49ers 9, Bears 14: Grades

San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan walks to midfield after an NFL football game against the Chicago Bears in Santa Clara, Calif., Sunday, Dec. 23, 2018. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)SANTA CLARA – The 49ers lost to the Chicago Bears 14-9 Sunday afternoon. Here are the 49ers’ grades:

NICK MULLENS: C-MINUS. He mostly played without his No. 1 receiver (Dante Pettis) and starting running back (Matt Breida), and mostly played well against a great defense. Mullens passed for 241 yards, threw four passes that were tipped at the line of scrimmage because the interior line couldn’t hold its ground, threw two incomplete screen passes because the receiver was covered, threw at least a half dozen incomplete passes because the Bears pass rush disrupted his rhythm, threw a touchdown pass that George Kittle dropped and an accurate pass which Marquise Goodwin tipped to the Bears for an interception. Had Goodwin not tipped that pass to Bears and had Kittle not dropped that touchdown pass, Mullens quarterback rating would have been an impressive 92.2. He deserved an A-minus until the final play. But, the final play was a doozy. On fourth and four with the game on the line, Mullens could have walked for the first down and stopped the clock. Instead, he showed his inexperience for the first time this season, threw a deep pass out of bounds and the 49ers lost. That play will haunt him for quite a while. Will he bounce back?

RUNNING BACKS: D. Matt Breida left the game with an ankle injury for what seems like the 4,080th time this season. He is a china doll. Backup running back Jeff Wilson averaged just 2.5 yards per carry, but at least he didn’t fumble.

WIDE RECEIVERS: D-MINUS. The 49ers needed someone to step up, and Kendrick Bourne did. He caught four passes for 73 yards, including a 25-yarder during the final drive. None of the other receivers did much. Dante Pettis injured his knee for the second time this season. He’s brittle. And Goodwin caused an interception when he alligator-armed a pass over the middle and tipped it to the Bears. Goodwin has reverted to the player he was in Buffalo – a bad player.

TIGHT ENDS: C. George Kittle caught seven passes, but dropped one in the end zone. Garrett Celek left the game with a concussion.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN: C. Weston Richburg and Mike McGlinchey both played poorly. Both committed one false-start penalty. Both got beat in pass protection. Richburg couldn’t hold his ground one on one – big surprise. And McGlinchey couldn’t hold his own against Khalil Mack. Mack schooled him three times, and beat him once to the inside to stuff a run for a two-yard loss.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN: B. They sacked Mitchell Trubisky three times and limited Bears running back Jordan Howard to 53 rushing yards and one touchdown. DeForest Buckner had one sack. Cassius Marsh had two.

LINEBACKERS: C. Elijah Lee is the most underrated player on the defense, and a better player than Reuben Foster. Lee recorded a team-high 12 tackles against the Bears. But, rookie Fred Warner struggled. He recorded only four tackles, and committed a holding penalty which negated an interception by K’Waun Williams.

SAFETIES: D. Antone Exum Jr. recorded just one tackle. Marcell Harris recorded five, but also committed defensive holding and unnecessary roughness.

CORNERBACKS: D-PLUS. Trubisky completed 86 percent of his passes and posted a quarterback rating of 113.5. Richard Sherman played well, but the Bears never tested him. And he got ejected during the fourth quarter. Tarvarius Moore couldn’t cover a receiver, but he stripped one during the fourth quarter.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B. Robbie Gould made all of his kicks, but Richie James averaged just 15 yards per kickoff return. His poor returns cost the 49ers two first downs.

COACHES: D. Robert Saleh’s defense gave up only 14 points, but the Bears weren’t trying to run up the score. They were content throwing short passes, and Saleh did nothing to take them away. Needed to change up the coverage or blitz – anything to disrupt Trubisky’s rhythm. Saleh can’t allow a quarterback to continuously hit seven-yard passes, especially when all of the passes land in the middle of the field or to the side away from Sherman. Against the Bears, the Niners needed to defend only two-thirds of the field, because Trubisky almost never threw a pass to Sherman’s side. How hard is it to defend two thirds of the field with six defenders? Saleh must do better. But, he still outperformed his head coach, Kyle Shanahan, whose offense scored zero points in the second half, and zero touchdowns all game. After halftime, Shanahan inexplicably abandoned his run game. Called just three runs and 21 freaking passes during the second half against a defense that has 27 interceptions this season. A genius like Shanahan should know better.

