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Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports


Full position grades and analysis from 49ers’ Week 16 loss to Bears

Dec 23, 2018 at 6:36 PM0



The San Francisco 49ers managed to go toe to toe with the playoff-destined Chicago Bears, ultimately falling 14-9 in a defensively stout contest at Levi's Stadium. Yet there's a bit more to discuss and grade than just the defensive efforts from the Niners.


The San Francisco 49ers were unable to continue their recent trend of playoff spoilers in Week 16, ultimately falling to the NFC North division champions, the Chicago Bears, by a score of 14-9 at Levi's Stadium on Sunday.

In many ways, the game will be remembered by two plays -- first, the hit by safety Marcell Harris on Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, that created quite the sideline fracas and ended up in three player ejections, including cornerback Richard Sherman. And the second, of course, was quarterback Nick Mullens' fourth-down toss with the game on the line and a wide-open running lane with which he likely would have picked up the first down.

Those two plays were big, of course. But they don't tell the whole story. Instead, let's look at each unit for San Francisco and dish out some grades from the 49ers' final home game of 2018.

Quarterback


Mullens admitted he made a mistake not running for the first down right as he attempted that fourth-quarter, fourth-down pass to wide receiver Marquise Goodwin. It fell incomplete, by the way, giving the ball back to the Bears and allowing them to ice the clock.

That overshadows the 38 pass attempts the second-year quarterback had against one of the best defenses in the NFL, though. And it also takes away from an impressive two-minute drive Mullens engineered right before halftime -- one that culminated in the third of the 49ers' three field goals on the day.

Overall, Mullens was 22-of-38 on the day for 241 yards and an interception. That pick, a ball that bounced off Goodwin's fingertips and into the arms of Bears linebacker Danny Trevathan, was the 10th time a 49ers quarterback tossed an interception that bounced off a receiver's hands.

"I feel like it's just a stupid turnover," Mullens told reporters after the game. "It's not 'Quise's fault."

Mullens was far from perfect, especially his decision making at the end, but he didn't get as much help as he would have liked.

Grade: D-

Running Back


It's nearly a weekly occurrence to see running back Matt Breida either on the injury report with an ankle injury or come out of the game with an ankle injury. In Week 16, it was the latter.

Breida exited after just four carries for 20 yards, giving way to No. 2 tailback Jeff Wilson. Wilson averaged 2.5 yards per carry, while the Niners managed a mere 47 yards on the ground and averaged 3.1 yards per attempt.

Grade: D

Wide Receiver


Like Breida going out with an injury, the Niners were hindered a lot by wide receiver Dante Pettis suffering what looked to be a serious knee injury in the first half. Pettis was tackled awkwardly and immediately grabbed his knee after falling to the ground. He stayed there for a while before making his way off the field and into the locker room.

Fortunately, head coach Kyle Shanahan told the press he thought it was an MCL injury and not an ACL tear. Pettis, who had been an offensive force for San Francisco the past few weeks, was held to three catches for 21 yards. That did open up things for second-year pro Kendrick Bourne, however, who had four grabs for a position-high 73 yards.

Goodwin's missed catch hurts, though. And it didn't look as if Mullens was particularly happy about it despite his postgame comments:


Grade: C-

Tight End


Chicago made an attempt to keep tight end George Kittle from beating its defense at the line of scrimmage, jamming him and preventing early breaks into his routes. Kittle admitted this was problematic after the game.

"They did a really good job of using two edge guys to try to jam me every single route," Kittle told reporters.

That said, Kittle still managed an impressive seven catches for a team-leading 74 yards through the air. Imagine if the 49ers had another impact pass catcher outside of Kittle.

Grade: B+

Offensive Line


Well, center Weston Richburg got flagged for a false start because he failed to snap the ball. That happened. And right tackle Mike McGlinchey had a rough day in both pass protection and in run support. While Mullens was sacked just once, he regularly had Bears defenders in his face.

