The 49ers seemed to be in complete control of the game in the first, heading into the locker room up 7-0. The defense was stifling, stopping the run on early downs and getting after Justin Fields on third downs.
It was trending towards a stress-free Week 1 victory in Chicago until “it all fell apart,” as Kyle Shanahan said post-game. The 49ers finished with 12 penalties for 99 yards. That was the fourth-most penalties the 49ers have committed under Kyle Shanahan’s watch since 2017.
There were three penalties on three separate drives for the 49ers’ defense that extended Chicago drives and ultimately resulted in 19 (should’ve been 21) points for the Bears. That was ultimately the difference in this ball game and why the 49ers fell to 0-1.
49ers 10, Bears 0: 3rd Quarter, 6:34, 3rd-and-4, CHI-34
The 49ers were still cruising and had a chance to get the ball back for their offense to keep the pressure on the Bears. Chicago ran the ball on third-and-medium, which the 49ers stuffed.
However, linebacker Dre Greenlaw grabbed running back Khalil Herbert’s face mask as he was wrapped up at the line of scrimmage. The play was over. The Bears were about to bring the punt team onto the field when a flag flew in. It was a 15-yard face-mask penalty against Greenlaw, which extended the drive and gave the Bears new life.
Three plays later, Justin Fields found Dante Pettis on a broken play for a 51-yard touchdown, and the momentum pendulum swung back to Chicago.
49ers 10, Bears 7: 3rd Quarter, 0:12, 3rd-and-9, CHI-39
Following a 49ers’ offensive punt, the defense was back on the field and was once again ready to force a stop and get the ball back for their offense. Fields scrambled on third down for five yards, and it was about to be another punt — until it wasn’t.
There was a holding penalty on Charvarius Ward on the opposite side of the field against Dante Pettis that was called, and it resulted in five yards and a first down.
Six plays after that? Fields found Equanimeous St. Brown for a touchdown down the sideline, and it was a 13-10 game just like that, and the pressure was all back on the 49ers.
49ers 10, Bears 13: 4th Quarter, 8:22, 2nd-and-11, SF-12
The 49ers could’ve used a stop here to prevent the Bears from scoring another touchdown and extending their lead to a two-possession difference.
Herbert took another handoff and gained a couple of yards, which would have made it third-and-long — a part of the game that the 49ers’ defense was dominating up until that point.
But! There was another....flag. 49ers’ defensive lineman Javon Kinlaw was called for a defensive holding against an offensive lineman. It was a five-yard penalty that moved the Bears’ offense inside the 5-yard line and gave them an automatic first down.
One play later — it was 19-10 Bears, and suddenly the game felt out of reach for young Trey Lance on the road in monsoon conditions.
Most teams cannot overcome losing the turnover and penalty battle and the 49ers did so in the season opener in 2019 against Tampa Bay, but it’s not a sustainable winning formula. We’ll find out if the 49ers can clean up their penalties before a Week 2 showdown vs. Seattle at home.