The 49ers lost to an inferior opponent in the Chicago Bears, 10-19, after leading by ten points in the third quarter. A lead they’ve had before—most recently in last year’s NFC Championship game. This early lump in the season does not deserve an overreaction, but there were plenty of things to learn from. Let’s look at what we learned from Week 1 and how the 49ers can improve going forward.
49ers continue to shoot themselves in the foot
San Francisco made it hard on themselves by committing 12 penalties. Three crucial penalties would extend Chicago’s drives and result in 19 unanswered points. Bears quarterback Justin Fields mastered the Russell Wilson late slide. Wilson tends to slide as late as he can, which usually draws a flag.
San Francisco’s defense had a miscommunication on Dante Pettis’ 51-yard touchdown. Hufanga and Dre Greenlaw lose zone integrity when Fields rolls out, and Pettis winds up uncovered.
Brandon Aiyuk had a ticky-tack pass interference flag thrown on him, but he would’ve been open without putting his hands on the cornerback. Greenlaw and Azeez Al-Shaair’s three penalties were deflating because the linebacker core is usually the most disciplined group on defense.
Lance did not play good enough, and that’s ok
I’m still high on Lance and want him to start every game regardless of how he plays. However, I must call a spade a spade, and Lance did not play well enough to win the game. Lance’s two biggest misses were missing Tyler Kroft for a shoo-in touchdown and the egregious interception to Eddie Jackson. An interception that was a typical Jimmy Garoppolo turnover.
I kept the same energy of disappointment from a Garoppolo showing with Lance’s performance. You must keep in mind that this is his third career NFL start, and things will get better. It did feel like Lance was a bit more comfortable in the first half. The pressure in the second half mounted up, and it was nearly impossible to make a comeback with the hurricane-like conditions near the end of the game. Lance owned his mistakes and was ready to move on as he should.
Hufanga is here for the long run
The Polynesian thunder, Talanoa Hufanga, was the best tackler on the field in the first half. His interception on Fields was a breath of fresh air, and I’m sorry for doubting him. It was only Week 1, but Hufanga’s energy is infectious, and he will be a tone setter for the defense all season. Hufanga will face better pass-catchers against the Seattle Seahawks with Noah Fant, DK Metcalf, and Tyler Lockett. Let’s hope Hufanga can force a turnover there too.
There were positive takeaways through all the negatives at Soldier Field Sunday. Jauan Jennings’ stock continues to rise. He led all receivers with 62 yards, and his 44-yard bomb showed how explosive this offense could be.
Tyler Kroft: I did not see Tyler Kroft starting at tight end. I thought Ross Dwelley and Charlie Woerner would be Lance’s safety valves. Kroft had strong run blocks and had a touchdown taken away from Lance. San Francisco may have a new TE2.
Offensive Line: It’s difficult to pinpoint offensive line play through broadcast, but it’s not hard to see that Lance was constantly under pressure. Right tackle Mike McGlinchey got beat badly on the sack he gave up. Out of his 34 dropbacks, Lance faced pressure 12 times. Most concerning of all, the Bears didn’t blitz even once to generate those numbers.
Finally, I would love to see Shanahan be more aggressive in the third quarter. Shanahan relentlessly went for it on fourth downs in Lance’s first start vs the Arizona Cardinals. I would have loved to see Shanahan go for the 4th and 1 near the end of the third quarter. Lance scrambled for eight yards the play before to put San Francisco nine yards from the 50. I would imagine Shanahan going for it if he had to do it again.