This article has 84 Comments

  1. So many injury prone players.
    This team has a long way to go.
    But that play by Mullins at the end was one of the most Bone Headed in history.

    1. Mullens small stature may be coming back to haunt. He looks like a solid, hard-working, smart backup. We now need to spend a ton of money and we need a top draft to compete next year. We lack starting level pass catchers among many other things.

    2. Every week Niners seems to have more injured players both during and before the game. Something must be changed to deal in this. In addition, the talent level is just not there. Too many poor drafts and mistakes in FA’s.

  2. I know you love Mullens, but man, those glasses are a bit rose tinged. The INT was a poor throw, it wasn’t just Goodwin’s fault. He missed Pettis earlier in the game when he was wide open.

    When Beathard had balls tipped it was his fault, but for Mullens that’s on the OL? The OL are certainly partly to blame, but Mullens has to do better too.

    Mullens has been impressive, but you’re starting to overlook and forgive mistakes you wouldn’t for JG or Beathard.

    Also, I wouldn’t blame Kittle for the “dropped” TD. It was a nice pass but that was PI all the way – hard to catch the ball when the DB has his arm in there a few seconds before the ball arrives.

      1. Quite early. Pettis had inside leverage on an in-breaking route and Fuller slipped at the top of the stem. But Mullens threw it too far inside.

        1. Hey Scoot,

          On this play doesn’t it look like Pettis and Fuller get caught up a bit which disrupts Pettis coming out of his break?

          1. A little, but its pretty minor, and I don’t think affected Pettis much out of his break. How often are receivers allowed to run completely untouched? There’s always a possibility of timing being a little out. That ball seemed well out in front of Pettis.

      2. Pettis is unimpressive. Hard to figure why Kyle went after him so enthusiastically. Just a horrible draft all the way around.

    1. Scooter_McG says:
      December 23, 2018 at 9:01 pm
      I know you love Mullens, but man, those glasses are a bit rose tinged.
      More then just a bit. Don’t worry though. His man crush on Mullens is just about over and I have a feeling Elijah Lee will be the next future 49ers HoF’er, at least until the next game.

  3. Fair assessment on the grades. I know you will get flack for Goodwin but I think he pulled up a bit which is why he looks like he alligator armed it. If he had been braver, that would have been a catch.

    Still, with all the things the team did poorly, they were in a position to win which is why Mullens mistake looms large. On the plus side his heads up play allowed for the team to score 3 as the clock was running down in the first half. The scoreboard said 4th but he knew what the down was.

  4. 1. Kittle didn’t drop that TD, he was mugged and no PI called.

    2. That was no way an accurate pass to Goodwin. Led him too much, beyond his outstretched fingertips

    3. That last play of Mullens was a doozy alright. That’ll go down in Niners infamy. It’s a good thing this was one of Hammers meaningless games. He’ll have one game to bounce back, will he get much PT next season to advance beyond his inexperience?

    1. 4. And Grant, as to your bewilderment why KS didn’t run more in the second half, I direct you to Grant’s critique of the running backs.

      Remember that joke Woody Allen lifted from the Catskills comics “the food here is so awful. And such small portions “

  5. Obviously you did not see the replay of Kittle, he did not drop the pass, the defender was all over him. Bad call by the refs.

  6. Obviously you did not see the replay of Kittle, he did not drop the pass, the defender was all over him. Bad call by the refs. Goodwin pass was lead to much. Is your bromance with Mullen’s in jeopardy?

    1. Jimmy G beat the Bears last year.
      Maybe you like to finish that comment about Mullen’s numbers being better than Jimmy G’s?

            1. Yeah good day throwing into defenders arms and holding the ball too long.

              He’s a back up and the fact that you guys got all emotional and compared him to be on the same level as Jimmy G because of stats is laughable.

