The 49ers collapsed in the second half of their first game of the season, falling 19-10 to the Bears. After dominating in the first half, San Francisco led just 10-0 early in the third quarter and left the door open for Chicago to counter.
Here are position-by-position grades for the Niners' performance:
I had Trey Lance down for a D at the end of the game but knocked his grade up slightly because of the weather conditions. Lance's final line was horrible. He finished 13-for-28 with 164 passing yards and an interception alongside 13 carries for 54 yards on the ground. However, Lance's performance was more of a mixed bag than his final line suggests.
Lance missed a downfield throw to tight end Tyler Kroft with a light amount of pressure in his face, but he also had fantastic deep completions to Jauan Jennings, Ray-Ray McCloud, and Brandon Aiyuk. Plus, he had another downfield completion to Aiyuk called back because of a horrendous offensive pass interference call that may have cost the Niners a score.
Lance's inaccuracy cost the Niners some completions and yards after the catch in the short passing game, and he also took a sack costly on third down that pushed them out of field-goal range in the first half. Still, I thought his ability to escape pressure and scramble alongside the big plays was enough for the positives to outweigh the negatives until his interception.
For what it's worth, safety Eddie Jackson did a great job turning his back to the intended receiver to lure Lance into making the throw, but it was nevertheless Lance's worst decision of the game.
Running backs: B-
In hindsight, the game really transformed after Elijah Mitchell was ruled out with a knee injury. Mitchell was fantastic for the Niners in the first half, rushing for 41 yards on six carries. While the offensive line did a better job creating holes for him than backup Jeff Wilson Jr., he also did a far better job making Bears' defenders miss. Wilson only managed 24 yards on nine carries and was unable to have much success in the run game.
Tight ends: C-
The Niners sorely missed George Kittle on Sunday. His blocking and pass-catching ability were sorely missed. With that said, Tyler Kroft and Ross Dwelley were fine. Dwelley hauled in a tough 11-yard reception on a third-down, and Kroft might have had the biggest play of the game if Lance had not overthrown him.
Wide receivers: C
Deebo Samuel cost the 49ers at least three points with a fumble in the first half. He later scored the Niners' only touchdown and ran for 52 yards on eight carries, but his performance as a pass-catcher was lacking. Deebo only caught two receptions for 14 yards on Sunday, one of which was a shovel pass on a jet sweep, and had a drop.
Brandon Aiyuk looked like he was heading for a big game early, but after the offensive pass interference, Aiyuk only had one touch. He finished with two receptions for 41 receiving yards on two targets with one carry for seven yards; whether it was Aiyuk failing to get open, Lance misreading plays, or Shanahan not calling Aiyuk's number, the Niners could not afford their second most dangerous weapon to disappear with Kittle already out.
McCloud and Jauan Jennings each had big receptions, with Jennings adding sore conversions on third down. I still think the Niners should have dressed Danny Gray to try and stretch the field, but McCloud and Jennings gave San Francisco plenty of production from their third and fourth receivers.
Offensive line: F
Trent Williams was easily the Niners' best offensive linemen, and even he committed a false start penalty. Mike McGlinchey looked rusty at right tackle, getting completely embarrassed by Dominique Robinson on a third-down sack, and the 49ers' interior offensive line did not exceed expectations. Aaron Banks, Jake Brendel, and Spencer Burford were consistently collapsing into Lance's face, forcing him to move around in the pocket. It may surprise you to know that the Bears never blitzed on Sunday.
All the pressure Chicago generated was by sending four or fewer rushers. Burford did have some great highlights in the run game, and frankly, since he's the only rookie on the line, his performance is probably the most understandable. The fact that 2021 second-round pick Aaron Banks and veteran center Jake Brendel looked as bad as they did is a far bigger cause for concern for the 49ers' offense.
Defensive line: B-
It looked like the 49ers' defensive line was going to coast into an A+ early. They obliterated the Bears' bad offensive line in the first half and generated consistent pressure against Justin Fields without giving him lanes to run. The run game was equally bottled up.
Then, all of a sudden, whether it was a lack of discipline, frustration with penalties, or running out of gas after not playing much in the preseason, things began to fall apart. The Niners' defensive front was still able to get some pressure, but they cost contain on Fields. Once Fields scrambled for a couple of big games, the line softened against the run as well, beginning to get gashed by David Montgomery and Khalil Herbert.
There were definitely positives from the defensive line's performance. Nick Bosa still looks like a star, and Javon Kinlaw might have had his best game as a pro. The 49ers' defensive line sshould stillbe a great unit this year, which iakes their late-game collapse so frustrating.
Fred Warner was great, but Dre Greenlaw missed two tackles, including one that would have prevented a third-down conversion, while also committing two personal fouls (an iffy unnecessary roughness penalty on a sliding Justin Fields and an inexcusable facemask on David Montgomery after the Niners defensive line had already stopped him). Azeez Al-Shaair added an unnecessary roughness of his own on a Fields slide, but Greenlaw might have been the worst player on the field on Sunday.
Mooney Ward was rarely targeted on Sunday, living up to the premium contract he received this offseason. Emmanuel Moseley missed a pair of tackles but dhad noegregious coverage mistakes. Rookie Samuel Womack was far from the difference maker he was in the preseason (as should be expected), but he was fine in the nickel.
Despite the loss, there was one undeniable bright spot from the 49ers' first game of the season: Talanoa Hufanga. He looked like one of the best safeties in the NFL in the first half, recording multiple tackles for loss, a pass breakup, and an interception. While he may not have been as dominant a force in the second half, he still finished with 11 tackles, two tackles for loss, a pass defended, and an interception. Hufanga had flashes but was mistake-prone as a rookie. Heading into the season, Hufanga seemed like the only obvious weak spot in the secondary. If he's legit and can maintain this caliber of play when Jimmie Ward returns, this defensive backfield has incredible potential.
With Ward still out, Tashaun Gipson started next to Hufanga at safety and brought the unit's grade down. Gipson dropped an interception that would have prevented a Bears' touchdown, and he also was responsible for the coverage failure that led to Chicago's final touchdown.
Special teams: B+
Not much to say here. Robbie Gould made all of his kicks, Ray-Ray McCloud had some solid returns, and Mitch Wishnowsky was his usual solid but inconsistent self as a punter. Longsnapper Taybor Pepper did