A visibly frustrated Hunter Hillenmeyer couldn't think of any way to put a positive spin on the Bears' defensive performance in Thursday night's 37-30 exhibition loss to San Francisco.
"I don't remember being a part of a worse effort by a defense," the linebacker muttered. "I know I played poorly. Makes me sick to my stomach, the way we played."
Everyone expected defense to be the Bears' strongest suit this season outside of Devin Hester's return ability. The return of safety Mike Brown and defensive tackle Dusty Dvoracek and the re-signing of linebacker Lance Briggs were supposed to solidify a unit decimated by injuries last season.
But here the Bears were, giving up chunks of rushing yards to Frank Gore and making ex-Bear J.T. O'Sullivan, the 49ers starting quarterback, look like a Pro Bowler.
"That was horrible," middle linebacker Brian Urlacher said. "I know it was a preseason game, but we have to get better.
"They did whatever they wanted to. They ran it. They threw it. We missed tackles. At some point, we have to step up and start making plays."
The fact the Bears ranked at the bottom of the league in total defense through the first two exhibitions didn't seem to matter until they stumbled the third time out. Gore smashed them in the mouth from the outset, rushing for 11 yards on the game's first play and following up with a 28-yard run. The Bears even allowed floppy-haired fullback Zak Keasey to break loose on a 16-yard run.
"I missed a tackle on one of the runs," Urlacher admitted. "Just bad, bad team defense."
The 49ers finished with 425 total yards—265 yards passing and 160 on the ground. O'Sullivan completed 7 of 8 passes for 126 yards and a touchdown before taking an early seat. His quarterback rating was a perfect 158.3.
"I think he was here … a nice guy," Urlacher said. "He threw the ball well."
The 49ers settled for a field goal on their first two possessions despite driving 65-plus yards on each. On the third drive, O'Sullivan found tight end Vernon Davis streaking down the field for a 40-yard gain. Hillenmeyer was with him step for step.
"I was in good position, I just didn't make the play," Hillenmeyer said. "It actually hit my fingers, and he still caught it."
On the next play, O'Sullivan avoided pressure from Charles Tillman and fired a dart to Jason Hill, who got behind Brown.
"It frustrated me because he got outside of me," Tillman said. "That's just one of those plays that I have to have outside contain. I need to be outside. No excuses. No ifs, ands or buts about it.
"We just didn't make plays on defense, and it needs to be corrected."
Tillman got flagged twice in the game, once for pass interference and once for defensive holding. Adewale Ogunleye was offsides on a play, and Alex Brown had a neutral-zone infraction. Later in the game, reserve defensive tackle Matt Toeaina picked up a 15-yard penalty for unnecessary roughness.
It all spelled a dismal night for a defense trying to build momentum for the season opener against Indianapolis. The Colts had the league's fifth-best offense last season.
"We're very disappointed," defensive coordinator Bob Babich said. "That's not us, by any stretch of the imagination. We need to play better. We will be good defense. We will be a dominant defense."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun