Missed opportunities prove costly for 49ers in 2022 opener; 5 burning questions answered

The San Francisco 49ers were their own worst enemy in a 19-10 loss to the Chicago Bears on Sunday.

Sunday’s loss dropped the 49ers to 2-4 in season openers under Kyle Shanahan. The two seasons they won on opening weekend culminated in a trip to the Super Bowl and NFC Championship Game. The four seasons they lost ended in losing records. 

On Sunday, the 49ers defense played lights out during the first half, holding Chicago scoreless while giving the offense the ball with terrific field position.

The deepest San Francisco’s offense started the first four possessions was their own 36. 

San Francisco’s offense responded with a Deebo Samuel fumble in the redzone at the Bears 12. 

Talanoa Hufanga set the offense up with the ball on the Bears side of the field for its next possession with an interception of Justin Fields. 

After a 16 yard gain by Elijah Mitchell to open the possession, Trey Lance’s throw to Tyler Kroft was off the mark. Kroft had beat the Bears defense and was wide open on a leake route down the left sideline. Two plays later, Lance would be sacked on third down as the offense again came away with no points.

The 49ers mistakes carried into the second half. On the first possession of the second half, the 49ers faced third and goal from Chicago’s four yard line. Lance had Ross Dwelley open on the left side but didn’t pull the trigger and was sacked. The loss led to a field goal, but San Francisco held a slim ten-point lead instead of being up at least 24-0.

From that point on, the mistakes started coming from the defense.

On the ensuing possession, safety Tashaun Gipson made a near-perfect break on the ball to get in front of the Bears wide receiver, but he could not hold on for an interception. 

Two plays later, Chicago quarterback Justin Fields broke free from a sack to find Dante Pettis alone on the right side for a 51 yard touchdown pass. 

Once the Bears got on the board, the wheels completely fell off for the 49ers. 

On the final three possessions of the game, the 49ers offense was able to muster only 53 yards on 22 plays, including a Trey Lance interception that gave Chicago the ball on San Francisco’s 21.

Chicago went on to put the ball in the endzone for the third time in the second half to put the game out of reach.

Let’s take a look at the five burning questions I asked on Friday:

1.) Can Trey Lance manage the game? NO

Trey Lance was up and down in the preseason, which translated to week one. 

Lance ripped the ball in to several receivers for big gains throughout the first half and early third quarter. 

Unfortunately, he also overthrew a wide open Tyler Kroft on the second play of San Francisco’s second possession of the game. This was a play Lance had run often with success during his time at North Dakota State. It was play action with a slight roll to the right while the tight end snuck down the left side on a wheel route, and Lance just missed on the throw.

To his credit, Lance wasn’t bad on third down as the 49ers were able to convert eight of 17 tries.

Lance finished week one 13-28 for 164 yards passing. The second-year quarterback also ran the ball 13 times for 54 yards.

2.) Will the 49ers defense be able to contain Justin Fields? Yes and No

The 49ers defense shut Fields down in the first half, limiting the Bears quarterback to three of nine passing for only 19 yards. 

It was a different story in the second half. Fields began to start moving around more often. Fields’ ability to avoid the rush led to a 51-yard touchdown throw to Dante Pettis. 

On the next Bears possession, Fields hit Byron Pringle for 22 after the receiver got behind rookie Samuel Womack. A few plays later, Fields found Equanimeous St. Brown open in the endzone from 18 yards out for the go-ahead score.

The Bears quarterback also gave the 49ers trouble by sliding down just before getting hit on a couple of runs leading to critical personal foul penalties. 

Fields finished the day 8-17 for 121 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. He also ran the ball 11 times for 28 yards.

3.) Can the 49ers defense stop the run? YES

The 49ers defense held Chicago to only 99 yards on 37 rushing attempts, an average of 2.7 yards per carry. 

Fields ability to move around caused problems for San Francisco from late in the first half on, especially with the personal foul penalties mentioned earlier. 

