By Sam McPherson
After losing to the Chicago Bears 26-6 on Sunday, the San Francisco 49ers have now lost 11 straight games. The progress that looked so promising over the past month disappeared in the Windy City environs of Soldier Field. Considering it was the Chicago Cubs that ended the San Francisco Giants’ 2016 baseball season so harshly in October, perhaps it’s appropriate the Bears really stuck a fork in the 49ers’ hopes of another win in football this year.
The proud San Francisco organization that perfected the modern passing game on its way to four Super Bowl championships in the 1980s set a team-low mark of just six net yards passing in Sunday’s loss, and controversial quarterback Colin Kaepernick was benched in the game after struggling for three quarters against the Chicago defense. The 49ers’ defense did the best it could under the cold-weather circumstances, but the Bears pulled away for the win in the second half after leading by just one point at halftime.
Running back Carlos Hyde was the lone bright spot for the San Francisco offense, as he ran for 92 yards on just 20 carries. His longest rush of the day was just 12 yards, though, and without the passing game to complement his efforts, the 49ers couldn’t score a touchdown against the Chicago defense. S.F. took an early 6-0 lead on field goals, but the 49ers never scored again for the rest of the game.
Colin Kaepernick completed just one pass for four yards in this game, while running for 20 yards on six carries. He was also sacked five times, leading to that team-record for net passing yards. Combined, Kaepernick and backup Blaine Gabbert combined for 5-of-15 passing, gaining just 39 yards. The six total sacks suffered by the 49ers’ offense totaled 33 yards, leading to that six-yard net total on the day. Needless to say, there were few receptions to be had on this day, and while the weather played a role, it’s hard to use that an excuse for this kind of performance.
Forget the fact that the defense gave up 326 yards to a Bears offense led by inexperienced players. When your own offense gains just 147 yards on the day, it’s pretty stunning that the San Francisco defense was only on the field for 31:18 of game time. The 49ers trailed just 7-6 at halftime, but Chicago was able to put the game away in the second half. The Bears basically won the game with a late second-quarter TD drive and an early third-quarter TD drive, totaling 156 yards.
Otherwise, the San Francisco defense played admirably under the circumstances. The first Chicago score was tough, though, as the 49ers let the Bears’ offense march 81 yards in eight plays that took just 1:25 off the clock. Two big pass plays from Chicago QB Matt Barkley to wide receiver Cameron Meredith for 45 yards combined did the damage, as did a pass-interference penalty against cornerback Tramaine Brock.
Special Teams: B+
Dontae Johnson had a nice 25-yard punt return off a block, but otherwise, the return game was quiet. Punter Bradley Pinion had a mediocre day, averaging just 38.1 yards per attempt. Kicker Phil Dawson made both his FG attempts, and he obviously didn’t have any extra-point chances. Overall, there was little to see here, which is both good and bad.
The fact that the 2016 Bears were just 2-9 coming into this game adds insult to the injury the offense caused all 49ers fans in this contest. San Francisco had a legitimate chance to win this game, but the team’s offensive problems resurfaced at the wrong time. Kelly has to have better control of his personnel and roster than this game showed, especially 13 weeks into the regular season. The weather didn’t help the situation, but that’s football in Chicago, and the 49ers should have been prepared for it.
The 49ers host the New York Jets next Sunday at Levi’s Stadium, and since the Jets are playing on Monday night in Week 13, this means it’s a short week and a travel week for the Jets. This will be the last chance for San Francisco to win another game in 2016, as the Jets have just three wins heading into their Monday night match-up with the Indianapolis Colts. After Week 14, the Niners are outmatched in their final three games of the year.