The good and the bad from the 49ers’ ugly Week 1 loss

·5 min read

The San Francisco 49ers fluffed their lines in their season opener with the Chicago Bears. Well, they didn’t so much fluff their lines as they slipped and fell over them in a monsoon at Soldier Field. 

San Francisco looked in command for much of the game, controlling time of possession and outgaining the Bears 331 yards to 204, yet the Niners still contrived to let a 10-0 slip and lose 19-10 to a team at the start of a rebuild.

Though the talking heads will undoubtedly focus on Trey Lance’s performance, the new Niners’ starting quarterback was not the reason the 49ers stumbled out of the gates.

Lance did throw a costly interception in the fourth quarter that led to a Khalil Herbert touchdown, but for the most part, the former third overall pick looked composed and largely avoided the inaccuracy that was prominent in the preseason finale against the Houston Texans.

Still, the tape will not be a fun watch for Lance and the 49ers tomorrow, though there were still some positives to take despite a hugely disappointing outcome.

Let’s take a look at the good and the bad from a game the Niners will quickly want to banish from their memories.

Good: The running game

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Though they eventually had to move away from it after surrendering their lead, the 49ers should have been encouraged by how well they ran the ball. 

San Francisco racked up 176 yards at an average of 4.8 yards per carry, with Elijah Mitchell and Deebo Samuel each averaging over six yards per run. Lance, meanwhile, showed the extra value he can add on the ground when scrambling for yardage, finishing with 54 yards on 13 carries.

The 49ers will hope Mitchell’s knee injury is not a long-term problem, but they have enough threats on the ground even without him to deliver a consistently productive running game.

They proved as much as on Sunday, and the Niners’ rushing performance deserves not to get lost amid the disappointment of getting off to a losing start.

Bad: Turnovers

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Simply put, San Francisco likely would have won this game had the 49ers kept hold of the ball.

The 49ers missed the chance to score at least three points on Deebo Samuel’s red-zone fumble, and Eddie Jackson’s interception of Lance set up the score that killed the game for the Bears

Taking into account the fact the Bears missed the extra point, that is at least a nine-point swing against the 49ers, and a 13-point swing if you believe the 49ers would have found the endzone had Samuel held onto the ball. San Francisco lost the game by nine points.

There were many reasons for the 49ers’ defeat, but it was yet another scarcely needed illustration of the value of avoiding turnovers. The Niners must do a better job in this area if they are to meet their expectations in 2022.

Good: Jauan Jennings

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Jennings was the 49ers’ leading receiver. That might not be saying much in a game where the 49ers’ passing attack eventually sputtered after a promising start, but his rapport with Lance should offer plenty of encouragement he can again be a critical part of the offense.

The 2020 seventh-round pick again proved reliable on third down and hooked up with Lance for a beautiful 44-yard completion in the third quarter.

That Lance was picked off attempting to force the ball to Jennings was perhaps indicative of his faith in a receiver who has developed a habit of making big plays in the biggest moments. 

Bad: Red-zone efficiency

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Before the rain returned to ruin the game as any sort of spectacle, the 49ers had enjoyed no shortage of success moving the ball. A key reason why their yardage gained did not result in a victory is what happened when they got inside the 20.

The 49ers went just 1-for-3 in the red zone. In addition to the Samuel fumble, the Niners also failed to punch the ball in from the Chicago two-yard line on the drive where Jennings’ deep reception set them up in excellent field position.

That failure saw another four points go by the wayside and the Niners lose the chance to stamp their authority on a game they had in their grasp.

With Trey Lance at quarterback, the 49ers should be an extremely strong red-zone team. Their inability to convert in such situations was one of the more worrying aspects of the loss.

Good: Talanoa Hufanga

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The 49ers had a number of individual impressive performances on defense even if DeMeco Ryans’ unit failed to close out Justin Fields and the Bears’ offense.

Nick Bosa and Samson Ebukam both registered sacks while Javon Kinlaw succeeded in creating interior pressure early and rookie edge rusher Drake Jackson made some strong plays against the run.

In the defensive backfield, Charvarius Ward unsurprisingly excelled in man coverage, but the standout in the secondary was safety Talanoa Hufanga, who demonstrated his instincts to pick off Justin Fields in the first quarter and made a plethora of plays near the line of scrimmage.

With 11 tackles, two tackles for loss and a pass breakup, Hufanga proved he can be a playmaking force for the 49er defense, yet even his day was not without fault as the entire Niners secondary went missing for Fields’ touchdown throw to Equanimeous St. Brown that turned the tide firmly in the Bears’ favor.

Bad: Penalties, penalties and more penalties

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From the turnovers, to the poor red-zone efficiency and the poor pass protection, there was far too much bad that the 49ers will have to pick through on film. 

The key theme through all of it, though, was indiscipline, and that was encapsulated by the 12 accepted penalties against the 49ers, which accounted for 99 yards. By comparison, the Bears were flagged only three times for 24 yards.

All three of the Bears’ touchdown drives were aided by penalties, including two that came on third-down plays where the 49ers would have gotten off the field.

Giving your opponent free yardage consistently is a recipe for disaster, regardless of the quality of the foe. The 49ers did that far too often in Week 1 against a seemingly inferior opponent and they paid the price.

Story originally appeared on Niners Wire