              1. Let’s see some cherry picked stats. I mean that’s your bread and butter but what I can’t wait for is you to finally say Mullen’s is better than Jimmy G.

                You tried earlier in the week.

      1. Only because Mullens bailed them out by getting the ball out of his hands. There were a number of throws that were effected because he was being hit.

  7. Wide receivers deserve a C-, because the pass rush was so effective, and the DBs were all solid.
    O line deserve a D+, because they allowed the pass rush to collapse the pocket, and did little in the running game.
    Cornerbacks deserve a C-, because the pass rush was mostly ineffective. Moore punching the ball out was a good play, and allowed the Niners back in the game.
    I would give the coaching a D+, because Saleh kept them in the game. Too bad the players were unprepared due to a lack of coaching, and they still made the same mistakes. However, the Niners had a chance to win the game in the last 2 minutes against a playoff team. Still, they deserve a D+ because some day, they will learn to consider time outs to be precious, and saved for legitimate challenges, and the last 2 minutes of each half. They also will some day become bold, score TDs, and not settle for FGs.
    This loss hurts because they almost did enough to win.

      1. If Mullens did not have a brain cramp, converted that 4th down play and scored a TD to win as time expired, sure.
        Not now, unless he throws 4 TDs next game.

        1. So basically you got all emotional over a couple wins like your hero and now are changing your tune?
          You don’t know this game very well!

          1. Emotional? When I advocate trading him away while his trade value is high?
            An emotional poster would be speculating that Mullens would win the starting job over JG. I have never done that.
            However, if Mullens had won out against playoff teams, his trade value would be sky high. Now that he lost, and the way he lost, diminishes his worth.

            1. Yeah you spoke too soon. Got emotional like you always do. Now you are talking out both sides of your mouth.
              That’s why people mock you!

              1. Prime, you are the emotional one. Deriding me for speculating, as if what I say can make you erupt into a insult filled screed.
                You mock yourself when you act this way.

              2. You said boat load. You forget? Now after one play it’s all changed?
                I’d say you got a little too emotional with your praise for Mullen’s after 2 wins.
                Classic over emotional!

              3. Maybe I got too hopeful after 2 wins that KS finally has started to coach competently, but your definition of emotional is skewed when you go into attack mode over seemingly innocuous statements, then get belligerent and bellicose when pointing out your over emotional responses.
                I will say that the best way for the Niners to rebuild is for team to obtain a boatload of picks. That could be done by trading away players and getting something for them, instead of cutting them, and getting nothing for them. I did not say that Mullens would absolutely garner 2 first round picks, but if he had won out, there would have been several QB needy teams that would be interested in him. However, now that he lost, and the way he lost, he will not garner a ton of picks. I did not make Mullens throw the ball away, so why would I be responsible for him losing trade value?
                Of course, you want to diss me any way you can, but you sure seem desperate.

              4. “Of course, you want to diss me any way you can, but you sure seem desperate“

                No you do that with your elementary commentary all yourself.
                Then you boast or play victim. It’s weak.

  8. Yes, we know that Goodwin has had some problems this year, but no one has suggested that he still isn’t one of the fastest players on the field. I can’t understand why there hasn’t been an attempt for him to stretch the field like he is capable of. The play that either he or Mullens botched was a shallow cross route that any one of their receivers coudld have run. What was the point? Shanahan may or may not be an offensive genius but sometimes it looks like he thinks his chess pieces are all interchangeable.

    1. Fangio’s defense does give some underneath routes while not allowing receivers to get to completely take the top off the defense.

      If the Goodwin did get behind all DBs, he’d be so far down the field that Mullens would have a hard time getting him the ball.

      The linebackers covered good too, which makes it a tough day.

  9. Absurd to say Goodwin alligator armed that ball. The throw was a step too far. Goodwin stretched as far as he could to even touch the ball.

    The thing that needs to be discussed is how phantom defensive holding calls are ruining NFL games. Refs determined the outcome of the Packers, Giants, and Saints games with ticky tack holding/ PI calls at crucial moments in games. Current rules heavily favoring the offense are making the NFL unwatchable.

