Niner Noise was on hand at the San Francisco 49ers’ final home game of the 2018 season against the Chicago Bears and recaps the eventful day.
On the morning of Dec. 23, I was not expecting to go to the San Francisco 49ers‘ final homestand of the season against the playoff-bound Chicago Bears. I had just went to the 49ers’ previous game, a historical win against the Seattle Seahawks, and was more than satisfied from the outcome of that game.
However, a few minutes into my weekly Sunday routine of watching NFL Red Zone, my very gracious friend and his father call me asking me if I wanted to come over to Levi’s Stadium for free club seats at the game.
That is something you call an offer you simply cannot refuse, so I giddily seized my opportunity and began my final trip to Levi’s Stadium in the year of 2018.
At the game, I was disappointed to see the overwhelming amount of Chicago Bears fans at the game — and how much louder they were than Niners fans. From the moment I could hear a very audible roar when a random Bears position group came out of the tunnel for warmups, it became evident that there was an alarming amount of Bears fans in the building.
What shocked me even more was how quiet the home fans were compared to the ones on the road.
On the opening Bears possession, I could very faintly hear Chicago quarterback Mitch Trubisky calling audibles. I would expect to hear that if it was the opening possession in the second half since most people are buying food and waiting line for the restroom at that time, but when everybody is in their seats and you can still barely make out things being said on the field, there’s a clear problem.
On the other hand, the visiting Bears fans were being very loud whenever Nick Mullens and the 49ers’ offensive unit were on the field of play, especially on their final drive of the game. It was sad to come back home and turn on the TV to see the Seahawks’ home crowd making a ton of noise and clearly affecting quarterback Patrick Mahomes and the high-powered Kansas City Chiefs’ offense.
We are lucky enough to be fans of the most storied franchise in the NFL. Let’s be louder in 2019 to help our team out and give them a true home-field advantage.
How the 49ers played was a different story.
San Francisco played extremely well against a hot Bears team with a truly great Vic Fangio-led defense. The offense, albeit clearly overpowered by a deadly Chicago front seven, played well in the clutch (besides Mullens at the end, which I’ll discuss later). Head coach Kyle Shanahan’s ability to scheme wide receivers open remains impressive, as there were plenty of plays where Mullens had receivers open, but he either did not see them or the Bears defensive line applied too much pressure and negatively affected the play in the backfield.
However, the real star of the game was the defense. Although there were a couple of drives that the 49ers defense struggled to stop, the group played a very solid game. The players were all clearly very aggressive and tried to strip the ball on every play — and successfully did on two plays.
Rookie safety Marcell Harris, despite giving up a long catch to Bears receiver Allen Robinson, played a great game with five tackles. He seemed to always be around the ball and showed great awareness and hostility on the field. Same goes for rookie cornerback Tarvarius Moore, who did give up a touchdown catch to Bears receiver Anthony Miller, but held his own for most of the game and forced a fumble on Robinson that kept the 49ers in the game late. Despite a rough first three-quarters of the season, the defense has come along quite nicely in recent weeks with these impactful younger players being introduced into the fold.
Now to discuss the elephant in the room, how did the infamous Mullens fourth-down play look live?
Take a look at the video below:
It was even more apparent in person that Mullens could have ran the ball for the first down. In fact, he had over 30 yards of nothing but green grass in front of him. Once the quarterback rolled out to the right. everybody in the stadium immediately saw how much room he had to run and was in turn shocked. Everyone was even more shocked when he decided to throw a low-percentage deep bomb to a well-covered Marquise Goodwin instead of running for the first down.
Rewatching the game broadcast, the TV angle shows Bears outside linebacker Leonard Floyd looking like he’d be able to catch Mullens prior to reaching the first-down marker, but that angle was actually very misleading. One of the replay angles that Fox provided showed that Floyd was in fact not in a position to bring Mullens down short of the marker. A Bears fan who had the same best angle sitting in a section in front of Mullens later confirmed that he would definitely have been able to get the first down — and a lot more.
Yes, it was a bad decision, and a lot of people are mad at Mullens for this single play, but it would not be right to take all the credit away from the second-year quarterback. Mullens has performed admirably for this depleted team this season and has exceeded every expectation possible.
The fact that the recent practice squad quarterback has grasped the complex Shanahan playbook in such a short time and is executing his plays with ease is incredible. Mullens’ work ethic and determination is going to keep him as a more-than competent backup in this league, and the 49ers are very lucky to have him on their roster.
Despite the loss, I walked away from Levi’s Stadium with a good feeling about the direction of this team. The team played with passion, is noticeably improving and kept it close against a playoff team.
See you next year, Levi’s.