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Week 16 Game Recap: Chicago Bears 14, San Francisco 49ers 9


What you need to know

Chicago Bears

The Bears offense continues to struggle to put up points, although it was very efficient in this game. Penalties, turnovers, and sacks were primarily the reason drives sputtered out instead of inefficiency. The passing game was once again an underneath passing game but was highly efficient completing 86% of their passes, however outside of Allen Robinson there was not a wide receiver who had over 28 yards in this game. The running game reverted back to how it performed earlier in the season which was a high volume, but low efficiency running attack as they averaged 3.2 yards per carry last week.

San Francisco 49ers

On both sides of the ball, San Francisco performed well above expectations. Relying on a number of backups, the defense stymied Tarik Cohen, the straw that stirs Chicago's offensive drink. That allowed the 49ers offense to remain in a normal game flow, which kept all of Kyle Shanahan's game plan in play. Unfortunately, although they were able to move the ball consistently, they got sloppy in the red zone, which has been a recurring theme this season. That said, San Francisco's offensive line, with help from running backs and tight ends, held Chicago's pass rush at bay for the most part, and so Nick Mullens was able to execute Shanahan's game plan. This, mind you, with two of his best offensive weapons -- Matt Breida and Dante Pettis -- missing the last three quarters of the game.

Chicago Bears

QB Mitchell Trubisky, 64 offensive snaps, Pass: 25 - 29 - 246 - 1 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 5 - 3 - 0
Trubisky is starting to adapt his game to this offense, no longer is he throwing the deep balls, but instead taking what the defense gives him witch check downs and underneath routes. Trubisky threw only six passes longer than 10 yards in this game while completing three of them. Trubisky did complete a 43-yard pass to Allen Robinson, Robinson made a tremendous diving catch to prevent the ball from being overthrown. The one area we have not seen recently is the running game from Trubisky as he is staying within the pocket more since coming back from the injury that kept him out two games earlier this season. The best play Trubisky made was in the second quarter on a play that the pocket broke down, and he scrambled outside to find Taquon Mizzell on the sideline to stay in bounds on a perfect throw for 26-yards.

RB Jordan Howard, 40 offensive snaps, Rush: 13 - 53 - 1, Rec: 2 - 17 - 0 (3 targets)
This was a very typical Jordan Howard game in that he didn't have a highlight play as his longest run was just 9 yards in this game, but he took what the 49ers gave him in that he consistently was moving the pile and gaining positive yardage for the Bears this week. Howard did find the end-zone for the second straight game on a play in which Howard ran straight up the middle for a two-yard score.

RB Tarik Cohen, 33 offensive snaps, Rush: 6 - 12 - 0, Rec: 1 - 7 - 0 (1 targets)
Cohen was largely a non-factor in this game as the 49ers did a nice job in game planning around the speedster. Cohen saw just one target in this game and was unable to get anything going on the ground as he saw six carries, but was not able to get out in space in this one as the defense was ready for his lateral runs in this game.

WR Allen Robinson, 44 offensive snaps, Rush: 1 - 9 - 0, Rec: 6 - 85 - 0 (8 targets)
Allen Robinson was a bright spot in this game as he made what likely was the highlight moment for the Bears. On a play in which Robinson simply outran safety Marcell Harris, Robinson should have had a 60-yard touchdown, but the ball was overthrown and Robinson adjusted to it and made a spectacular diving catch. What was interesting for Robinson is that Robinson was largely playing out of position in this game as he's typically a wide receiver who lines up on the right side of the field, but six of his eight targets were on the left side of the field in this game as the team tried to match him up away from Richard Sherman.

WR Taylor Gabriel, 51 offensive snaps, Rush: 1 - 8 - 0, Rec: 3 - 28 - 0 (3 targets)
Gabriel is the type of player who is not going to beat defenses with his route running ability, but instead, it's his speed that allows him to be productive. In this game, this was evidenced by a 16-yard play over the middle in which was only thrown four yards downfield, but Gabriel was able to use his speed to cut it up the middle for an additional 12 yards. Gabriel continues to see short passes in which the Bears are sacrificing upside for high efficiency which has greatly limited the upside of Gabriel on a week-to-week basis.

TE Trey Burton, 50 offensive snaps, Rec: 5 - 30 - 0 (5 targets)
Trey Burton has largely adapted to this offense in that he is a short underneath possession type tight end as the team has scaled back his deep routes to almost zero at this point in the season. In this game, Burton was effective in moving the chains on primarily five-yard hitch routes as while he caught five passes, his longest was for eight yards and his shortest was for four yards. He was a nice complimentary piece to this offense, but at this point the upside we saw earlier this season just is not there as the offense has shifted philosophy's to a short high percentage passing game.


