The 49ers were facing a monstrous challenge on Sunday, welcoming one of the NFL’s best defenses into Levi’s Stadium for a showdown. A group coordinated by ex-49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, featuring the likes of pass rusher Khalil Mack, rookie linebacker Roquan Smith and ball-hawk Eddie Jackson, it was going to be a tall order for head coach Kyle Shanahan.
Despite the talent that the Bears feature on their playoff-bound roster, the 49ers managed to put up a tough fight at home on Sunday, falling 14-9 on the final drive of the game. San Francisco’s offense only possessed the ball nine times, coming away with three field goals, four punts, an interception and a turnover on downs.
Quarterback Nick Mullens led the 49ers with 241 passing yards, surpassing the Bears’ season average of 227 yards per game. However, the rushing offense couldn’t get off the Levi’s Stadium grass, adding only 47 yards on Sunday. An early injury to running back Matt Breida didn’t help, but the Bears’ defensive line was absolutely stout.
After the game, Shanahan offered his thoughts on Fangio’s defense — a unit that’s feared by everyone heading into the playoffs.
“That’s a real good team. I was happy and proud with how hard our guys fought in all three phases. They are a playoff team definitely, but every week in the NFL teams are hard to beat. So, I don’t really look at it that way. I was really hoping we could finish this year with a winning record at home.”
Even though the 49ers couldn’t score in the double digits, the confidence in their offensive game plan was still pretty high, as Mullens described to reporters after the game ended on Sunday.
“I think just the opportunities that we had. We knew they were a good defense. But, I feel like if we just stayed balanced, went out and executed and did our jobs, we felt like we had a great chance in this ball game. It ended up being the exact type of game we thought. We knew it was going to be a dogfight. We knew it was going to be tough. But, we knew we’d also have opportunities. So, it was exactly what we wanted. We just didn’t take advantage and finish.”
After putting up a seven-catch, 74 yard performance on Sunday, tight end George Kittle still wasn’t entirely happy with his game, citing the Bears’ defensive strategies as a reason for their struggles.
“They did a really good job of using two edge guys to try to jam me every single route. If I wasn’t standing up, or if I was, they still tried to get hands on, which definitely messed with the timing of the play. Kind of gets in the way. They just did a really good job of not letting me get off the ball clean. That just messes up plays.”
Left tackle Joe Staley has seen it all through the ugly seasons and now a potential turn-a-round, here’s what the 49ers’ longest-tenured veteran had to offer on a late-season loss.
“A lot of guys after the game came up to me and said, ‘You guys made that hard for us.’ Obviously, we wanted to come up with a couple more big plays and thought we were going to come away with a victory in the end. It was similar to last year’s game, having the ball and having to get a score down, but that is kind of the way it goes.”
Obviously, everyone’s looking for the “W” in the win column each week, but there are certain positives to be taken from a close loss at home against a 11-4, NFC North Champion, who’s going to be hosting a playoff game.
The 49ers’ defense held Chicago to only 14 points, while the offense managed to move the ball, but a few crucial mistakes was the difference.