CHICAGO – The Jimmy Garoppolo era began for the 49ers on Sunday with the kind of optimism not typically associated with a team that entered December with one victory.
And Garoppolo showed plenty of the skills – a quick release and play-making ability – that led the 49ers to trade a second-round pick to the New England Patriots in order to acquire him a month earlier.
But he saved his best for the 49ers' last-chance drive, as the offense drove 86 yards on 14 plays to set up Robbie Gould for his fifth field goal of the game with :04 remaining to provide winning points in a 15-14 victory over the Chicago Bears on Sunday at Soldier Field.
Gould calmly drilled a 24-yard field goal to help the 49ers improve to 2-10 in Kyle Shanahan's first season as head coach.
Shanahan appears to have found his quarterback, though. Garoppolo made his first start with his new team approximately 25 miles from where he grew up in the Chicago suburb of Arlington Heights, Illinois.
Making just the third start of his four-year NFL career, Garoppolo completed 26 of 37 pass attempts for 293 yards with no touchdowns and one interceptions. It was the most yards passing for a 49ers player making his first start in franchise history. And Garoppolo's lone blemish -- his second-quarter interception -- came on a pass that was completed to Louis Murphy before Bears defensive back Kyle Fuller ripped the ball from Murphy’s grasp as they tumbled to the ground.
Gould, who spent his first 11 NFL seasons kicking for the Bears, provided most of the offense for the 49ers on Sunday with field goals of 33, 28, 35, 34 and 24 yards.
The 49ers trailed 14-12 at the end of three quarters despite significantly better offensive numbers. The 49ers outgained Chicago 285 to 103 through three quarters, and picked up 18 first downs while the Bears managed to move the chains only six times.
Although Garoppolo never led the 49ers on a touchdown drive, he engineered an impressive offensive show over the final 5 1/2 minutes. The 49ers were particularly impressive throughout the game on third downs, converting 10 of 18 (56 percent) opportunities.
On the game-winning drive, running back Carlos Hyde had an 18-yard run on third-and-1 situation. On a third and 9, Garoppolo found slot receiver Trent Taylor for 33 yards. Taylor was sick Saturday night and Sunday with what he believes was food poisoning. Fullback Kyle Juszczyk also picked up a first down with a 3-yard run on third and 2 to set up Gould's chip shot.
Rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky made his eighth consecutive start for Chicago after taking over for Mike Glennon. The Bears acquired the rights to Trubisky in a blockbuster trade with the 49ers to move up from No. 3 to No. 2 in the draft.
Trubisky completed 12 of 15 passes for 102 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions.
COHEN TURNS IT AROUND
Bears return man Tarik Cohen, a rookie from North Carolina A&T, turned what looked like a major negative into a 61-yard touchdown after fielding Bradley Pinion’s second-quarter punt.
Cohen backtracked 15 yards on what looked like it might be a disaster for Chicago before he doubled-back, allowing the entire 49ers’ coverage unit to overrun him. Pinion was the last hope, but he was blocked out of the play, leading to a touchdown that gave the Bears a 14-6 in the second quarter.
Cohen became the first rookie since Hall of Famer Gale Sayers in 1965 to have a punt return touchdown, rushing touchdown, receiving touchdown and passing touchdown in a season. He’s the first player to accomplish that since Terry Metcalf in 1975.
DEFENSE STEPS UP
The 49ers held the Bears to just 147 net yards (62 rushing, 85 passing) -- the fewest net yards the 49ers have allowed since Nov. 19, 2012 against . . . the Bears.
The Bears managed just eight first downs against the 49ers. It's the fewest first downs the 49ers have allowed in a game since Nov. 29, 2010, against the Arizona Cardinals (eight first downs).
While the 49ers ran 73 offensive plays, the Bears were on the field for just 36 plays on offense. That's the fewest number of plays the 49ers have defended since Oct. 20, 1991 against the Detroit Lions (35 plays).
THIS ‘N’ THAT
--The 49ers had a healthy 53-man roster for the first time this season, which meant the team’s seven inactives were entirely coaches’ decisions. Among the 49ers inactive players were defensive linemen Tank Carradine and Aaron Lynch.
--Defensive end Cassius Marsh, claimed off waivers two weeks ago from the Patriots, recorded a sack/strip of Trubisky to end the third quarter. Trubiskiy recovered his own fumble. It was his first sack with the 49ers. Marsh was active to replace Lynch.
--Elvis Dumervil extended his team-leading total of sacks to 5.5 with a first-half sack of Trubisky. With the sack on Trubisky, Dumervil has now brought down 50 different NFL quarterbacks. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Dumervil is one of four active players with at least a half-sack against 50 different quarterbacks. That list includes Julius Peppers (74), Terrell Suggs (68) and Dwight Freeney (63).
--Cohen had a second long punt return called back due to Ben Braunecker’s illegal block above the waist in the fourth quarter to nullify a 67-yard return early in the fourth quarter.
--Despite being weakened and requiring intravenous fluids, Taylor came through with a big day. He caught six passes for 92 yards with five of his receptions coming on successful third-down conversions. Marquise Goodwin also found a nice connection with Garoppolo, catching eight passes for 99 yards.