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.