We hand out five game balls to the San Francisco 49ers from the Niners’ 14-9 loss to the Chicago Bears in Week 16 of the 2018 NFL regular season.
On Monday’s Locked On 49ers Podcast, host Brian Peacock provided a rundown of the Niners’ game — including game notes and key takeaways — and handed out five game balls from the San Francisco 49ers’ one-score loss to the playoff-bound Chicago Bears.
San Francisco’s two-game winning streak came to an end in Week 16 at the hands of the Chicago Bears and their top-ranked defense, led by former 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. Despite the two team’s dissimilar records — the Niners now sit at 4-11, while the NFC North champion Bears have recorded 11 wins in 2018 — San Francisco was in place to pull off a potential upset in the game’s closing minutes. Unfortunately, 49ers quarterback Nick Mullens ended the team’s final drive, and the Niners’ chances of victory, when the youngster threw a hail-mary pass out-of-bounds instead of using his feet to easily convert a fourth-down try.
While Mullens’ late mistake was inexcusable, the first-year QB hung tough against Chicago’s ferocious defense for much of Sunday’s contest. The 49ers had their fair share of scoring opportunities throughout the game, but 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan’s lack of killer instinct and passive play-calling helped keep the team from getting the ball into the end zone. Even with an offense playing “not to lose,” San Francisco stayed in the game thanks to an inexperienced but intense defensive unit that held the Bears to just two scores on the day:
49ers DT DeForest Buckner
49ers defensive tackle DeForest Buckner continued to play like a Pro-Bowler on Sunday, as the third-year interior lineman added to his team-high sack total, which currently stands at 12 on the season. Buckner also leads the Niners’ defense in quarterback hits and tackles for loss by wide margins.
Buckner is the engine that makes San Francisco’s defense run, which was evidenced by a key turnover on Sunday. Buckner immediately broke into the Bears’ backfield at the snap, which ruined the timing of the play and forced QB Mitchell Trubisky to throw on the run as he tried to sprint away. When the quarterback’s errant backward pass hit the ground, the high-motor defender then ran across the field to recover the fumble. Over the course of the 2018 season, Buckner has arrived as one of the top defensive players in the NFL:
49ers LB Elijah Lee
Even after two injury-ridden seasons, it still took a painful Week 13 performance by WILL linebacker Malcolm Smith for the 49ers coaching staff to admit that the expensive veteran is a poor fit in San Francisco’s defensive scheme. Even given his propensity to miss tackles, Smith has potential as a run defender, but his deficiencies in coverage finally became too much for the team to overlook:
— Chris Wilson (@cgawilson) December 2, 2018
After flashing as a backup over much of the 2018 season, linebacker Elijah Lee was given Smith’s starting job in Week 14. Like many of the 49ers’ young defenders, the second-year LB has been far from perfect in recent weeks. However, Lee played one of his best games at the professional level in his fourth career start on Sunday. With a game-high 11 tackles against the Bears, Lee now ranks third on the team in total tackles this season, despite his relative lack of playing time. The young linebacker hasn’t secured a starting role in 2019, but he has proven to be a key backup piece with starting potential going forward:
49ers CB Tarvarius Moore
When the 49ers gave rookie cornerback Tarvarius Moore his first NFL start on Sunday, the team’s coaching staff knew it would be trial-by-fire for the former college safety. After playing mostly on special teams or as a box safety in the San Francisco’s“Dollar” 3-2-6 personnel package, Moore saw his first extensive action at cornerback in Week 15 after fellow corner Ahkello Witherspoon was lost for the season due to injury.
Moore’s first challenge as a starter was a difficult one, as the defensive back was forced to line up across from top wide receiver Allen Robinson. Moore’s lack of experience at his new position was evident throughout the matchup, but the youngster never gave up, learned from his mistakes and provided value where he could as a defender. And although Robinson was the matchup’s victor for most of the day, Moore got the best of the veteran wideout by forcing a fumble on what should have been a game-ending reception:
49ers K Robbie Gould
Shanahan and the 49ers continue to rely on Robbie Gould — to a fault — and the veteran kicker continues to deliver. Gould was perfect on all three of his field goal attempts on Sunday, and provided San Francisco with all nine of their points in the Week 16 contest against the kicker’s former squad:
49ers CB Richard Sherman
The 49ers’ top cornerback Richard Sherman didn’t do much on the field on Sunday; his biggest play came on the sideline after the whistle was blown. Late in the fourth quarter, Sherman came to the defense of a young member of the 49ers’ secondary — rookie safety Marcell Harris — after the defender found himself in a precarious situation on the Bears’ sideline.
Harris flew up from deep in the secondary to make a play on Trubisky on a third-down run, but the overzealous safety failed to pull up and miss the quarterback after he slid to the ground, which immediately drew a flag and the justifiable ire of Trubisky’s teammates on the field. But as Harris got up to head back to the huddle, he was attacked by a number of Bears’ players on Chicago’s bench.
While his teammates quickly pulled Harris away from the Bears’ sideline, Sherman sprinted into the middle of the scrum and traded blows with a few of the offending players. After an extremely lengthy meeting by the officials, Sherman and a pair of Chicago wide receivers were ejected from the game.