4.) How will the new faces in secondary hold up? Not good enough

Samuel Womack was beaten for a 22 yard gain to open the Bears second scoring drive, and Tashaun Gipson could not hold on to an interception.

The San Francisco secondary also lost track of Dante Pettis, losing him in coverage leading to a 51-yard touchdown. On the following possession they would lose Equanimeous St. Brown leading to the go ahead touchdown from 18 yards out.

5.) Can the new offensive line hold up? YES

They weren’t the problem on Sunday for all of the talk about this group during the offseason. 

The revamped 49ers offensive line held up well. Trey Lance was sacked only twice, and San Francisco ran for 176 yards on 37 carries. 

Prediction: 49ers 17 Bears 13

I wrote Friday this game would be closer than many expected. The ups and downs we saw on Sunday were similar to what we saw during both of Lance’s starts last season. 

There were big plays, but also enough mistakes to keep the 49ers from winning. San Francisco needs to find some rhythm and make plays if they are to avoid an 0-2 start to the season.

This article has 41 Comments

  1. Jack,
    Lance may have only been sacked twice but how often was he forced to get rid of the ball because of intense pressure or how often was he immediately pressured and flushed out of the pocket or forced to run?
    On another subject was it just me or was Chi.’s O line constantly holding both on run plays but mostly on pass plays?

    1. Kyle’s losing record overall and his losing first game of the season is also disappointing. Our team did not look motivated or prepared. Lance has not improved over the last year. The first-round picks? Maybe one but not more than one. I fear the truth is out: Trey was a bad decision for Lynch and Kyle.

      1. SF49 injected some sanity on this blog the other day:
        A 9-8 Niners season and no playoff appearance. Agreed
        with him then and even more so after today.

            1. That was my biggest reasoning!

              The schedule is brutal

              •0-4 against AFC West
              •TB, NO, and MIA all could be loses
              •They went 2-4 in division last year

    2. Lance had to move often, but that’s not unusual in the NFL, and I don’t think it played a big role on his few mistakes.

      Will give a better idea after watching the film.

  2. Sorry Jack….maybe the o line only gave up 2 sacks, but it was clear that Williams and The 4 Dudes were pretty much what we expected…Lance was hurried numerous times because of pressure, and though the pressure isn’t a sack, an incompletion because of pressure is just as effective..put that with 100 yds in penalties, the inability to convert third downs when they needed to and the turnovers, it easy to see why they got beaten by a team with a roster of half the talent..if I were Kyle and Lynch, I’d be pissed to no end after this game

  3. The OL was DEFINITELY an issue!:

    ESPN’s Nick Wagoner noted that TREY LANCE was pressured 12 TIMES on 34 DROPBACKS despite the Bears NEVER sending an extra rusher. Teams in the last 15 seasons are now 1-6 in situations where their QB drops back 30-plus times and doesn’t face a blitz.

    The 49ers chose to roll with a woefully inexperienced interior OL this season, which sure seems like a shameful thing to do to a young QB! Just saying!

    1. I just can’t wrap my head around the idea that Trey Lance’s 1st season as the 49ers starting QB, would be the first time in the Kyle Shanahan era, where the 49ers decided not to prioritize experience along the interior of the OL.

      It’s simply ILLOGICAL from a teambuilding perspective if you’re at all interested in prioritizing the development of your young QB!

      Fact is though, Jimmy Garoppolo would fare even worse behind this porous, and extremely inexperienced interior OL! Can you imagine lead-foot Jimmy G, behind this year’s OL? Yikes!

      1. And JACK, I wanted to ask you this:

        Was Jimmy Garoppolo the right guy to simulate Justin Fields on the 49ers scout team this week?

        To me that makes no sense, and as a result the 49ers were once again unprepared for Field’s ability to scramble and extend plays today, maybe even more so than last season.

        1. The 49ers defense shut down Chicago in the first half. Fields didn’t do anything yesterday that he didn’t do last year when Lance was running the scout team.

      2. Dude when the 49ers went to the super bowl with Jimmy G their offensive line was Joe Staley, Laken Tomlinson, Ben Garland, Mike Person, and McGlinchey.

