The San Francisco 49ers modest two-game win streak came to a close in Week 16, as they lost to the Chicago Bears by a final score of 14-9. The 49ers dropped to 4-11 with the loss, and remain tied with the New York Jets in win/loss record. The 49ers have the slight edge in strength of schedule, and thus hold the third pick for the time being.
The 49ers turned this game into a grinding affair in the first half. The offense could not get into the end zone, but the defense gave the Bears all sorts of trouble. The 49ers took an early 3-0 lead, and then the defense forced their first turnover since an October 7th matchup with the Arizona Cardinals. It was an ugly option-looking throw from Mitchell Trubisky to Tarik Cohen, and the 49ers jumped on it. They could not punch it in, and walked away from the turnover with a 6-0 lead. Chicago responded with a 75-yard touchdown drive to take a 7-6 lead, and the 49ers responded with a field goal to close the half with a 9-7 lead.
Things went south for the 49ers offense in the second half. They punted after one first down conversion, and the Bears then proceeded to drive 90 yards on 12 plays to take a 14-9 lead. The 49ers offense got something going after an exchange of punts, and found themselves with a 1st and 10 at the Bears 20. Nick Mullens led Marquise Goodwin on the next play, but the ball bounced off Goodwin’s hands and into the hands of Danny Trevathan.
The 49ers got one more chance late in the game. Trubisky connected with Allen Robinson on what should have been a game-clinching third down conversion. However, rookie cornerback Tarvarius Moore punched the ball out and the 49ers recovered the fumble. They moved down to the Bears 45, but Mullens threw incomplete on 4th and 4. He had open turf to scramble for the first down, but chucked it deep instead. A bad decision by the second-year quarterback.
Prior to that last drive, there were some fireworks late. Trubisky scrambled to his left and as he slid after the first down marker, 49ers safety Marcell Harris hit him late. You could see Harris trying to hold back, but it was a stupid rookie mistake. And it was also not the end of it. As Harris got up near the Bears sideline, most of Chicago roster went to push and shove him. That led to more pushing and shoving, and eventually Richard Sherman came diving into the mix.
Eventually, three unsportsmanlike conduct penalties were called on Richard Sherman, Josh Bellamy, and Anthony Miller. All three were ejected and will likely face a fine this week.
The 49ers showed some signs of life throughout the game, but they couldn’t make enough plays against a dominant Bears defense. Nick Mullens finished the game 22 of 38 for 241 yards and one interception. He was “only” sacked three times, but he took six hits and numerous pass deflections from the Bears fierce pass rush.
Jeff Wilson rushed 11 times for 27 yards, after Matt Breida left with 20 yards under his belt. George Kittle had another big day with seven receptions for 74 yards, but extra props for Kendrick Bourne, who had four big receptions for 73 yards. Each of the four catches was important, and was arguably his best game with the 49ers.
On defense, Cassius Marsh netted a pair of sacks, and DeForest Buckner grabbed his 12th sack of the year. It was a rough day in the secondary, with Tarvarius Moore challenged regularly. He made the big play late, but it was an important learning experience for the rookie.
The injury report filled up in this one, and all three injuries will be something to track heading into the season finale. Running back Matt Breida suffered what is being described as an ankle injury. He did not appear to be limping, but it’s been a season-long issue. Wide receiver Dante Pettis suffered a knee injury when he was bent awkwardly. He quickly went back to the locker room. Finally, tight end Garrett Celek suffered a concussion in the second quarter. He will have to go through the concussion protocol this week.
Up next: @ Los Angeles Rams
The 49ers wrap up their 2018 regular season schedule with a trip south to face the Rams. The Rams are 12-3 following their win over the Arizona Cardinals, but need a win or Bears loss in Week 17 to clinch a first round bye. That means the 49ers will probably see Rams starters. And even if the Bears lose before the Rams take the field, I would be surprised if we didn’t at least see a half or three quarters of them since they would have extra time off ahead of the divisional round.