SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Kyle Fuller's grass-stained jersey rested at his feet inside a buzzing visitors locker room Sunday night as he explained to teammates how he helped get the Bears' season back on course.
Then he stopped. A matter of utmost importance occurred to him.
The rookie first-round draft choice was fairly certain Bears equipment manager Tony Medlin had the two footballs he intercepted in the fourth quarter of the Bears' stunning 28-20 comeback victory over the 49ers. But he needed to make sure.
"They better be the originals too!" he said. And he set out to find Medlin.
Maybe it's hyperbole to say Fuller helped save the Bears' season with his two interceptions. But maybe it's not.
One certainty, at least, is that Fuller helped the Bears find and execute a winning formula in the most dire of circumstances. A combination of offensive sharpness and defensive takeaways helped them avoid their first 0-2 start since 2003 and breathe life into a season that showed weak vital signs through the first half of Sunday's game.
"There's always adversity in this game," Fuller said. "So guys have to step up, and I feel like we did that today."
And in doing so, the Bears woke themselves from their 29-year Bay Area nightmare. By overcoming deficits of 17-0 and 20-7, they won for the first time in nine road games against the 49ers and spoiled the first regular-season game at sparkling Levi's Stadium.
Look at how the Bears won this, and see the blueprint for long-term success.
The banged-up offense came to life after gaining a total of only 12 yards on their first six possessions, each of which ended in a punt.
Quarterback Jay Cutler completed 13 of 14 second-half passes for 120 yards and three touchdowns. Brandon Marshall, who missed practice all week with a sprained right ankle, caught three touchdown passes.
On the other side of the ball, the defense forced four turnovers, two in each half. That included three interceptions of quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
"We just settled in," cornerback Tim Jennings said. "First half, we knew we had their best. We had the confidence that we've ... created some turnovers. Creating turnovers, that's what we're about."
Fuller has caught on to that tradition quickly since the Bears drafted him 14th overall out of Virginia Tech. And it helped turn this game around.
On the first play from scrimmage after the Bears cut their deficit to 20-14 in the fourth quarter, the 49ers aligned in a formation that included three receivers to the right and only one to the left.
Fuller and safety Ryan Mundy knew from studying the 49ers that a throw to the single-receiver side was likely. The alert went out, and Fuller was ready when Kaepernick threw a comeback to Michael Crabtree.
He drove on a throw to the left sideline and pulled the bobbling ball from Crabtree's grasp.
"I was able to just get a good break on it," Fuller said.
Fuller's 20-yard return to the 6-yard line set up the go-ahead touchdown pass to tight end Martellus Bennett on the next play. And Fuller wasn't finished.
On third-and-12 from the 49ers' 35 yard-line on the ensuing possession, Kaepernick rolled left and threw deep for tight end Derek Carrier. Fuller was covering Crabtree on a shorter route nearby, but he recognized the deeper threat.
"My job is to go vertical, to be there, as well," he said. "I had to be in the right place at the right time."
He was, and now he has two new additions to his personal trophy case to show for it.
"Kyle is a tremendous athlete, which he has been displaying — his playmaking skills, his ball skills — ever since he arrived here," Mundy said. "I feel like the sky is the limit for him."