        Trey Lance is supposed to be mobile and be able to avoid the rush right? Isn’t that part of the reason he is better than Garoppolo?

  4. All those Lance Lovers who thought he should have been the starter last season need to reconsider him. Lance should return to North Dakota State to complete his scholastic education and complete his athletic development. He is not yet ready for the NFL and while he’s a nice person he isn’t what the Niners need. How the coaching staff handles this mess will be fascinating to observe.

  5. I can imagine what Green Bay felt last January is exactly how we felt today.

    Had the game under control early but never able to put it away. Unable to score when spending a bulk of their time on the opponent’s side of the field. Weather eventually became a bit of a factor, and flipped the script.

    Good thing is this is our first game of the season. It turned out to be the last game of theirs.

  6. 1. Jack everything in your article is factually correct, but I don’t think it accurately paints a complete picture . Niners dominated the game in the first half and should have cruised to victory in the 2nd. 4 plays let the Bears hang around and get back in the game: Deebo Fumble, broken play Pettis TD, 2 critical Greenlaw penalties .

    2. Lance had a goodish day overall . The miss to Kroft and pick were obviously less than ideal. His pass to Ray Ray in between LB and FS was a thing of beauty. He has a clear connection with Aiyuk which will only develop throughout the season . The PI call on Aiyuk was total BS. He barely grazed the corner. I think Lance rushed for 4 first downs. Things will look up once the running game stabilizes and Kittle returns .

    3. We gave the game away in penalties. Shanahan referenced it in his press conference.

    4. OLine was unimpressive in pass protection but not bad in run blocking. It seemed like they were getting a lot of pressure up the middle forcing Lance to scramble or rush his throws. McGlinchey had the key block in Deebo’s TD run.

    5. We draft well on the Defensive side of the ball but there have been a lot of misses or underperformers on offense. We need a dedicated specialist for O line and RB. If we spend a 2nd on G and 2 3rds on RB, we really need at least 2 of the 3 to perform at high level.

      1. McGlinchey’s recommendation is a big reason the Niners drafted Banks. They were teammates at ND. Precisely we need a non-biased Oline expert oversee draft picks.

  7. Aside from the 1st game loss, I saw some positives going forward.
    1. Hufanga looks like a star in the making. His ability to sniff out plays at the line of scrimmage and make sure tackles are going to make the D much better.
    2. Burford and Banks did ok in their starting debut. Just like Lance, they will experience some growing pains, but will get better with each game.
    3. Jauan Jennings looks like he put his poor TC practices behind him. If Jennings can play to his late last year’s performance, it’s going to be a big help to the offense and for Trey Lance.

    Jack, I also called a close game early in the week. It seems that Shanahan’ offense is made to run at full capacity under better field conditions. It’s a little difficult for RBs to run with straight-line power on a slushy field.
    You are right, too many missed opportunities hurt the 49ers today.
    But like Trey Lance said in his post game presser, “there are 16 more games to play.”

  8. I’ve been trying to tell people this team is a 8-9 win team at best. A big reason is just the schedule. I don’t know why people choose to ignore that this team was 2-4 in the division last year?

    This defense is overhyped. They were inconsistent last year, we’re horrid on 3rd and long last year, and ALWAYS STRUGGLE AGAINST MOBILE QB’s. There is a few good players but they are a long way from the 2019 defense and their depth is not what it appears.

    As far as Lance and the offense it’s going to be a process. I think it will take all year for Lance to really get his barrings and in 2023 we can really begin to evaluate him. By that time he will be due for an extension, so much for that rookie contract.

    Last point it’s tough to see Fields beat Lance with a far inferior team.

    1. Maybe if we had drafted a QB who can throw deep and scrambles we would have won the game. Too bad we can’t find a QB who is more of game manager and has a winning record.
      Maybe next year if this year is for Lance to learn how to play football!

