"It's everything I could've ever wished for," Kaepernick said. "It feels great just to be out there."
After Kaepernick's stellar night on the big stage, there's certain to be chatter of a quarterback controversy for the NFC West-leading Niners. And anyone who knows coach Jim Harbaugh knows he's all about competition -- at every spot on the field.
"I usually tend to go with the hot hand, and we've got two quarterbacks with hot hands," he said. "We'll make that decision when we have to make it."
Aldon Smith took over the NFL sacks lead with 15, passing Denver's Von Miller with 13, and recorded the second-best total in franchise history behind Fred Dean's six-sack day on Nov. 13, 1983, against New Orleans. Tarell Brown and Dashon Goldson each had an interception for San Francisco's stingy defense, which shut down Campbell, Matt Forte and Co. three years after the teams last met in a 10-6 49ers home win.
"I think I have a thing for night games, I love playing at night," Smith said. "I love playing under the lights."
Kaepernick, Aldon Smith and Hunter sure made general manager Trent Baalke look good for his selections from the 2011 draft class.
And reigning NFL Coach of the Year Harbaugh earned a key victory four days after his own health issue. The 48-year-old Harbaugh underwent a minor procedure for an irregular heartbeat Thursday.
The 49ers added a safety in the fourth quarter after a replay review. With 9:24 left, former San Francisco offensive lineman Chilo Rachal was called for intentional grounding out of the end zone, but Harbaugh challenged and the review showed Rachal's knee was down in the end zone before the ball left.
"Tonight was probably the worst nightmare. We just have to find a way," Campbell said. "It's one game that we lost. We have to pick it back up next week and try to get back on the winning side. Our goals and everything still sit ahead of us."
The soft-spoken, stone-faced Kaepernick went 16 for 23 with a 133.1 passer rating. He completed 12 of his first 14 passes with a 57-yard strike to Kyle Williams that set up Davis' 3-yard TD on the next play -- and he already had amassed 126 yards passing by the end of the first quarter.
Kaepernick threw for 184 yards in the first half alone -- an impressive outing for the second-year pro selected in the second round out of Nevada.
"I think after the first drive I felt really comfortable with what they were doing and what we had in our game plan," he said. "I really wasn't too nervous. I've had a lot of time in this offense. My teammates were really supportive."
They outgained Chicago 249-35 in a lopsided first half.
Davis got his prime-time moment just how he loves it. Eager to get more involved in the offense down the stretch this season, the tight end had a team-best six catches for 83 yards. "It felt like somebody took the handcuffs off," he said. "It sends out a message we're for real and we'll step up in big games."
Smith, the 2005 No. 1 overall draft pick, was ruled out earlier Monday after being evaluated by team medical director Dr. Dan Garza.
Kaepernick completed an 8-yard pass to Mario Manningham on the first snap and hit Davis twice for 34 yards during the opening drive. But he overthrew Davis in the back of the end zone on third down and Akers kicked his first field goal.
Campbell had little chance as his offensive line was overmatched all night, spoiling his first start since last October and before a broken collarbone derailed his 2011 season and forced him to miss the final 10 games.
Forte was limited to 63 yards on 21 carries -- not much better than his 41-yard day on 20 carries in the loss here in 2009, when Cutler threw five interceptions.
"I think we all let the team down at one point or another in the ballgame," Marshall said. "We're just taking turns."
San Francisco featured the opportunistic, ball-hawking defense this time after the Bears came in with an NFL-leading 30 takeaways and 19 interceptions.
"Coming in I think there may have been some questions about who may have been the better defense," Aldon Smith said. "We came out and proved a point tonight."
Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press