The 49ers rode a stifling defense, the calm, collected demeanor and smooth right arm of Jimmy Garoppolo (shades of Joe “Cool” Montana, anybody?), and the right leg of Robbie Gould to victory Sunday in the Windy City. It was a heck of a return to Chicago for Gould, the longtime Chicago Bears’ kicker, as he connected on 5/5 field goals, including the game winner with 4 seconds to go in the game.
The 49ers played a solid all-around game, and also showed there are many areas to improve upon if they are going to turn themselves into a perennial winner. For now, they can breathe a happy sigh of contentment on the plane ride home; they’ve won 2 out of their last 3 games, having shown improvement in many areas, and look forward to a very winnable game in Houston vs the Texans next Sunday.
In my article previewing this match-up last week, I opined that the 49ers must return to some of the fundamental basics of solid team football in order to win this game. Indeed, they managed to do just that today. First, and perhaps most importantly, the defense did not let Jordan Howard take over the game. An excellent running back who must have been salivating at the thought of running roughshod over an often times suspect 49ers run defense, Howard was held in check to the tune of 13 carries for 38 yards (2.9 yards/carry), and no touchdowns. Mitch Trubisky was the second best Bears runner on the day with 19 yards. Trubisky, though he was accurate and produced several strong throws on Sunday, was not a difference maker in this game, and was held to just 102 yards through the air.
The 49ers offense finally attained the mythical balance we’ve so often heard Kyle Shanahan talk about achieving this year. The team ran 34 rushing plays and attempted 37 passes, and converted multiple 3rd downs (55% conversion rate) both on the ground and through the air. It was crucial they not give up on Carlos Hyde and Matt Breida in this game. Hyde saw 16+ carries for just the third time this year, and Breida eclipsed 10 carries for just the second time. And though the 49ers’ combined rushing average of 3.2 yards/play was not eye opening, it was critical in keeping the Bears’ defense honest, and to the 49ers’ offense staying on the field. They dominated the time of possession in this game 38:47 – 21:13, a far cry from the pitiful 27 minutes per game they’d managed up until this contest. Hyde also broke free for 18 yards on 3rd and 1 from the 49ers’ 30 yard line with 4 minutes to play – extending what would become the game winning drive.
Jimmy Garoppolo played a solid game. He was efficient and smooth with nimble feet, and eyes downfield. He was pretty well protected (sacked just twice on the day), which always helps, and he made several big time 3-and-long conversion throws. And there is no better way to inaugurate yourself as a 49ers quarter back than to engineer a game winning drive with 5:27 to go, starting from your own 8 yard line. The one blemish, a first quarter interception, was not entirely Garoppolo’s fault, as it was actually a completed pass to Louis Murphy that was ripped away on a fantastic individual effort by the Bears’ Kyle Fuller.
The Niners have much to improve upon. Specifically in this game, they played around all day inside the Bears’ 20 yard line, but could not punch it in to the end zone. They were 0/5 in redzone efficiency, and 0/2 in goal-to-go situations, including missing a chance to score a touchdown early in the first quarter, when they had the ball on 1st down at the Bears’ 9 yard line. They again were penalized too much – surrendering 53 yards on 8 penalties, and they failed to win the turnover battle. Nevertheless, there is a lot to build upon here, the team having gotten a good performance by the quarterback and o-line, a dominating defensive performance, improved run/pass balance, good time of possession and solid wide receiver play. For now, the Niners can enjoy this one, and try to go on something called a “winning streak” (you may have to look that one up for a definition) when they face off with Houston next Sunday.
- Trent Taylor had a solid game today, and I hope to see a lot more of that. This guy was a third down conversion machine, and made a handful of drive extending grabs in a variety of ways – short conversions, long conversions, tough catches, and by breakin’ some ankles and breakin’ away. Perhaps his best moment came on 3rd and 9 just before the 2 minute warning on the final drive, when he broke free on what appeared to be a deep slant, got that separation he is so famous for, and scampered for 33 yards.
- Marquise Goodwin has been separating himself from the rest of the receiving core as of late, and continued to add to his career best season with an 8 catch, 99 yard performance against the Bears.
- Reuben Foster continued his month of dominating play, leading all 49ers tacklers with 7 stops.
- We’ll give the Special Teams, usually solid this year, a pass on that ridiculous punt return for a touchdown by rookie Tarik Cohen, who ran backwards and across the field for 15 yards, before doubling back across the field and streaking up the left sideline for a touchdown. I only saw the play from one angle, but all I could hear was my special teams coach in high school screaming “stay in your lanes!!!!!” to the punt coverage unit. This had to be a case of the coverage team losing integrity in their lanes, and I don’t expect it to be an ongoing issue.
Congratulations: The NFL and its non-Niners fans can no longer ignore, deny or make excuses for the extreme dope-ness that is the “Inconvenient Truth”
- Y’all know who I’m talking about. Congratulations to Frank Gore for cracking the top 5 all-time rushing leader-board today. Perhaps my all-time favorite 49er, there is nothing I could say about Frankie that has not been said, or wouldn’t just sound like a cliché – though it would all be true. Character, Strength, Power, Durability, Heart. He has an alien-like ability to see holes before they open (and then somehow actually shrink his physical size to get through them), patience that would make Le’Veon Bell jealous, tree trunk legs that bowl over anybody in his path – and good luck getting through him to sack his quarterback. He was a hall-of-famer last year, and this just cements it. Repeat after me: With the Super Bowl on the line, we don’t throw fades to Michael Crabtree, we hand the ball to Frank Gore.