The Bears rallied from a 9-7 halftime deficit to beat the San Francisco 49ers 14-9 Sunday at Levi’s Stadium. Here are three things that stood out in the game:
(1) As has been the case most of the season, the Bears defense produced key plays when the game was on the line late in the fourth quarter.
With the Bears leading 14-9, the defense generated a crucial takeaway and forced the 49ers to turn the ball over on downs on San Francisco’s final two possessions.
First, Danny Trevathan intercepted a Nick Mullens pass that deflected off receiver Marquise Goodwin’s hands after the 49ers had reached the Bears’ 20. Then, after an Allen Robinson II fumble had given San Francisco new life, the defense forced three straight incompletions on second, third and fourth down from the Chicago 45.
Having performed in the clutch all season, defensive players have come to expect that the unit will make a key play or two to lead the Bears to a victory. “That’s kind of been who we’ve been all year long,” said coach Matt Nagy. “There’s been some bend-but-don’t-break for us, and that’s not the first time that that’s happened with getting a turnover in that area (inside the opponent’s 20). I love the fact that they’re saying they expect that because that means they’re believing in it and they’re producing.”
Sunday marked the second time in three games that the Bears did not allow a touchdown. “The biggest thing is to be able to keep them from scoring touchdowns, and we’ve been doing that, which is always positive. It speaks volumes of who we are as a team.
“I feel like our defense has been peaking all year long. They’ve been playing at another level this whole entire season. To keep the consistent level of play that they’ve played at all year long I think is rare and that’s a credit to the players and the coaches for getting those guys that way. I just want them to continue playing the way they’re playing. If they do that, we’ll be all right.”
(2) Quarterback Mitchell Trubisky was extremely efficient, completing 25 of 29 passes in the game, including 16 of 17 in the second half.
Trubisky passed for 246 yards with one touchdown, no interceptions and a 113.5 passer rating. On the Bears’ 75- and 90-yard TD drives, the second-year pro completed 11 of 12 passes for 113 yards, including a 4-yard touchdown strike to Anthony Miller.
“I know he threw a lot of completions,” Nagy said. “Any time you throw a lot of completions in this game, you give yourself a chance to win because you stay ahead of the sticks and you don’t get into third-and-long situations. He did that. It felt like he had a bunch of completions in a row. When you do that in this league, good things happen.”
On eight of their 11 third-down plays, the Bears needed five or fewer yards for a first down: 2, 1, 4, 2, 5, 5, 4 and 3 yards.
Trubisky showed resiliency in connecting with Miller for a touchdown three plays after an interception he threw in the end zone on an ill-advised pass was nullified by a defensive holding penalty on the 49ers.
“Next-play mentality all the way,” Trubisky said. “It was like, ‘Take a deep breath, you’ve got new life. Now go finish it and be smart about it.’ So that’s what I wanted to do. It was a great play-call by coach. Great execution all around. When all 11 guys are playing as one, we’re a tough offense to stop. But we can’t stop ourselves [with] turnovers, penalties, anything like that. We just need to stay within rhythm and [employ] the next-play mentality all the way.”
(3) The entire Bears sideline took exception to a late hit to the head of a sliding Trubisky by 49ers safety Marcell Harris in the fourth quarter.
The dirty play precipitated a scrum that involved several players from both teams. Miller, Bears receiver Joshua Bellamy and 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman were ejected from the game for their roles in the melee. Nagy said Monday that he spoke to both Miller and Bellamy on the plane ride home from San Francisco late Sunday.
“It’s a tough deal because everybody here is a competitor and your natural instinct is to come out to protect somebody,” Nagy said. “[But] I’m not condoning what they did; you’ve got to play within the rules and you want to make sure you’re not doing anything to hurt yourself or hurt others or do anything to hurt the league and how it looks.
“It’s a violent game, and when you see your boy, teammate, friend or family member getting hit like that—especially weeks ago when something similar happened like that (when Trubisky was injured on a late hit by Vikings safety Harrison Smith), it’s natural. I don’t care what anybody says, it’s natural to protect your guy, and that’s what they did.”
Trubisky was not surprised that his teammates quickly came in his defense. “I saw exactly what I knew: My teammates had my back all the way, which was awesome to see,” Trubisky said. “We’re brothers out there. We’re a family and we’re going to protect one another. It was nice to see they had my back and I hope they know I always have theirs as well. It was cool to see those guys jump in. We just have to be smart about it because we need everyone.”