Just when you think this Chicago Bears team has reached the bottom of the landfill, it tunnels down through six more feet of hot garbage to find a new low.
The San Francisco 49ers came into Soldier Field on Sunday with 1 win all season and left with twice as many.
At least the Bears provided a happy homecoming for Arlington Heights native Jimmy Garoppolo.
Starting his first game for the 49ers and playing in front of a large contingent of friends and family, the former Rolling Meadows High School star carved up the Bears’ defense for 293 yards in a 15-14 San Francisco victory.
The Bears got a scintillating 61-yard punt-return touchdown from rookie running back Tarik Cohen but still saw their record drop to 3-9. They kept the 49ers out of the end zone but still suffered their fifth straight defeat.
Asked if the latest setback was embarrassing given that the 49ers came in 1-10, Bears cornerback Prince Amukamara said: “I would say we’re just disappointed. I think there are games in the NFL where you look at them and say, ‘OK, we should win this game, we’re pretty confident.’
“To be forward and blunt, this was one of those games.”
The Bears are 12-32 under coach John Fox, and it seems everyone is running out of things to say as the losses pile up.
“It was hard to even talk to the team after this loss,” Fox said when asked what he would say to Bears fans. “I think we had a great week of preparation. I think the guys’ mindsets are good, and they’re working at it. It’s just that we haven’t been able to finish on those close games.
“We’re going back to work with our heads down, and we will continue to work,” Fox said. “I wish I had something better to tell them.”
Of the Bears’ last 6 losses, five of the margins have been 1, 3, 7, 8 and 3 points.
Two things Fox’s team had been able to rely upon earlier in the year — solid defense and a strong run game — have disappeared along with the Bears’ playoff chances, which waived bye-bye weeks ago.
Just two weeks ago the Bears were No. 5 in rushing yards and No. 6 in average gain per rush.
Since then they’ve rushed 33 times for 68 yards, a 2.1-yard average. And quarterback Mitch Trubisky has accounted for 31 of those yards on 8 attempts.
“I don’t think we really established the run game,” Fox said Sunday of the Bears’ 62 rushing yards on 19 attempts (3.3-yard average). “Last week (6 yards on 14 runs), we really didn’t succeed too well at it (either).”
While the defense kept the 49ers out of the end zone, it allowed them to move up and down the field to set up former Bear Robbie Gould. He hit all 5 of his chip-shot field-goal attempts, none of which was longer than 35 yards.
The Bears allowed the No. 23 Niners offense to roll up 388 yards and to convert 10 of 18 third downs, for a 56 percent success rate. The league average is 38.7 percent.
“I think the third-down defense was problematic,” Fox said. “I don’t think we played well enough on third down.”
A week after struggling to get 140 yards at Philadelphia against the Eagles, the Bears’ offense sputtered to 147 total yards, barely half of Garoppolo’s passing yards.
Despite all that, the Bears still held a 14-12 lead with 5:27 left and had the 49ers pinned back at their own 8-yard line.
But, as they did all afternoon, the 49ers moved the ball into field-goal range, going 86 yards on 14 plays. Gould made his game-winning 24-yard kick with four seconds left.
Gould was inexplicably cut by the Bears just before the start of the 2016 season. Since then, the all-time scoring leader in Bears history has connected on 36 of 38 FG attempts, a 94.7 percent success rate.
On that final drive, the 49ers got an 18-yard run from Carlos Hyde on third-and-1, a 33-yard Garoppolo pass to Trent Taylor on third-and-9 and a 3-yard run by Kyle Juszczyk on third-and-2.
The 49ers’ other scoring drives consumed 14, 7, 11 and 16 plays, which gave them a lopsided time-of-possession advantage of 38:47-21:13. The 49ers ran 73 plays to the Bears’ season-low 36.
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