Sports

49ers come unglued, Trey Lance fails to answer Bears’ surge in opening loss

CHICAGO – After Kyle Shanahan’s news conference Sunday afternoon, the San Francisco 49ers’ head coach left the podium, stepped down a riser and tried to re-enter the adjacent visitor’s locker room at Soldier Field.

The door was locked.

As communication director Corry Rush rapped on the door for assistance, Shanahan seemed to consider a scenario in which he had to keep answering reporters’ questions about his team’s error-stuffed, what-just-happened, season-opening 19-10 loss to the Bears.

“This,” Shanahan said, “is the worst place to get trapped.”

Shanahan did escape the interview room without incident. But his team di lui couldn’t do the same on the waterlogged field because of what Shanahan termed “stupid penalties” and “silly mistakes” in a game that ended with the Bears doing celebratory slides in a mini-monsoon.

The 49ers had two turnovers, including a fumble at Chicago’s 12-yard line, allowed a sack that took them out of field-goal range and committed 12 penalties for 99 yards as they lost a 10-point, third-quarter lead while the Bears ended their upset win with 19 unanswered points in the final 20-plus minutes.

LB Dre Greenlaw: He had a 15-yard facemask penalty, a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty and was beaten badly in coverage on an 18-yard TD pass to WR Equanimeous St. Brown.

WR Jauan Jennings: He had four catches for 62 yards, both team-highs. His 44-yard reception in the third quarter was a career-long and set up a field goal.

DT Javon Kinlaw: He had a near-pressure of QB Justin Fields on the Bears’ first offensive play, but he was otherwise hard to locate. Kinlaw didn’t appear on the stat sheet and was briefly sidelined with an ankle injury.

– Eric Branch


“We always talk about doing right longer,” Shanahan said. “And I think today was the exact opposite of that.”

Indeed, the 49ers – a season removed from the NFC Championship Game – did a passing late-game impression of the Bears, a six-win team in 2021 with a rookie head coach and 11 rookies on its 46-man active roster.

“It’s hard enough to play against the opposing team,” left tackle Trent Williams said. “It’s even harder when you play against yourself.”

The Bears, seven-point home underdogs, were outgained 331-204, averaged 3.6 yards per play and their offense was unsightly for nearly 40 minutes. At halftime, they had zero points, 19 net passing yards and quarterback Justin Fields had a 2.8 passer rating.

But they won going away largely because the 49ers gave them a host of gift-wrapped opportunities while saving their worst for last.

“We killed ourselves,” linebacker Fred Warner said. “Every single one of those drives you can look back and see we did something to help them get in the end zone.”

Warner is right. The Bears scored three straight touchdowns and each drive had a remarkable symmetry: The 49ers committed a killer penalty and the Bears quickly capitalized.

First, with the 49ers leading 10-0, linebacker Dre Greenlaw had a 15-yard facemask penalty after running back David Montgomery was stopped for a 1-yard gain on 3rd-and-4 from the Bears’ 34. Three plays later: Fields tossed a 51-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Dante Pettis.

“The timing of the penalties,” Shanahan said, “was really crucial.”

On the Bears’ next drive, cornerback Charvarius Ward was flagged for holding on 3rd-and-9 from the Bears’ 39. Three plays later, on 3rd-and-1 from the 49ers’ 42, linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair was flagged for unnecessary roughness when he drilled Fields in mid-slide. Three plays later: Fields tossed an 18-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown for a 13-10 lead.

The 49ers had two unnecessary roughness penalties when Fields was sliding.

“It was a point of emphasis and we talked about it,” Warner said. “We knew what it was with Fields and him sliding. We’ve got to be smarter. “

Trailing 13-10, Lance threw an interception that set up a 21-yard touchdown drive. And Chicago’s score was set up by a defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw’s holding penalty on a 5-yard run on 2nd-and-11 from the 49ers’ 12. One play later: Khalil Herbert had a 3-yard run that gave the Bears a 19 -10 leads.

“We have to play better,” Shanahan said, “and do things right a lot longer than we did today.”

None of it was pretty: The 49ers’ nightmare ending obscured their sloppy start, which was filled with missed chances.

On their first drive, wide receiver Deebo Samuel lost a fumble at the Bears’ 12-yard line on a 4-yard, first-down run. On their second drive, quarterback Trey Lance airmailed a would-be, 32-yard touchdown pass to tight end Tyler Kroft, who had slipped behind two defenders.

The drive ended two plays later when right tackle Mike McGlinchey allowed a six-yard sack on 3rd-and-7 from the Bears’ 29, forcing a punt.

“I gave up a stupid sack that knocked us out of field-goal range,” McGlinchey said. “That’s points right there.”

Several players noted the Bears couldn’t have rallied if they’d been put away early.

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