For the 4th time in 4 years, and the 5th time in 6 years the San Francisco 49ers and Chicago Bears matched up against each other, flipping wins each time. Sunday was no different, as the 49ers eked out a 15-14 win in the Windy City, carried by five Robbie Gould field goals. Here is what was good, bad and ugly.
The receiving corps: I should probably lead with our new starting quarterback, but let’s save the best for last and lead with the things he overshadowed a bit. Did you notice? We only witnessed two drops this week, both by a running back. Heck, Marquise Goodwin and Trent Taylor both caught every pass thrown their way, 8 and 6 respectively. While neither topped the 100-yard mark (they were close, though), the entire pass catching corps did a fantastic job, bringing Garoppolo close to a 300-yard passing day. Overall this was the best showing of the season.
Robbie Gould: I say it regularly and I will say it once again: Kickers are people, too. Gould was perfect on Sunday, converting all five of his field goal attempts to score more points himself than the entire Chicago Bears team.
The defense: While we are at it; the defense had a great all-around performance, holding the Bears offense to 7 points and forcing five punts. Robert Saleh’s unit also registered two sacks; Cassius Marsh and Elvis Dumervil each getting credit for a sack with Marsh knocking the ball free on his attempt. The run defense performed particularly well, holding the dangerous duo of Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen to just 62 yards on the ground with a 3.3 YPC average.
Defensive rookies: It is hard to single out just one or two players, so I singled out the entire defensive rookie class from 2017. Colbert, Witherspoon, Foster, Thomas all started, and all delivered a high-level performance. They did not look like rookies out there.
The offensive line: Per PFF, even the two weakest links on this line, Laken Tomlinson and Daniel Kilgore, had their season-best performances in pass protection versus the Bears. Garoppolo got hit only 5 times and mostly had all the time in the world to lead his team to victory.
Jimmy Garoppolo: Can you believe it? I can’t believe it. But can you believe we actually have a franchise QB on this team? Boy, am I excited. Garoppolo, despite being with the team for only a few weeks, was on fire Sunday, hitting players in stride for big gain after big gain. He threw for the most yards by a 49ers QB ever in his first start and had less than a handful incompletions that were actually on him. He read the field well, was accurate and on time and easily passed the eye-test in his first attempt. There is a ton more I could list, but for now this will have to suffice, as John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan need to figure out a way to lock down this handsome human.
The pass defense: It was not exactly “bad” in the truest meaning of the word; if you look at the box score you will see the 49ers got two sacks and held Trubisky to 102 yards through the air. However, as I saw it, they also got a little bit lucky. For example, there was one screen pass to Tarik Cohen that went for 25 yards, but was called back by penalty. There were another one or two passes for first downs that were dropped by the Bears. It is probably just me, but this felt to me like a big play was just around the corner, and it got close a few times. This is nitpicking, though, so take it with a grain of salt.
Carlos Hyde: While I am one of the biggest supporters of Carlos Hyde, this was one of his worse games as a Niner. While he did look good on inside zone carries, he there had two runs of 14 and 18 yards, respectively, he did terribly on outside zone runs and looked confused. Matt Breida had the far better day outside the tackles. Hyde also had the only two drops of the game. I am willing to chalk this up as a one-time bad performance, but this game hurt his argument for a contract extension with the 49ers.
Louis Murphy: I know I praised all the receivers up top, and to be fair, Murphy made the catch of the day as he reeled in the ball despite triple coverage. However, this was his only catch on six targets and his only other catch had to be ruled incomplete, as he bobbled it going to the ground. He also nearly made another catch to give the 49ers a first down on the second drive of the game, but he let Kyle Fuller rip the ball from his hands.
Penalties: Not much to report in the ugly category again, except these self-inflicted wounds. Especially in the red zone on two separate drives penalties killed any opportunity to score a touchdown. One was a holding call on Trent Brown that caused a 2nd and goal from the 19-yard line, and on another drive both George Kittle and Marquise Goodwin caused a false start penalty that made a 3rd and 11 out of a 3rd and 1. Overall, the team had eight penalties for 53 yards accepted, and this was one major reason this game came down to the last seconds and was not decided earlier.
Special Teams: Usually a bright spot this season, San Francisco’s special teams unit was torn to shreds by playmaker Tarik Cohen. He scored on an insane punt return where he originally ran back 15-20 yards before he found a hole and went untouched to the end zone. Then he had another huge punt return for 68 yards, but the 49ers got lucky as one Bears player unnecessarily committed a block in the back penalty. Raheem Mostert’s absence was painfully felt, as he usually is the man to prevent any of those big returns. We can only hope the coverage improves until next week.
The past Sunday was of course all about Jimmy Garoppolo, but there was way more going on around him that left me feeling great. If John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan keep the core of this team together, it won’t be long until this franchise is legitimately competing again.