Gabriel’s Grades: Bears 14, 49ers 9
The Bears traveled to Santa Clara, Calif., Sunday and grabbed a hard-fought, 14-9 win over the San Francisco 49ers. They overcame their own mistakes, poor officiating and a slippery field to get the win. The Bears lost two fumbles — and nearly lost two others — as they had problems protecting the ball. This is an area the Bears have to rectify if they expect to win any playoff games. We can’t do much about the officiating, but there were at least four or five awful calls in this game.
Though the Bears won, they have been having problems on the road all season. They have yet to put together a complete game and seem more mistake-prone on the road. The Bears will have to play on the road in the playoffs, and they must find a way to play better.
With the win, the Bears have clinched the third seed in the NFC. If they win next week in Minnesota and the Rams lose to the 49ers, the Bears will have the second seed and a first-round bye. The NFL has moved the Bears game to 3:25, so that both the Rams and Chicago play at the same time.
On paper, Mitch Trubisky had an outstanding game. He completed 25-of-29 throws for 246 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions. His QB rating for the game was 113. However, his play was not as good as the stats suggest. In the first half he forced a throw to Adam Shaheen in the end zone when there were at least two other receivers open underneath. His “lateral” throw to Tarik Cohen was ruled a fumble when it fell incomplete. The throw was a poor decision on his part. He also made a poor decision throwing a center screen while in the red zone that fell incomplete.
Other than the poor decisions, Mitch had very good accuracy and ball placement. Most of his throws were of the short variety, but he did complete a nice deep ball to Allen Robinson along the right sideline early in the game.
Jordan Howard ran the ball well, finishing the game with 13 carries for 51 yards and a touchdown. He just needed more carries! San Francisco did a good job defending Tarik Cohen, who had only 12 yards on six carries.
As good as Cohen is, there are times when he doesn’t take what is there and tries to make something big instead of of settling for what’s there. Several times this season that has resulted in a loss of yardage. Sometimes it’s better just to take the couple positive yards.
Howard caught the ball well, tallying two receptions, but like in the run game, the 49ers did a great job taking Cohen out of the pass game.
We have a mixed review of the wide receivers. Again, on paper, Allen Robinson had a great day with six receptions for 85 yards. He also had a costly offensive pass interference penalty on a comeback route in the fourth quarter, and an even more costly fumble after catching a slant pass for a first down late in the game. Had Robinson not fumbled, the Bears could have run out the clock. Instead, San Francisco was given one more chance to win the game.
Anthony Miller had three catches for only 24 yards, but one was a touchdown and the others were needed gains. He also ran the ball well on a reverse. Taylor Gabriel was used mostly on bubble screens, catching three passes for 28 yards.
San Francisco was giving the Bears the short pass all day — and they took advantage of it. There wasn’t much downfield.
The Bears’ tight ends were not utilized that much on Sunday. The group was targeted only eight combined times. Shaheen was thrown to in the end zone but was double covered and the ball fell incomplete. He also caught a short out but cut the route too soon, coming up short of the first down. The Bears challenged the play, but the original call was upheld (poor call on officials).
Ben Braunecker made a nice catch for an 18-yard gain and a needed first down. Trey Burton was used only on shorter routes, tallying five receptions for 30 yards.
The O-line did not have one of its better games. On numerous occasions there was one breakdown along the line causing a negative play — especially in the run game. Pass protection was the worst we’ve seen in the past month, with Trubisky being sacked three times and pressured numerous others. All were at fault. Still, the group did enough for Trubisky to pass for 246 yards and win the time of possession stat by 10 minutes.
The defensive line played its usual strong game, holding the 49ers to a total of 47 yards rushing. Akiem Hicks was only credited with two tackles but he was a constant force, consistently getting penetration on run plays, as well as batting down three passes. Eddie Goldman also created good penetration. The group was not credited with any sacks, but they produced consistent pressure and numerous hits. Put it this way: the close game was not because of the defensive line.
I have mentioned it before, and I will mention it again: Roquan Smith doesn’t get nearly the credit he deserves. He plays at a high level every week. Sunday, he led the Bears in tackles (again) and had their only sack. Dany Trevathan tallied an interception on a tipped ball to stop a late 49er drive. He had seven tackles and two PBUs. The Bears’ two inside linebackers comprise, in my opinion, the best ILB combo in football.
Khalil Mack was held without a sack but generated numerous pressures, which caused hurried throws on Nick Mullens’ part. His play against the run was good. There were parts of the game where the Bears played basically a 4-3 scheme with Mack playing defensive end and Leonard Floyd at outside linebacker. Floyd had only one tackle but played a good overall game.
Kyle Fuller had a rough day, missing some tackles and giving up receptions he normally prevents. Fuller had a problem with the turf, slipping a few times. There was an obvious offensive pass interference call against Price Amukamara that was not called. He got called for interference later in the game. He also had a chance at an interception but wasn’t able to finish. Undrafted Kevin Toliver got a bit of play time this week with Bryce Callahan out, holding up fine. Overall, pass coverage was good, not great.
Eddie Jackson was missed, but not to the extreme. Deon Bush played well, but he just doesn’t have Jackson’s instincts, and never will. I felt that Adrian Amos did a good job in coverage. Run support was very good.
Once again, Cody Parkey missed what should have been a chip-shot field goal. A couple misses, I don’t mind, but now it has become a problem, and is there real trust that he can make a clutch field goal in the playoffs? I have mentioned this before, but it seems like most of Parkey’s misses are to the right. This has to come from a flaw in his steps. It’s like leaving the club face open on a wedge shot. Parkey also slipped on a kickoff, causing the kick to be low and short and giving the 49ers good field position.
Kick coverage for both punts and kickoffs was good. Pat O’Donnell punted well. His average was off, as he punted from inside 49er territory and placed it inside the 15-yard line.