    1. Sorry Hou but Goodwin has to have that ball. He heard foot steps and didn’t sell out on it.

      2 guys that can’t stay healthy and always either have to leave the game or don’t show up late and that’s Kuwan Williams and Goodwin.

      Niners to move on from those guys.

    2. I agree. Goodwin was chipped past the line of scrimmage, and that threw off Mullens’ timing.
      I also agree that the refs are deciding the outcomes of games.

    3. Right about the PI calls being too subjective and impacting the outcome.

      My gripe with NFL is the high chance of a flag on any one play makes it so we don’t get to see the ‘result’ as the action happens on the field; and have to wait out the “flag or no flag.” Did we really score? Not sure. New York will tell us.

  10. Trade Mullens? That’s crazy. The Eagles showed last year and this year how important a good back up QB is. There’d be nobody at Levis Stadium if we had to watch any more of CJ this season and you couldn’t blame them. Until you get a better back up QB a bird in the hand is worth far more than two in the bush. Ask Chuckie about that over at the Raiders dumping top players you can’t replace. The good news is the Niners are in decent shape for draft help since they are currently in third place and maybe second place if the Raiders beat the Broncos. Good luck on that one.

    1. If Niners repeat what they did last time they had a good starting quarterback and a good backup quarterback,
      they’d dump the proven starter, and start the surprisingly good backup.

  11. Funny how Mullen’s gets every excuse in the book for scoring no points, and yet KS gets blamed for penalties, bad blocking and drops with no talent on the field.
    Agenda much Grant? Smh

      1. About the same, but without the excuses of what he could have been.
        Folks saying KS gave up on the running game. Would you run as much without Breida and having Mr Fumbles carrying the load another 15 times?
        With that defense who mastered the art of the turnover, no way in heck I’d give him a lot of touches.

        1. The only way I would call 21 passes and three runs in the second half of a close game against that defense is if I were losing on purpose.

          1. Seb…. do you trust a running back that lives to turn the ball over compared to a QB that is playkg well?
            Makes sense.

            And Grant… with that bonehead throw to end the game. It could be a possibility. Pee wee players run in that scenario.

            1. Wilson looked like he learned from his mistakes and did not repeat them. Cannot play worrying about ball security, or he will never pay again.
              Remember, there were zero fumbles lost, and one interception.

  12. 1) the oline played decent enough to win only gave up one sack on the most ferocious pass rush in league,(we had 3) id say thats a win,mcglinchy cant bend remember Grant even though Mack didnt record the sack.
    2)if theres no holding on the would be Kittle touchdown,then the hold they called on Warner to negate a pick was a bogus call,suprise, suprise.the NFL cant let the lowly niners knock off the Bears,all they did all game in the booth was fondled the bears,how great they are sheesh we were winning damn near whole game.
    3).Saleh bring the f$$#@ng blitz DANG.
    4).Mullens made a mistake,to bad it was 4 down and had room to run.you live,you learn.
    young players make mistakes.
    5)dont understand how there was a replay of downs when all the players were ejected they had 3 penalties we had 2 maybe my understanding is flawed
    6).we played good enough to win with all the injuries and a 3rd string qb against what is arguably the best defensive in the league.
    7).i will say im satisfied with where we are headed.

  13. Donte Whitner said that Goodwin should have had that pass. I tend to agree. It looked like he short armed it. He’s been underwhelming all season long. Yes, he’s fast, but there are sub 4.4 forty WRs available. John Brown plays on a team who has a worse throwing QB than anyone on the Niners, including CJ, but could probably start for the Niners at RB, so Brown’s production under Lamar Jackson is not indicative of his potential. Brown is a better version of Goodwin and he’ll be available as a FA. I doubt the Niners will move on from Goodwin. They’ll see this season as an outlier of sorts for him, here. Looking at his time in Buffalo, it’s not. It’s the mean.

    I’d sign John Brown and Tyrell Williams. I’d dump Goodwin and Garcon, keep Bourne and hope Dante Pettis finds some testosterone in the offseason.

