SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS

3 Takeaways From The 49ers Week 1 Loss To Chicago

Sep 12, 2022, 1:21 PM | Updated: 2:05 pm

Trey Lance #5 of the San Francisco 49ers throws a pass against the Chicago Bears during the fourth ...

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - SEPTEMBER 11: Trey Lance #5 of the San Francisco 49ers throws a pass against the Chicago Bears during the fourth quarter at Soldier Field on September 11, 2022 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

(Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Sunday was an afternoon to forget if you’re the San Francisco 49ers, falling apart in the second half to lose to the Chicago Bears, 19-10, in Week 1 of the new NFL season.

The Red & Gold were dominating the home team in the first half, going into halftime up 7-0. But as quickly as the 49ers asserted their dominance, the team collapsed after intermission, giving up 19 unanswered points to quarterback Justin Fields and the Chicago offense.

Sparked by penalties and turnovers, the Windy City trip gave a humbling experience for head coach Kyle Shanahan and a team that has playoff aspirations, reminding them that anybody can win on any given Sunday.

Underneath all of the rubble and ash of the 49ers’ Week 1 disaster, there were a few bright spots that should leave the faithful feeling encouraged for Week 2 against the Seattle Seahawks at home. There were also areas to improve on this week in practice if San Francisco wants to come out with a winning record at the end of the regular season.

Here are a few takeaways from Week 1 in Chicago.

Key Penalties at Key Moments

That was the storyline for the 49ers in the second half as they could not get out of their own way with the penalties.

Amassing 12 flags for 99 yards, compared to Chicago’s three for 24 yards, is a joke if you consider how San Francisco was dictating the game heading into halftime. Typically the offense is responsible for the vast majority of flags any given week, but it was actually the defense that drew the penalties in this one.

Three plays in particular cost the 49ers the victory in Week 1, all drawn by the 49ers’ front seven. The first was in the third quarter.

Up 10 to 0 with 6:34 left in the quarter, the Bears faced a third down that would let their opponent keep control of the game if they didn’t convert. Handing the ball off to running back Khalil Herbert, the 49ers defense sniffed the run and stopped him for a minimal game. Unfortunately, upon review of the play, linebacker Dre Greenlaw was seen grabbing Herbert’s facemask as he was tackled to the ground. That’s a 15-yard penalty and an automatic first down.

Three plays later, Fields found former 49er WR Dante Pettis on a broken play for a 51-yard touchdown, the momentum starting to swing back towards Chicago.

 

 

The second infraction by the defense occurred with little time left in the same quarter. Fields scrambled on a third and long for five yards, getting the Bears offense off the turf for the punt team. But not so fast.

A holding penalty by cornerback Charvarius Ward on the opposite side of the field against Pettis was called by an official, resulting in five yards and a first down for Chicago. With another lifeline, the Bears capitalized six plays later, finding WR Equanimeous St. Brown for a touchdown down the sideline. Now a 13-10 game in the blink of an eye, the pressure was all on the 49ers.

The third costly mistake by the defense was another defensive holding call with eight minutes left in the fourth quarter.

On second and long, the Bears handed off to Herbert once again, getting stopped for a minimal gain. Now facing a third and long, the 49ers had another chance to hold Chicago, but not so fast, another flag was thrown, this time on defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw for holding a lineman on second down. A five-yard penalty moved the Bears’ offense inside the 5-yard line and gave them an automatic first down.

On the next play, Herbert got the ball again and scored, 19-10 Bears. The door started closing for a comeback in the Chicago monsoon.

Double-digit penalties are a disaster for any team but to have most conceded on the defensive side of the ball is downright bad, leaving members of the team not surprised they lost the game.

“When you look at the 12 penalties, you look at when they happened, when you look at those turnovers…you’re not shocked,” head coach Kyle Shanahan said regarding the loss Sunday. “I’m disappointed in some of the silly mistakes we did to ourselves.”

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

“Penalties… Did what we were supposed to do in the first half. We were stopping the run all day. We just killed ourselves with penalties,” Nick Bosa said.

A disaster culminated by an undisciplined 49ers defense.

Talonoa Hufanga Breakout Game

One of the few bright spots for the Bay Area squad Sunday afternoon was second-year safety Talonoa Hufanga, terrorizing the Bears in the first half.

The USC product has been a standout for the team through training camp, arriving on the field before anyone else most days during the offseason. The hard work seems to be paying off for the Oregon native, disrupting the run game of the Bears early in the game. His first half stats: eight total tackles, one TFL, one INT, and one PBU. And that was at half-time as Hufanga was a missile coming out of silo for the 49ers in Week 1.

He finished the day as the highest-graded 49er by Pro Football Focus at 90.8 on the day. Registering 11 tackles, with six of them being run stops, you can see why Shanahan and defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans were so bullish on his potential.

“Just trying to be a sponge and absorb as much knowledge from my coaches, my teammates. I got a good solid group of guys on the field and they just trust me to do mine with 11 [men] on the field and just do my job. So, just grateful to be a part of this organization and just gotta continue to work,” Hufanga said after the game Sunday.

A safety who models his game after Hall-of-Famer Troy Polamalu, Hufanga is starting to look the part and will be a pivotal piece for the 49ers this season.

Trey Lance’s Accuracy

The narrative coming from some after Sunday’s loss was that Trey Lance was the reason the 49ers lost to the Bears. That’s just lazy and downright wrong.

Yes, he could have been more effective on the day. Given the weather conditions and defensive collapse in the second half, his day was a culmination of the team’s struggles in Week 1. Instead, we’re going to highlight Lance’s stats and some of his best throws from the day.

The second-year quarterback finished the contest 13 for 28 with 164 passing yards and one INT. He also used his legs considerably, running for 54 yards on the day. His best throws came in the first half as well, peppering some balls with ridiculous touch and confidence for a big gain.

My favorite was on a play-action connection between him and WR Ray-Ray McCloud. Having the speedy wideout run a crossing route from the slot, McCloud snuck past his defenders into the secondary. Lance saw this and fired a rifle over the top of the trailing linebacker, glancing past his outstretched hands for the 20-yard completion.

Through the tightest of windows (really keyhole size), the young QB stepped up into the pocket and treated his talent, one of the main reasons Shanahan and the coaching staff trust him as the starting QB.

Another great read came on a slot-go route by WR Jauan Jennings bursting up the sideline. Lance noticed the single-high look and delivered a ball in-stride for a high gain inside Chicago territory.

These are the type of throws the team expects from their young prospect. He also had some errors, missing TE Tyler Kroft on a Y leak play-action route that would have been a touchdown in the first quarter. An up and down day for Lance.

“I made too many mistakes… I had a big miss to Tyler Kroft in the endzone… I turned the ball over, took a sack that took us out of field goal range that I shouldn’t have, missed Deebo on a third down, missed another third down to Jauan. Just too many mistakes,” Lance said post-game Sunday.

It wasn’t all on Lance though as he faced pressure from the Bears’ front seven all day. His stats with a clean pocket: 12-of-20, 166 yards, 8.3 YPA, 65.8 passer rating. His stats under pressure: 1-of-8, -2 yards and a 39.6 passer rating.

The 49ers will have to protect their most valuable asset if they want him to be successful in the NFL. His comments postgame are the reason why he was handed the offense at 22 years old, able to take responsibility that doesn’t go unnoticed.

“That’s why they handed him the keys to the organization. He’s a mature dude,” Williams said.

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