The 49ers outmuscled the Chicago Bears for their third win of the season Sunday. As a result, San Francisco remains in the playoff hunt and has a chance to beat a formidable opponent in the Arizona Cardinals next week.
We look at 15 of my uplifting and deflating plays below.
Jimmy Garoppolo’s homecoming heroics was one of my five takeaways Sunday. The 49ers didn’t drastically increase their third-down efficiency, but the offense looks much improved from previous weeks. Garoppolo had a big hand in that.
He found Mohamad Sanu for a 21-yard gain on the first third down the Niners offense faced. Trent Williams was penalized for holding on the same drive when Robert Quinn beat him to the edge, which upped the down and distance to 3rd and 24. Garoppolo maneuvered in a clean pocket to deliver another pass to Sanu for a 19-yard gain and short of the first down.
Chicago’s first play of the game ended in a tackle for loss. Arik Armstead got penetration allowing K’Waun Williams and D.J. Jones to secure the tackle. Both Jones and Williams had exceptional games.
This tackle for loss would set the tone for the rest of the game. DeMeco Ryans’ defense would finish with ten tackles for loss Sunday.
Talanoa Hufanga knew heading into Sunday’s game that he would have a big role with Jaquiski Tartt out. That role will continue with Tartt and now Jimmie Ward out. Hufanga missed a few tackles early in the game, but his high motor was on display all day.
Hufanga is still getting his feet wet in the NFL. In the next three weeks, he will see the likes of DeAndre Hopkins, A.J. Green, Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods, and Marvin Jones Jr. Let’s see how Hufanga holds up.
Elijah Mitchell, the 194th pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, has been a key element to San Francisco’s offense. His 27-yard run on the 49ers’ second offensive drive was the beginning of him sparking the offense with Garoppolo. Mitchell had three runs of 20+ yards. The offensive line clicked as Mitchell displayed his explosiveness.
Deebo Samuel had two drops on the first offensive drive, and he was lucky the second wasn’t intercepted. That’s why his first catch of the game was magnifying as he displayed his running back qualities.
Samuel barreling through defenders is just a hint of what his play has been like this year. He has grown to a true number one option and showed that as he finished with a monster day.
Missed tackles have been a bad trend at times with this 49er defense. San Francisco changed that on second and third down on Chicago’s third offensive drive. Both Marcell Harris and Williams had good open-field tackles.
Justin Fields and the Bears were working on an 8 minute, 16-play drive that only traveled 57 yards. This was one of the many critical stops of the game. The offense would go on and answer with a field goal in a seven-play drive.
San Francisco's offense drove 71 yards in 76 seconds after the Niner defense held Chicago to a field goal. It was uplifting to see Bradon Aiyuk get three targets in a row to start the drive.
Garoppolo missed Aiyuk outside of the numbers on the first play of the drive, but he continued to target Aiyuk. Aiyuk was able to get free on back-to-back plays showing the talent we all know he has.
Those targets would set up a Garoppolo 50-yard heave to Samuel. That pass was only Garoppolo’s second throw of the season that traveled beyond 35 air yards. It was a dynamic play that I'm not used to Garoppolo attempting let alone complete.
Deebo Samuel’s 83-yard screen catch kept hope alive for the 49ers’ season. Converting a 3rd and 20 on a screen pass is good. Breaking three tackles while running for 83 yards and reaching out to the pylon with great effort just screams how Samuel has played all year.
Samson Ebukam got his first sack as a 49er Sunday. He had an unnecessary roughing the passer penalty a few plays before this. Ebukam continues to learn the game of football. Ebukam can be a key member of this edge group If he can develop pass-rush moves instead of playing off sheer will.
The clip above shows how this team needs to play every game. The Niners play hard every game, but the inconsistencies cover that up at times. This touchdown carry is a prime example of teamwork. Football is about having 11 people trying to accomplish the same goal.
This is for “In_Enemy_Territory”
Little harsh on Norman, a free agent pickup on a guy everyone thought was done.He won’t be able to follow guys on deep routes, it just isn’t in his arsenal anymore. But for a washed up guy to generate 3 tackles for loss and a fumble along with tons of tackles....Dude is a straight up gem find.