Just a few short months ago, no one could have imagined such a scene — but there’s no question where Sherman’s loyalties now lie:
Listen to Locked On 49ers host Brian Peacock’s review of the San Francisco 49ers’ Week 16 loss to the Chicago Bears — including game notes and key takeaways from the Niners’ loss — on Monday’s Rapid React podcast:
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49ers vs. Bengals: San Francisco Week 2 Game Balls & Highlights
Game balls and highlights from the San Francisco 49ers’ 41-17 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 2 of the 2019 NFL regular season.
On yesterday’s Locked On 49ers Podcast, host Brian Peacock provided a rundown of the Niners’ game — including game notes and key takeaways — and handed out four game balls to the San Francisco 49ers from their Week 2 blowout win over the Cincinnati Bengals.
The 49ers made a statement to the rest of the league during their second consecutive road victory to start the 2019 NFL regular season. Outside of a long garbage-time touchdown given up in the final minute of the matchup, the 49ers’ defense was dominant, finishing the game with four sacks, nine tackles-for-loss and one interception.
But despite holding the Bengals to just 25 yards on 19 rushing attempts, San Francisco’s offensive unit shined the brightest in Week 2 — which brings us to our first game ball:
49ers HC Kyle Shanahan
San Francisco’s offensive attack was nearly unstoppable in Week 2, and much of their success should be credited to 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan, who called one of his best games since arriving in the Bay Area over two seasons ago. The Niners tallied 572 net yards on offense at an 8.4 yards-per-play clip, and were forced to punt the ball just once during meaningful play, prior to the final two minutes of the game.
Shanahan — the 49ers’ de facto offensive coordinator — was always one step ahead of the Bengals’ defense, which was constantly confused by the Niners’ flurry of misdirection plays. With Cincinnati’s defenders forced to play both passively and reactionary, 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo took advantage by throwing for 297 passing yards and three scores. Garoppolo executed on the field, but he had Shanahan’s superb game plan to thank for his FexEx Air Passer of the Week nomination, as well as his 131.2 passer rating and his 11.9 yards-per-pass-attempt — both of which were tops in the NFL in Week 2.
49ers RB Matt Breida
Prior to the beginning of the regular season, many analysts wrote 49ers running back Matt Breida off as either a potential change-of-pace option in San Francisco’s backfield or a player who would simply ride the bench in 2019. But just two games into the season, Breida has officially put that talk to rest by claiming his well-deserved spot at the top of the 49ers’ running back depth chart, even after fellow RB Tevin Coleman eventually returns from injury.
Breida was electric on Sunday as he tallied 121 rushing yards on only 12 carries, and added 11 yards through the air on one reception. The former undrafted free agent may never be a 25-carry feature back, but it’s hard to ignore a runner who averages over 10 yards-per-touch. Breida’s outstanding Week 2 performance was highlighted by a 34-yard gain on a third-and-short run, where he looked a lot more like Hall of Fame running back Barry Sanders than a bench player who should be relegated to the sidelines:
— Chris Wilson (@cgawilson) September 16, 2019
49ers Offensive Line
Although Breida has the speed and agility necessary to break off long runs after making defenders miss, he surely didn’t mind running through some of the gaping holes the 49ers’ offensive line provided on Sunday. Breida wasn’t the only beneficiary of San Francisco’s big men up front, as the 49ers’ trio of running backs graded out as the NFL’s top unit of the week by Pro Football Focus (PFF). Recent practice-squad RB Jeff Wilson found the end zone for a pair of scores in the contest, and dual-threat running back Raheem Mostert followed his blockers on long runs and screen passes en route to a spot on PFF’s “NFL Team of the Week” for Week 2:
#49ers RB Raheem Mostert @RMos_8Ball, LB Kwon Alexander @kwon and EDGE Ronald Blair @superblair are all featured in @PFF‘s NFL Team of the Week. The @49ers‘ running backs also graded out as the #NFL‘s top group of RBs in Week 2. https://t.co/zbfzmMtEs0
— Chris Wilson (@cgawilson) September 18, 2019
It was a near-perfect day for the Niners’ offensive line, as they also kept Garoppolo’s jersey clean for the vast majority of the game. But a dark cloud fell over the group in the third quarter of the team’s Week 2 victory, when left tackle Joe Staley sustained a fractured left fibula which will keep the 49ers’ top lineman out of action for approximately six to eight weeks.
49ers LB Kwon Alexander
Last week, linebacker Kwon Alexander received a game ball from Shanahan in the 49ers’ locker room after the team’s 31-17 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, despite his early exit from his Niners debut. Alexander was ejected from the contest when his helmet made contact with the helmet of former teammate Jameis Winston, when the quarterback awkwardly went to the ground at the end of a third-down scramble. In the limited time prior to his questionable ejection, Alexander looked like the player Shanahan and general manager John Lynch hoped to sign, as the 25-year-old linebacker flew around the field making plays and hyping up his teammates.
Last Sunday, Alexander earned his 49ers game ball for his leadership in the locker room and his passion for the game. This Sunday, Alexander earned Locked On 49ers game ball for his leadership in the locker room, his passion for the game and his production on the field. Alexander not only brought the same level of intensity to Cincinnati, but the linebacker was also one of the best — and most productive — players on the field in Week 2. With a key interception, three defended passes and six tackles, Alexander earned PFF “NFL Team of the Week” honors, and our final game ball of the week:
— Chris Wilson (@cgawilson) September 16, 2019
Listen to Locked On 49ers host Brian Peacock’s review of the San Francisco 49ers’ Week 2 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals — including game notes and key takeaways from the Niners’ second matchup of the 2019 NFL regular season — on yesterday’s Rapid React podcast:
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