      1. Love it!! You covered the bases..reminds me of the old days when fans would argue back and forth about Alex Smith and Sackorpick….the bitching about Jimmy not being able to throw deep, and now, Lance’s inability to manage the game…anybody who had visions of another Super Bowl run this year, for this team, rethink it….a rookie QB (Kyles assertion), Trent Williams and the Four Dudes….that in itself is enough to make me think that 9-8 will be a success

    2. I had them at 10-7 and I still believe they will be around that at the end of the year. Of course that record will put them on the bubble a bit when it comes to playoff eligibility but I think they’ll get in.

      Also, maybe it’s just me but I don’t see any talent in Fields other than the ability to scramble and perhaps an option play or two.

      I just don’t think Fields’ got the goods.

      1. Lance had way more impreasive throws than Fields. Lance had a few throws that I have not seen a Niner QB thrown in a very long time. And the kid is just starting to play football.

  9. I don’t think Kyle Shanahan is getting enough blame. The niners doesn’t have an identity. The niners are at their best when they’re running first and going play action off of the run. I believe the OL is built to help the team run, which doesn’t bode well for the passing game. It feels Shanahan is trying to force the offense to change it’s identity and become a passing team.

    Trey Lance looks indecisive at times. It’s to be expected. If Shanahan stuck to the teams original identity Trey’s growth would be easier to manage. IMO

    It was disappointing to see them lose to Chicago. Hopefully they can figure something out before the next game.

    1. Kyle definitely deserves more blame especially in the 2nd half (although the whole team collapsed in the 2nd half). The playcalling after Mitchell went down was uninspiring to say the least. Trey to Aiyuk outside the numbers were money and couldn’t be stopped. Heck, outside of Trey missed throw for a TD to our TE, was money on those outside throws. But we hardly targeted Aiyuk again and most of the pass where in the middle! Kyle seems couldn’t adjust when Mitchell went down.

  10. Here’s the one thing I really dislike about the Bears game. Elijah Mitchell had a 6.8 yard average per carry on 6 carries. Jeff Wilson Jr had a 2.4 yard average per carry on 9 carries. Is Elijah Mitchell really that much better than Jeff Wilson? If Mitchell is out for an extended time, is it Mason or TDP? This is one of those things that needs to get fixed quick. I don’t think you really want Trey Lance being you’re lead rusher every week.

  11. all true but the bottom line: Trump has not improved since last year. And that means the Niners are not likely to have more than a 9-8 season. I like Lance. He is a solid person with agreat family. But he never played in the big time. Get Purdy up soon. He played 4 years as a starter in the Big 10.

  12. The worst cut the 9ers made this year was J. Hasty. He looked better this preseason than he had looked his entire career. They really could have used him yesterday. He was active for Jacksonville yesterday but did not have any carriers or receptions. Do you think the Jags would take a 6th round pick for him?

  13. Just saw PFF graded out Aaron Banks at 76.0 which is a great grade. Actually impressed with that number. I’m not a PFF guy but it can be an indicator, used along with what you see on the field, that can give you an idea of how someone played. I thought Banks wasn’t terrible but he wasn’t the main issue either.

    1. This OL scares me. Saw a stat that this OL gave up pressure on an astonishing 35% rate when Chicago sent ONLY 4 man rush! This is what we do to the likes of Rogers and make him look mortal.

    2. Pat,
      Just heard J. Staley on KNBR. He said Banks looked good on pass blocking, his problems were when they ran the ball. Staley said Banks takes the wrong angle when getting to LB’s on the next level. He said he didn’t get to LB’s that he should have and if he had there would have been big holes. I wonder if PFF grades a OL down on blocks he didn’t get to.

  14. I just hope that this team does not take another 9 weeks to finally get going like last year. Man, I still have nightmares on that 2 – 5 starts. There were a bunch of ugly games there and yesterday was a remindet of that!

  15. J. Staley said the OT’s played worse than the interior linemen. If my memory serves me correct Williams has been a slow starter every year he has been with the 9ers. He may be a player who needs to play in the preseason but the chance for an injury is too risky.

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