This seemed like a reach, but “E.T.” has a point. Josh Norman has been far from elite, but he’s helped with key stops, and in this instance, he sealed the game.
Samuel had two drops on the Niners’ first drive, but Garoppolo kept the drives going. This drop was nearly intercepted as the ball went through both hands.
Williams was called for grabbing Quinn, who beat Williams to the edge. I can’t be too mad if you're called for holding to prevent a sack. On the bright side, this may be the closest Garoppolo was to being sacked. Which is part of the reason why the offensive line got an A in Marc Delucchi’s position grades.
This play was deflating and I don't know how much I can blame Garoppolo. It looks like Garoppolo and Jauan Jennings are not on the same page. But, regardless of who’s at fault, it is a turnover-worthy play. Garoppolo would continue to fire off passes en route to victory.
There is no shade to Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles, but this play shows why the 49er's defense already misses Azeez Al-Shaair. DFF is asked to defend both A gaps against this zone run. Hard play to defend, but you’d like to see him get the guards’ outside shoulder to get a better run fit.
This was one of the first plays that made me think “how would we look with Trey Lance on the field?” I know he started against the Cardinals, but we didn't get the full sample size. Justin Fields roll’s left to throw a precision touchdown pass.
The drive before the half showed why Jimmy Garoppolo isn’t dynamic. He made the 50-yard deep throw, but he missed outside the numbers and missed out on scoring a touchdown.
The notion of Brandon Aiyuk not playing well has a lot to do with the quarterback getting him the ball. The would-be touchdown throw to Samuel is a bit nit-picky because it looks like Samuel is improvising on the route. Generally speaking, you want your QB to have the ability to hit receivers outside the numbers and make plays off-script.
It felt like DeMeco Ryans was not as aggressive as he’s been in prior weeks on third down. That was until I saw him dial-up this disguised blitz that ended up getting torched. Nick Bosa picks up the running back as Hufanga and Williams blitz off the edge.
Jimmie Ward showed that he was the flat defender pre-snap but rotated back to close the middle of the field. Wilson picked up Allen Robinson in the slot, leaving no hole defender. It was an aggressive man-blitz that I'm not against. You want to see Emmanuel Moseley hold up better against the slant though. However, 49er fans should know how fast Marquise Goodwin is.
Fields showed what it was like having a dynamic quarterback Sunday. Fred Warner is an all-pro and the best linebacker in the league. Fields hit him with a spin move that made Warner look like a pedestrian. You have to charge plays like this to the game because Fields is that special. Although, Josh Norman’s defensive holding penalty would give the Bears a first down,
Imagine having a false start after you break the huddle to run a play on the goal line. Laken Tomlinsons’ false start may not have been the worst outcome as the play was blown up anyway. However, penalties are something this team will have to clean up.
Samson Ebukam’s roughing the passer penalty was unnecessary. Initially, it looked like they were going to call DPI for Tavon Wilson being a tad bit too early.
Brandon Aiyuk has to be a ball-winner here and run his route a little flatter. The DB made a helluva play, but you want to see Aiyuk flourish here, especially when he was “WR1” with him out snapping Deebo Samuel Sunday.
Fields’ explosive run on the read-option opened up because Nick Bosa crashed on the dive. University of Georgia head coach Kirby Smart emphasized, “the DE needs to be in low gear with RB to him.” Fields psyched out the cameraman as he kept the ball for a 14-yard gain.
Hufanga missing this interception isn't derailing. Though, it would have been cool to see him get the first interception of his NFL career. Hufanga has a knack for the ball and will force a turnover soon.
It was gut-wrenching to watch Fields cross the field for a 22-yard touchdown on 4th and 1. Armstead had the chance to finish the play behind the line of scrimmage but he whiffed. That would ricochet Fields catching a slew of touchdown sealing blocks.
Jimmie Ward is the most underrated safety in the NFL. He is out one to two weeks with a quad strain, but injuries like those can linger all year. The rest of the season will be tough sledding as Vegas already thinks the Niners can't win next week. It’s time for the 49er team to go on a winning streak to fulfill the potential they had going into training camp.