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Colin Kaepernick starts San Francisco 49ers' QB debate

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Chicago Bears vs. San Francisco 49ers

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It remains to be seen if quarterback Colin Kaepernick won the starting job for the San Francisco 49ers on Monday night. We do know the quarterback sent a loud message to coach Jim Harbaugh.

Kaepernick was tremendous in place of injured starter Alex Smith, connecting on 16 of 23 passes for 243 yards and two touchdowns in a 32-7 wipeout of the Chicago Bears.

In an interesting -- and surprising -- twist, Harbaugh chose not to make a definitive statement on his future plans at quarterback. Instead, the coach said he "usually tend(s) to go with the hot hand."

"We really have two quarterbacks with a hot hand," he said. "We'll make that decision as we go forward."

Kaepernick stood tall against pressure, made all the big throws, and protected the football in a near-flawless performance. While Bears backup Jason Campbell was bullied by Aldon Smith & Co. all night, Kaepernick stayed clean and played like an All-Pro.

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Harbaugh's postgame statements will only amplify the "Smith or Kaepernick?" debate, which becomes a running subplot for the rest of the week.

Even if Smith retains his job, Kaepernick is in his rearview mirror now. This is a Super Bowl-or-bust season for the 49ers, and Kaepernick won't waste away on the bench if Smith begins to struggle. Smith has won 20 of his 26 last starts, but he faces the very real prospect of a quick hook.

The plot thickens by the bay.

Follow Dan Hanzus on Twitter @danhanzus.

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