And while the offensive line did a relatively good job keeping Bears Pro Bowl EDGE Khalil Mack from making a huge impact on the stat sheet, plays like the one below illustrate why stat sheets are just stat sheets and nothing more:


Breida's injury hurt. But the line wasn't particularly effective opening up outside lanes for its ground attack, and that hindered the 49ers offense towards the passing game for almost the entirety of the second half -- not the formula for which the Niners offense is currently built.

There have been better days from the Niners' O-line this season, although going up against an elite Bears front seven is no easy task.

Grade: D+

Defensive Line


It might not be on par with that of the Bears, but the 49ers defensive line managed to get both pressure on Trubisky with some regularity and also held the Bears' ground attack to 90 yards and an average of just 3.2 yards per carry.

Granted, Chicago had some success up the middle with running back Jordan Howard, who netted one of the Bears' two touchdowns on the day. Overall, though, the Niners held their own against the Bears' two-headed rushing attack with Howard and Tarik Cohen.

EDGE Cassius Marsh recorded two sacks during the game, while defensive tackle DeForest Buckner picked up a sack and a fumble recovery.

This unit would have received an A-grade had it not been for the elongated 12-play, 90-yard drive in the third quarter that ate up 7:43 on the clock and saw Trubisky complete seven passes in a row en route to the Bears' second touchdown of the day.

Grade: B

Linebacker


Rookie linebacker Fred Warner was hit for a defensive-holding penalty, which wiped out a would-be red-zone interception by cornerback K'Waun Williams. That hurt. But Warner made up for it with a key coverage that led to safety Antone Exum's pass breakup in the end zone on an attempt heading towards Bears tight end Trey Burton.

Meanwhile, fellow linebacker Elijah Lee led the 49ers defense with 12 tackles.

Grade: B

Secondary


Cornerback Tarvarius Moore, who was filling in for the now-on-injured-reservist Ahkello Witherspoon, gave up the touchdown reception to Bears wide receiver Anthony Miller. Yet Moore made up for it late in the fourth quarter, punching the ball out of fellow Chicago wideout Allen Robinson's hands, which led to a recovery by 49ers defensive back Greg Mabin.

"I feel like we definitely made more strides," Moore told reporters after the game. "We got the ball a lot more today, which is something we have been practicing hard on."

San Francisco registered two turnovers in the game after entering Week 16 with just five on the season.

Mabin, of course, was in for Sherman, who was ejected for his sideline altercation earlier in the quarter.

The 49ers elected to go with Williams over the rookie, D.J. Reed, at nickel. Williams played well before being injured late.

Harris' late hit on Trubisky doesn't help matters, although the culmination of events ultimately didn't change the outcome of the game. He, Moore and Williams recorded a combined 17 tackles between them and held Chicago's pass offense to 235 yards. Considering the youth of this unit outside of Sherman and after a slew of season-ending injuries, today's efforts should be looked at as promising for 2019.

Grade: B+

Special Teams


Kicker Robbie Gould was a perfect 3-of-3 on field-goal attempts, which ended up accounting for all of the 49ers' nine points during the game.

Early in the game, both the Niners and Bears exchanged 49-yard punts. So if you're looking for some special teams symbolism, there you go.

The Niners coverage unit did allow a 30-yard kick return to Miller, and it's been something of a regular occurrence to see San Francisco's special teams give up a big kickoff or punt return each week. That'll be a point of emphasis for the 49ers this offseason, who'll also benefit from some key special teams contributors' returns from injured reserve, such as Raheem Mostert.

Grade: B+

San Francisco will wrap up the regular season with a Week 17 road bout against the Los Angeles Rams, who'll definitely have something to play for unlike the 2017 season finale at the Coliseum in L.A. There's playoff seeding on the line, and the Niners are highly unlikely to be facing off against Rams head coach Sean McVay's B-team like they were a year ago.

Perhaps the 49ers recapture some of that playoff-spoiling magic that eluded them against the Bears on Sunday.
  • Written by:
    Peter Panacy has been writing about the 49ers since 2011 for outlets like Bleacher Report, Niner Noise, 49ers Webzone, and is occasionally heard as a guest on San Francisco's 95.7 FM The Game and the Niners' flagship station, KNBR 680. Feel free to follow him, or direct any inquiries to his Twitter account.
The views within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


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