San Francisco 49ers

QB Nick Mullens, 55 offensive snaps, Pass: 22 - 38 - 241 - 0 TD / 1 INT
Mullens fared better than expected against the Bears ferocious pass rush. Much of that, however, was due to Kyle Shanahan's decision to frequently use six- or sometimes even seven-man protections. But although Chicago didn't produce many sacks, they nevertheless disrupted Mullens and company via hits, hurries, and deflections at the line of scrimmage. Indeed, 6 of his 16 incompletions were because he was hit as he threw the ball, and another 4 were due to his pass being knocked off course by a defensive lineman. Otherwise, it was a lukewarm performance; not awful, but also not great. He read the field well and threw accurately for the most part. His lone interception was of the "receiver volleyball sets it to a defender" variety. Unfortunately, his only real glaring mistake cemented his team's loss. On 4th-and-4 at the Chicago 45-yard line with 1:14 left, Mullens evaded initial pressure and rolled out to his right. Despite having tons of wide open space in front of him, a clock-stopping first down certain if he chose to run, Mullens instead heaved an off-balance deep pass to a tightly covered Marquise Goodwin that landed five yards out of bounds.

RB Jeff Wilson, 38 offensive snaps, Rush: 11 - 27 - 0, Rec: 2 - 11 - 0 (2 targets)
Despite getting all the work after Matt Breida left the game, Wilson didn't have a single gain of double-digit yardage. And in fact, only 2 of his 13 touches went for more than 5 yards. Most of this was due to the proverbial lack of running room, especially on outside runs, but Wilson deserves credit for running hard through contact. The best example of this came on his longest run (8 yards), when he lowered his shoulder and completely ran over linebacker Roquan Smith at the point of attack.

RB Matt Breida, 9 offensive snaps, Rush: 4 - 20 - 0, Rec: 1 - 6 - 0 (1 targets)
Like clockwork, Breida aggravated his lingering ankle injury early in the game, and did not return. Before he left, Breida was able to find the open cutback lane on an outside zone and gain 11 yards. This was San Francisco's longest rush of the game.

WR Kendrick Bourne, 52 offensive snaps, Rec: 4 - 73 - 0 (5 targets)
Bourne gained over half of his yardage on two targets in the fourth quarter. On the first, a 22-yard gain, Kyle Shanahan's play design manipulated linebacker Roquan Smith and safety Deon Smith such that Bourne's perfectly executed corner-post route was wide open in the middle of the field. Then, inside the two-minute warning, Bourne caught a shallow cross 4 yards downfield and was able to run for 21 more because the combination of San Francisco's other routes and Chicago's man-to-man coverage cleared the side of the field that Bourne crossed into.

WR Dante Pettis, 17 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 21 - 0 (5 targets)
When Pettis left the game due to a knee injury early in the second quarter, he had been the target on a full 50 percent of Nick Mullens' passes. Unfortunately, they were either short targets that didn't have much promise or deep targets that were deflected at the line of scrimmage. His longest reception came on a quick slant against the off-man coverage of Kyle Fuller.

WR Marquise Goodwin, 38 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 29 - 0 (8 targets)
After getting his old job back when Dante Pettis left the game due to injury, Goodwin proceeded to finish second in targets, behind only George Kittle. So how did he finish with only 3 catches for 29 yards? Well, two targets weren't really targets as Nick Mullens was hit as he threw the ball. Another was broken up by a linebacker in coverage. And another was an ill-advised, game-ending throw by Mullens. Which leaves Goodwin at fault for only one of his five incomplete targets. On that one, he didn't so much as drop a quick slant as he volleyball set it to linebacker Danny Trevathan for an interception.

TE George Kittle, 54 offensive snaps, Rec: 7 - 74 - 0 (12 targets)
Of Kittle's 12 targets, 7 came with San Francisco losing in the fourth quarter. Ditto 52 of his 74 receiving yards. There are three reasons why he wasn't a factor earlier in the game. First, facing the Bears' formidable pass rush, the 49ers had Kittle help out in pass protection far more than he usually does. Second, almost every time Kittle lined up in a three-point stance to run a play-action route, a defender chipped him to throw off his route and its timing. (The most absurd iteration of this tactic actually happened in the fourth quarter, when outside linebacker Leonard Floyd flat-out tackled him as he came off the line of scrimmage.) Finally, the Bears simply covered Kittle better than any team has all season, typically devoting two defenders in coverage, not as a classic double-team per se, but as a means to make sure he wasn't open for long at any particular distance downfield.