Rookie quarterback Justin Fields displayed his rare dual-threat ability in spectacular fashion at times Sunday at Soldier Field. But the Bears once again failed to play complementary football in a 33-22 loss to the 49ers.
A once vaunted defense didn't force a San Francisco punt or turnover the entire game. After missing a field goal on their first possession, the 49ers scored on seven straight drives before running out the final 1:12 with three kneel-downs.
"We didn't get the stops like we needed to; there's no doubt about that," said Chris Tabor, who served as Bears acting head coach with Matt Nagy still in COVID-19 protocol. "What, did they score seven straight times or something like that? So, you can't argue that fact.
"In that room, I'm still going to jump in a foxhole with all those guys, and we're going to work to get better. I know that's big coach-speak, but we're a team, we're a family. We're hurting right now, but we've got to bounce back."
With the 49ers settling for field goals on their final three possessions of the first half, the Bears extended their 13-9 halftime lead to 16-9 on Cairo Santos' 25-yard field goal with 8:33 to play in the third quarter.
The 49ers responded by scoring touchdowns on three straight drives and then added a field goal on a fourth possession, outscoring the Bears 24-6 over the game's final 21 minutes.
"It was a game of two halves," Tabor said. "I thought we played good football there in the first half and were doing the things that we wanted to do. But in the second half, we didn't get the off the field when we needed to get off the field, and then you've got to score more touchdowns than you do field goals."
Fields, meanwhile, made impressive plays with his arm and legs. He rushed for 103 yards on 10 carries—including a dazzling 22-yard touchdown—and completed 19 of 27 passes for 175 yards with one TD, one interception and an 84.6 passer rating. His lone pick came on a desperation pass that deflected off Darnell Mooney's hands late in the game.
"No. 1 improved today," Tabor said of Fields. "I thought you saw he made plays with his legs. He led our team. I thought he threw the ball well. He gave us a chance and obviously he's a special player. He made nothing into something and got us going there. Real pleased with him, and that's the story of a rookie quarterback. You saw a guy get better, so I am excited about that."
Despite Fields' performance, the Bears dropped their third straight to fall to 3-5.
Here's what transpired in the game:
The Bears scored on all three of their first-half possessions, generating one touchdown and two field goals to take a 13-9 halftime lead.
After Joey Slye missed a 48-yard field goal wide right on the game's opening possession, the Bears took a 3-0 lead on their first drive on Santos' 39-yard field goal with 4:38 left in the first quarter.
Fields completed 3 of 3 passes for 31 yards and Khalil Herbert had a 22-yard run on the drive. The Bears settled for the field goal after a penalty on James Daniels for being illegally downfield nullified a perfectly executed screen pass to Herbert, who gained 15 yards on third-and-14 to the 49ers' 12.
Slye's 48-yard field goal tied the score 3-3 with 2:51 remaining in the opening period. On the first play of the drive, running back Elijah Mitchell took a pitch to the left and picked up 27 yards.
The Bears took a 10-3 lead on Fields' 8-yard touchdown pass to Jesse James with 12:03 to play in the second quarter. Fields rolled to his left and hit a diving James in the corner of the end zone. The rookie quarterback completed 4 of 5 passes for 41 yards on the 11-play, 74-yard drive.
After Slye's 52-yard field goal cut the deficit to 10-6 with 9:33 remaining in the second period, the Bears responded with Santos' 40-yard field goal, widening the margin to 13-6 with 1:16 to play.
In the final seconds of the half, Jimmy Garoppolo rainbowed a 50-yard completion to receiver Deebo Samuel to the Bears' 4, beating Kindle Vildor. With no timeouts remaining, the 49ers raced up to the line and Garoppolo spiked the ball, stopping the clock with :07 left.
After an incompletion, Slye's 22-yard field goal as time expired trimmed the margin to 13-9.
In the first half, Fields completed 11 of 13 passes for 82 yards with one touchdown and a 118.6 passer rating and rushed for 48 yards on five attempts. Herbert rushed for 66 yards on 13 carries.
Santos' third field goal of the day, a 25-yarder on the opening possession of the second half, extended the Bears' lead to 16-9 with 8:33 remaining in the third quarter.
But the 49ers answered with their first two touchdowns of the game on back-to-back drives to take a 23-16 lead. First, Samuel turned a short pass from Garoppolo on third-and-19 into an 83-yard gain to the Bears' 1. After a false start against San Francisco pushed the ball back to the 6, the 49ers eventually scored on Garoppolo's 2-yard run on third-and-goal. But Slye missed the extra point wide right, enabling the Bears to maintain a 16-15 lead with 5:56 left in the third period.
The 49ers then took their first lead of the game at 23-16 early in the fourth quarter on Mitchell's 5-yard run and Garoppolo's two-point conversion pass to receiver Brandon Aiyuk.
The Bears answered in spectacular fashion. On fourth-and-1 from the San Francisco 22, Fields was caught in the backfield—but somehow escaped and then eluded four more tacklers on a dazzling 22-yard TD run. But Santos missed the extra point, enabling the 49ers to maintain a 23-22 lead with 9:32 to play.
San Francisco followed by marching 75 yards on five plays with little resistance, widening the margin to 30-22 on Garoppolo's 5-yard TD run with 6:34 to play. The 49ers added some insurance late, with Slye's 32-yard field goal increasing their lead to 33-22 with 1:56 to play.
"Going into the half, we felt like we had the game under control," said defensive tackle Akiem Hicks. "I think that when we came back out, we loosened up on some fundamental things, some techniques, some just overall playmaking. We let some of that slip, and they took advantage of it. Credit to them; they capitalized on our faults."
Watch the Bears' Week 8 game against the San Francisco 49ers unfold through the lenses of our sideline photographers at Soldier Field.