Two out of three isn’t bad. After consecutive wins at Levi’s Stadium, the 49ers were unable to close out the trio, falling to the Chicago Bears 14-9 in the team’s final home game of 2018. Kyle Shanahan’s team, now 4-11, gave the playoff-bound Bears all they could handle throughout all four quarters with the game coming down to San Francisco’s final drive on offense.
Here’s five takeaways from the 49ers’ Week 16 loss:
Despite adding their 11th loss of the season, the 49ers deserve some credit for their performance against the champions of the NFC North on Sunday. The game was well within reach for all four quarters, coming down the final drive for Shanahan’s offense. The oft-criticized 49ers defense only surrendered 14 points against the Bears’ offense despite their control over the clock - 35:30 to the 25:30 for the 49ers. In the end, it came down to San Francisco’s inability to capitalize on opportunity that forced the loss, with costly turnovers and mistakes marring an otherwise respectable performance.
Robbie Gould is having a heck of a season
Gould accounted for all nine of the 49ers’ points against the Bears. The 49ers’ veteran kicker was good from 23, 30 and 33 yards against his former team of 11 years on Sunday. Last season, Gould made five field goals against the Bears in Chicago to include the game-winner as time expired. Gould was his typically reliable self at Levi’s Stadium on Sunday in spite of the loss. Gould is slated for free agency this offseason, and after making 29 of 30 attempts in 2018, it’s safe to say the 49ers will attempt to re-sign their most reliable source of points on the season.
Nick Mullens’ costly mistake
Mullens put together a forgettable albeit serviceable performance against the Bears on Sunday. From a numbers standpoint, the 49ers quarterback completed 22 of 38 passes for 241 yards and a drop-turned-interception against the league’s best defense. What won’t show up on the stat sheet was Mullens’ final play of the matchup. The former practice squad quarterback, under pressure, rolled to his right on fourth-and-four with 1:14 remaining in the game. With at least 20 yards of open field in front of him, Mullens could have easily ran for the first down and more while getting out of bounds to stop the clock. Instead, Mullens opted to heave the ball downfield to receiver Marquise Goodwin, the pass falling well out of bounds and ending the 49ers’ chance at a win. It was an obvious mistake born out of inexperience that will undoubtedly torment Mullens for the foreseeable future.
Injuries again take a toll
By the end of the first half, the 49ers’ offense had lost lead running back Matt Breida, rookie receiver Dante Pettis and backup tight end Garrett Celek. None would return. Breida’s ankle injury that’s plagued him throughout the season again forced him to the sideline against the Bears. Pettis was tackled awkwardly by two Bears defenders after a short catch and is believed to have injured the MCL in his left knee, per Shanahan. Celek suffered a concussion and is likely to enter the league’s protocol procedure. With 11 players already on injured reserve and more likely to join, the 49ers will hobble into their final game of the season against the Rams in Los Angeles.
Draft position update
The 49ers took a small step up the draft board after their loss to the Bears on Sunday. Prior to the teams’ Week 16 matchup, San Francisco was projected to hold the No. 4 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, per Tankathon. The New York Jets, also 4-11 on the season, had a weaker strength of schedule that gave them the edge over the 49ers. That’s no longer the case, with the 49ers currently narrowly edging out the Jets for the No. 3 pick, .502 to .508. A small and possibly temporary benefit for a 49ers roster that could use an influx of premier talent.