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:
Colton McKivitz Scouting Report, Trent Williams and OL Depth Chart
- Is Trent Williams an upgrade at left tackle over the retired Joe Staley?
- Scouting report on fifth round tackle Colton McKivitz
- Tom Compton vs Daniel Brunskill at right guard
- Battle for the final roster spot on the offensive line
PODCAST: The Brandon Aiyuk Episode
- Pick 25 in the 2020 draft, WR Brandon Aiyuk out of Arizona State
- Scouting report, strengths, weaknesses
- How Aiyuk went from community college corner to first round reciever
- Challenges for Aiyuk to reach his immense ceiling with the 49ers
49ers Surprise During Action-Packed 2020 NFL Draft, but at what Cost?
The San Francisco 49ers filled three immediate needs during the 2020 NFL Draft, but were first-round draft picks DT Javon Kinlaw and WR Brandon Aiyuk — and new starting LT Trent Williams — worth the cost?
This is the first in a three-part series analyzing the San Francisco 49ers’ 2020 “draft masterclass.” The Niners’ draft has been ranked by analysts as one of the NFL’s best, although it takes years before a draft class can be properly assessed. So instead of merely grading these college talents before their first NFL snaps, we’ll take a look at the 49ers’ picks — and more importantly — the 49ers’ process.
San Francisco’s general manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan were full of surprises during the 2020 NFL Draft, beginning in the first round. Every 2020 mock draft was immediately ripped to shreds as the vast majority of fans and analysts expected the Niners to trade away one of their prized first-round picks for additional draft capital. Instead, the 49ers traded both of their Day 1 picks but ended the evening with just two players, and no selections for the second day of the draft.
Lynch and Shanahan started their “draft tradefest” in a dream scenario: on the clock with the consensus top-2 wide receivers in the draft — Jerry Jeudy and CeeDee Lamb — on the board, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on the phone. The Bucs wanted to move up a single spot to the No. 13 selection — the pick the receiver-needy 49ers obtained via their trade of star defensive tackle DeForest Buckner — which would leave at least one of the two top receiver prospects on the board for San Francisco.
The two teams executed the trade, which scored the Niners a fouth-rounder in exchange for one of the 49ers’ seventh-round picks. Minutes later, San Francisco was back on the clock, and both receivers were still on the board. But instead of taking advantage of the situation they lucked themselves into, the Lynch and Shanahan did what they seem to do every year — follow their collective gut or the opinion of a trusted contact outside the organization — and drafted Buckner’s hopeful replacement, South Carolina defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw:
49ers Draft Pick No. 14: DT Javon Kinlaw
On Tuesday, Lynch spoke about the decision on FOX Sports’ The Herd with Collin Cowherd:
“We were incredibly comfortable with Will Muschamp because he gave us such an accurate depiction of Deebo Samuel last year. I didn’t know Will. I met him once. But we called on Deebo and he hit all his strengths, but he also hit his, not really weaknesses, but just realities of who the person is. And he depicted Deebo so well, a year later I said, ‘Kyle, we’ve got to pick up the phone and call Will about Kinlaw because he was so darn honest.” -John Lynch
Despite Muschamp’s biased opinion of his former player, there’s a lot to like about the raw Kinlaw:
— Fourth and Nine (@fourth_nine) April 24, 2020
Standing at 6-foot-5 and 324 pounds, he is shorter and stouter than his predecessor. And surprisingly, given his massive size, the DT has proven to be a better defender against the pass than the run. In 2019, Kinlaw received a 90.7 pass-rushing grade from Pro Football Focus (PFF), despite logging just six sacks during the season, and 10 only sacks over his three-year college career:
Since there are no easy games in the NFL, the 49ers hope they drafted the overpowering and productive version of Kinlaw and not the version who disappeared when South Carolina faced weaker opponents.
Bonkers play by Kinlaw. Straight through the center’s chest, then runs the loop to chase down Tua for the sack. Rare combo of power, length and athleticism. pic.twitter.com/n2SjsehuPl
— Jon Ledyard (@LedyardNFLDraft) March 4, 2020
My initial assessment of the Kinlaw selection is I like the player, but I’m not a fan of the 49ers spending the draft pick they acquired in exchange for Buckner on a less-talented but cheaper version of the stud defensive lineman. San Francisco should have entered this year’s draft with one primary goal: improving their 2020 roster enough to win one more game than they did in 2019 — and “trading” Buckner for Kinlaw makes the Niners worse, albeit richer, in the short term.
Perhaps this pick would have been a bit sweeter if Lynch didn’t promptly waste the fourth-round selection he just obtained from Tampa Bay. Unfortunately, the 49ers’ fourth-year GM — in the role normally played by his partner-in-crime Shanahan — fell in love with a prospect and wasted valuable draft capital to unnecessarily trade up for the one player he desperately needed to draft.
We’ll break down the San Francisco 49ers’ second first-round selection — and how the Niners got there — next.