    Throw a dart for either Taylor or James and send the other packing. They’re too similar in some ways.

    I’d also get another TE to compliment Kittle. The free agents for TE are slim pickins, but there’s a very solid crop of college TEs this year.

    1. Whitner made his living, decapitating players who risked catching the ball over the middle. No wonder he wanted Goodwin to catch the ball, and he could relate to Trevathan coming from the other direction to lay the lumber on Goodwin.
      Mullens should have just thrown the ball to Bourne, who Houston said was open.
      Lamar Jackson just propelled the Ravens into the playoffs, so he needs Brown to throw to. Ravens will keep Brown if he is as good as you say.
      Irv Smith Jr is a good TE prospect, with 4.5 speed.

  14. I mostly agree with these grades, except Mullens should have been a D. I think he was at a B to B- game until the last play.

    Goodwin is terrible. I like the dude, I really do, but he’s got to go. Salah has got to go. What amazes me is that the Niners are 4 turnovers behind the WORST number of turnovers EVER. In NFL History. Someone needs to be held accountable for that. It’s not just a case of not having playmakers – a franchise like the Niners should not be getting these kinds of “records”. If Salah isn’t fired after next game every single error should be scrutinized next year and if the Niners don’t make the playoffs the house needs cleaning. Frankly if Salah stays that tells me this organization doesn’t care about winning, because there is no way you care about winning if you retain the guy that oversaw the worst number of turnovers from a defence the NFL has ever seen in a season. This is just shocking. It’s not even close. Niners need 4 turnovers next week just to tie the record. I could argue that that alone would be enough to burn it down and fire everyone, but at the very least, Salah has to go. Might not be all his fault, but this has to be addressed. It’s unacceptable.

    Niners have almost ruined Xmas.

    1. Finally, someone sees Goodwin’s limitations. He won’t go though. Who is the real GM? Is it KS or Lynch. If I’m Lynch, I’d tell Kyle, “I’ll get you a better version of Goodwin.”

      Saleh will stay. In fact, I don’t see many changes coming unless someone leaves of their own accord, hired by someone else, etc..

      Shanahan doesn’t strike me as a guy that makes changes.

      He should find a red zone guru and spend a couple of weeks with him–that’s an area of improvement that could pay real dividends.

  15. Grant – Way to double down on your anti KS narrative: “The only way I would call 21 passes and three runs in the second half of a close game against that defense is if I were losing on purpose”…..
    And you wonder why you get no respect from anyone in the 49ers building?

      1. RUNNING BACKS: D. Matt Breida left the game with an ankle injury for what seems like the 4,080th time this season. He is a china doll. Backup running back Jeff Wilson averaged just 2.5 yards per carry, but at least he didn’t fumble.

        And that duo was going to turn the game around? A gimp and a fumble fingers? Do you even read what you write? What would you have done, coach/GM?

          1. How would you stay balanced when your best running back is out and his replacement is only gaining 1 2 yards per carry?

            1. Wilson never got a chance to get in rhythm in the second half.

              His first two carries were outside runs toward Khalil Mack. Those plays had no chance for success. Bad calls by Shanahan.

              Wilson’s third carry was an inside run. Good call, but Mike McGlinchey missed his block, and Wilson got tackled in the backfield.

              1. I guess Shanahan is a NFL coach for a reason and you are a writer for a reason. 2 completely different skill sets and motives.

  16. It’s funny how when Mullens has a pass tipped at the line it’s because he’s small. We saw a number of passes from Beathard tipped as well, and some from Garoppolo earlier this year too.

  17. D.J. Swearinger up for grabs. He is a leader. He has a reputation for being over-the-top at times in his criticism but from what I’ve read he is a hard worker. I think Earl Thomas is on their radar but Grant, you think the team has any interest?

  18. the Niners need a few tough players who don’t get hurt so often. A tough running back to handle some of the load. I like Breida and the one who hurt his knee but it’s clear they need to be used a little sparingly. Running back by committee looks like the way to go. We need corners that can cover and make plays rather than ones who are just tall. A tall guy who can’t cover isn’t worth a —.

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