith stood out in a 49ers defensive performance that featured a lot of standout performances. Smith took the NFL lead in sacks, as he roughed up the Bears with a career-high 5.5 sacks.Smith had his way with Bears left tackle J'Marcus Webb and right tackle Gabe Carimi, as Smith switched sides more than usual. Smith now has 15 sacks, which places in the league lead, a half-sack ahead of Denver's Von Miller.Smith has 29 sacks in his first two seasons, which is the third-highest total in NFL history. Reggie White had 31 sacks, while Derrick Thomas had 30. Smith still has six games remaining to eclipse those marks.Aldon Smith and Justin Smith combined for a sack of Campbell and a forced fumble that resulted in a safety. Referee Tony Corrente initially ruled that Bears guard Chilo Rachal, who recovered the fumble, was guilty of intentional grounding for attempting to throw the ball forward out of the end zone. But after the 49ers challenged the ruling, Corrente determined Ray McDonald tackled Rachal before he could throw the ball forward.49ERS NO. 2 IN NFC: With the victory, the 49ers (7-2-1) take a half-game lead over the Bears (7-3) for the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs with six games remaining for both teams. The Atlanta Falcons (9-1) currently lead in the race for the top seed in the playoffs.The top two seeds earn first-round byes in the playoffs and a home game in the divisional round. The 49ers own a 1 12 game lead over the Seattle Seahawks (6-4) for the lead in the NFC West. The Bears and Green Bay Packers are tied atop the NFC North standings.THIS 'N' THAT: The only other NFL game in last 25 years with two quarterbacks making their first starts at least 10 weeks into the season was in 2005, Week 13, Cleveland vs. Jacksonville, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. . . Running back Brandon Jacobs and LaMichael James were among the 49ers' inactive players. Wide receiver A.J. Jenkins, the 49ers' first-round draft pick, was also inactive. Second-year quarterback Scott Tolzien was active for just the second time in his NFL career as the 49ers' No. 2 quarterback with Alex Smith inactive. . . Akers got back on track with field goals of 32, 37 and 32 yards. Akers is 10-of-10 on field-goal attempts inside 40 yards this season. . . The 49ers won for the 43rd time on "Monday Night Football" to tie the Dallas Cowboys for most wins on MNF... Frank Gore carried 17 times for 78 yards, while Kendall Hunter rushed five times for 27 yards and a touchdown.