SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Widely criticized after throwing an interception late in last weekend's overtime loss to the Bills, Jay Cutler responded exactly how coach Marc Trestman expected.
In leading the Bears to a 28-20 comeback win over the 49ers Sunday night, Cutler matched a career high with four touchdown passes, including three on successive drives in the fourth quarter. He completed 23 of 34 passes for 176 yards and a 119.2 passer rating.
"I think Jay has really had an excellent start to the season minus one play," Trestman said. "I think he's played really well. He led the way this whole week. He did I through his demeanor right after [last Sunday's] game. He did it throughout the week in our building with the way he carried himself, the way he supported his teammates, the way he prepared for this game.
"We all looked to him this week to see how he would handle the adversity of last week and he stood tall throughout the week and our players followed."
Cutler showed his physical resiliency after taking a helmet-first shot in the chest from 6-5, 318-pound nose tackle Quinton Dial late in the first half, a play that drew a 15-yard penalty.
From that point on, Cutler completed 15 of 16 passes for 138 yards and four touchdowns.
"It's old news for us," said receiver Brandon Marshall, who caught three of Cutler's TD passes. "I've been around Jay for a long time. I remember a couple of years ago him getting criticized for not coming back into the [NFC Championship]. But he's one of the toughest guys I know."
Rising up: The Bears defense excelled in Sunday night's win, victimizing 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick with four takeaways and four sacks.
Before rookie cornerback Kyle Fuller intercepted two passes in the fourth quarter, the defense created two first-half turnovers as safety Chris Conte made a spectacular diving interception and defensive end Jared Allen forced a Kaepernick fumble that Danny McCray recovered.
Kaepernick completed 21 of 34 passes for 248 yards with one touchdown, three interceptions and a 57.0 passer rating. He also led the 49ers in rushing with 66 yards on nine carries.
"Our guys did step up against an extremely explosive team, explosive quarterback who can do damage in so many different ways, explosive receivers, a great back and a really good offense," Trestman said. "I was just really happy to see them have some success."
Sack attack: The Bears' pass rush was led by defensive end Willie Young, who recorded two sacks, both on the 49ers' final possession of the game.
"Willie is a high-motor guy," Trestman said. "He loves to play the game. I think you see that in the way he plays. He comes to work every day like that. He's got a smile on his face. He loves football, and to see it transcend into games is tremendously exciting."
Young has recorded three of the Bears' five sacks in their two games this season. Linebacker Shea McClellin and defensive tackle Stephen Paea also sacked Kaepernick Sunday night.
"[Young] is doing great," Allen said. "I'm loving it. He has matured so much as a player and as a pass rusher and it's good to see him have success out there. I better pick my pace up because right now he's starting to run away with things. But if he keeps playing like that we'll be just fine."
Line change: After starting the same five offensive linemen in Trestman's first 18 games as Bears head coach dating back to last season, there were two changes Sunday night due to injuries.
Brian de la Puente replaced Roberto Garza at center, while Michael Ola filled in for Matt Slauson at left guard. Garza and Slauson both sustained ankle injuries in last weekend's season opener.
Receiver Josh Morgan (groin) also sat out. Other Bears inactives were linebacker Khaseem Greene, tackle Charles Leno Jr. Jr. and defensive ends David Bass and Cornelius Washington.
One-liners: Bears running back Kyle Long was limited to 21 yards on 12 carries. As a result, Cutler led the Bears in rushing with 25 yards on five attempts, including a 25-yard gain. … Tight end Martellus Bennett led the Bears with seven receptions for 37 yards and one TD. … Conte now has interceptions in three straight games dating back to last year's season finale.