WRITE-THRU; FINAL VERSION

Up was down and down was up Thursday, as the Bears’ biggest strength struggled, their supposed weakness flourished, and their dangerous special teams scared both sides in San Francisco’s 37-30 preseason victory.


The special teams play included two long kick returns by Danieal Manning and blocked kicks by Israel Idonije and Brandon Lloyd. But Garrett Wolfe fumbled away a kickoff; Manning fumbled on his second return (recovered by Kevin Payne); Devin Hester almost had a safety on an ill-advised punt return; and Robbie Gould missed a 48-yard field goal.


And Chicago’s first-team defense gave up 27 points in two-plus quarters. J.T. O’Sullivan, twice cut by the Bears, led last year’s last-ranked offense to scores on all four of his drives. He completed 7 of 8 passes for 126 yards, one touchdown and a perfect 158.3 passer rating.


Also, the Bears got off the bus being run on. The 49ers ran for 11, 28, 4 and 16 yards on their first four plays.


“We’re very disappointed, but we WILL be a good defense,” defensive coordinator Bob Babich said.


Safety Mike Brown, beaten on a 37-yard touchdown pass, said the defense “should worry.”


“We talked all week about coming out and setting the tone,” Brown said. “Obviously, we didn’t do that. They did basically whatever they wanted throughout the whole game.


“We say we want to be a top defense, but the way that we are playing, we’re not even close. We’re all going to have to look in the mirror and figure out what kind of defense we want to be. If we’re going to be like that, we’re going to struggle.”


But if the regular season is anything like Thursday, Chicago’s offense will be far better than billed. The battered and embattled offensive line gave up only one sack and helped the Bears run for 109 yards and average 5.0 yards per carry. Rookie Matt Forte set up a touchdown with an 11-yard run on fourth-and-1 from the 13. And newly anointed quarterback Kyle Orton completed 10 of 17 passes for 147 yards and two third-down touchdown passes to Rashied Davis.


“That’s exactly what we’d like to be,” coach Lovie Smith said of the offense.


Orton finished with a 126.3 passer rating, had a third would-be TD pass dropped by Davis, and completed passes of 55, 23, 21 and 18 yards after having no completion longer than 17 yards the previous two weeks.


“He’s not just a game manager,” offensive coordinator Ron Turner said. “His rookie year, with our defense and special teams, we asked him to do that. But he is so much better a quarterback than that to get just that label. It’s a positive that he does manage a game, but he can do much more than that.”


Chicago’s track record on defense, with 10 starters returning from its 2006 Super Bowl season, and Orton’s strong showing made this loss a glass-half-full game for Smith.


“I feel pretty confident that we will be able to get our defense back to where it belongs,” the Bears coach said. “When something is new like Kyle starting, you want to see results like that.


“I still see the pieces coming together. We just need to all put it together at the same time.”


NOTE: Backup linebacker Rod Wilson broke his forearm.


Assistant sports editor Matt Trowbridge can be reached at: 815-987-1383 or mtrowbridge@rrstar.com