On Sunday, a lack of experience and poise by the San Francisco 49ers and their coaching staff allowed the visiting Chicago Bears to convert a pair of scores into a Week 16 victory. Here are your highlights, scores and analysis from the Niners’ final home game of the 2018 NFL regular season.
In Week 16, the San Francisco 49ers’ two-game winning streak came to a screeching halt — and despite the number of stars on the playoff-bound Chicago Bears’ talented roster, the Niners primarily have themselves to blame for their 11th loss of 2018.
While the 49ers’ defense made a point — at times to their detriment — to match the intensity of the Bears’ top defensive unit, San Francisco’s offense, led by head coach Kyle Shanahan — lacked discipline, awareness and the killer instinct necessary to finish important drives.
Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh’s unit did their part by limiting Chicago’s offense to a pair of scores awhile forcing two turnovers, as well as another pair of takeaways that were either reversed or called back due to an unrelated penalty.
But given multiple chances to secure a victory, Shanahan’s offense converted six potential scoring opportunities into a total of nine points via three red-zone field goals by former Chicago kicker Robbie Gould.
The Bears’ defense is perhaps the league’s best, but the 49ers’ failures were the result of their own physical and mental mistakes. While Shanahan was content playing for field position and field goals, starting quarterback Nick Mullens was both overzealous and boneheaded when the pressure was turned up, despite playing within himself for the remainder of the game.
After the two teams traded punts to start the game, the Bears’ offense came to life. Their second drive featured both Chicago running backs Tarik Cohen and Jordan Howard, as well as a 43-yard strike to stud wide receiver Allen Robinson:
Unfortunately for Chicago, their nine-play drive ended with kicker Cody Parkey missing a short field goal, while Bears fans looked longingly toward their former kicker on the opposing sideline:
After another three-and-out, San Francisco’s front-four turned up the pressure, as EDGE Cassius Marsh brought Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky down for the defender’s first of two sacks on the day:
On their following possession, the 49ers put together their first drive of the day, as the team worked their way down to Chicago’s 11-yard line. However, a questionable penalty on wideout Trent Taylor pushed the Niners back 10 yards, and after fellow wide receiver Dante Pettis was injured on a four-yard reception, San Francisco found themselves in a third-and-11 situation from the 17-yard line.
Perhaps another Levi’s Stadium scoreboard mistake caused the 49ers’ head coach to lost track of the current down and distance. Otherwise, after spending countless hours in his coaching laboratory devising the perfect play for any situation, offensive mastermind Kyle Shanahan called a play that was destined for success — for the Bears’ defense.
After running back Jeff Wilson‘s 2-yard run, Gould split the uprights, and Shanahan received the field goal he so desired. Given Wilson’s propensity to put the ball on the ground, the 49ers’ third-down play was much more likely to end in a turnover than a first down.
Next time, instead of putting the ball in the hands of a fumble-prone RB on a give-up play, just kick the field goal on third down.
Luckily for San Francisco, the Niners forced a quick turnover after Trubisky’s backward pass to Cohen fell incomplete. After bouncing around on the turf, the ball was finally secured by defensive tackle DeForest Buckner just outside the Bears’ red zone:
14 yards later, Gould’s second short field goal of the day put the 49ers up by six. However, the Niners would be forced to play the remainder of the contest without three key offensive players:
The Bears were more careful with the ball on their following series, until Trubisky tossed a red-zone pass directly into the arms of cornerback K’Waun Williams. Unfortunately, another questionable penalty negated the interception, which allowed Chicago to take a late first-half lead:
With nearly two minutes on the clock and a timeout remaining, Shanahan seemed content on entering the locker room with a deficit by running out the clock. But the 49ers’ head coach changed his mind after a pair of runs by Wilson netted the team a first down, despite wasting a minute of valuable game time.
A pair of sideline grabs by Taylor and fellow wideout Marquise Goodwin got San Francisco into the red zone with 37 seconds remaining, but when Mullens hit Wilson on a short pass in the field of play, the Niners burned their final timeout with 30 seconds on the clock. Mullens continued to attack the short middle of the field, but his second-down pass luckily fell incomplete.
On third down, Mullens again went over the middle, hitting WR Kendrick Bourne with a pass at the sticks. Unclear whether Bourne reached the marker, Mullens panicked as he wavered between spiking the ball and running off the field so Gould could attempt a last-second field-goal try. After receiving guidance from the sideline, Mullens ran up to spike the ball with time quickly expiring, but an official timeout was quickly called to review the spot of the ball.
With almost no time remaining, the 49ers were forced to settle for their third and final short field goal of the day, despite having a first-and-goal from the 5-yard line. Some blame falls on the QB for continuing to attack the short middle of the field given the lack of time on the clock, but San Francisco’s head coach is to blame for putting Mullens in the situation in the first place:
Now, on to the second half: