Patriots

Garoppolo wins first game as 49er starter, 15-14 over Bears

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Garoppolo wins first game as 49er starter, 15-14 over Bears

CHICAGO -- Robbie Gould pumped his right arm. He screamed at the Chicago sideline. Kicking the winning field goal sure made it a sweet return to Soldier Field.

Gould nailed a 24-yarder in the closing seconds, Jimmy Garoppolo threw for 293 yards in his first San Francisco start, and the 49ers beat the Chicago Bears 15-14 on Sunday.

Gould made all five field goals - none longer than 35 yards - in his first appearance at Soldier Field since Chicago cut him prior to the 2016 opener. The Bears' all-time leader in points and field goals made, he let it all out after he booted the winner right down the middle.

"I wanted this one really bad," Gould said. "I downplayed it all week for my own peace of mind, to be honest with you. I'm just happy it went this way."

Garoppolo was solid in his first start since the 49ers (2-10) acquired him from New England before the trade deadline in October. The suburban Chicago and Eastern Illinois product completed 26 of 37 passes with an interception. And the 49ers picked up the win after losing their first five road games.

Garoppolo grew up a Bears fan but never attended an NFL game until he entered the league, so this was quite an experience.

"I tried to say all week that it was just a normal game, but obviously, I'd never come back to Chicago like this," Garoppolo said. "It's exciting. I had a ton of people here. It was one of the more fun games I'd been a part of."

Marquise Goodwin had eight catches for 99 yards. Trent Taylor added 92 yards receiving, including a 33-yarder that kept the winning drive going even though he was sick to his stomach.

Chicago (3-9) dropped its fifth straight, and coach John Fox fell to 12-32 in three seasons with the Bears.

"It was hard to even talk to the team after this loss," he said.

Then again, what is there to say? The Bears are wrapping up their fifth straight season without a winning record and will finish below .500 for the fourth year in a row. They went from getting pounded by a championship contender at Philadelphia to losing to one of the league's worst teams.

Mitchell Trubisky was 12 of 15 for 102 yards and a touchdown. Not exactly the bounce-back performance he wanted coming off a rough outing against the Eagles.

"I mean, there's two ways to handle it: positively and negatively," Trubisky said. "You put your head down and come up here and sound like a loser. Or you can just believe in what you know, go back to work and just know the guys in the locker room have your back and have their back, and have the faith that it's going to turn around.

Tarik Cohen returned a punt 61 yards for a touchdown. That made him the first NFL rookie with rushing, receiving, passing and punt return TDs in a season since Gale Sayers in 1965.

Garoppolo showed his poise on the winning drive, lSan Francisco from its 8 to the Chicago 6.

His 33-yard pass to Taylor on third down put the ball on the Bears 18 with two minutes left and helped set up Gould's big kick.

"(Garoppolo) never seems too high, never seems too low, which is what in a quarterback," coach Kyle Shanahan said. "He kept that throughout the game. ... The guy never changed, which is what you want to see. It allows you to overcome mistakes."

MISSED CHANCES

The 49ers dominated in total yards (388-147) and time of possession (38:47-21:13). But they committed eight penalties, several near the end zone. That helped explain why they failed to score touchdowns on five trips inside the 20.

FAMILY LESSONS

In another twist to the homecoming story, Gould said his father-in-law taught Garoppolo in high school.

INJURIES

49ers: Starting RT Trent Brown (shoulder) started after being listed as questionable. S Adrian Colbert also started after missing last week's 24-13 loss to Seattle following thumb surgery.

Bears: LB Pernell McPhee suffered a shoulder injury on the game's opening drive. ... DE Mitch Unrein (knee) was hurt in the second quarter. ... RG Kyle Long (shoul out the second half. ... K Cairo Santos tweaked his groin. ... LG Josh Sitton started after being listed as questionable because of a concussion. ... S Adrian Amos (hamstring) and his backup Deon Buswere inactive.

UP NEXT

49ers: Visit Houston on Dec. 10.

Bears: Visit Cincinnati on Dec. 10.

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Brady knew it wasn't over, told Gronkowski to cool it on the celebration

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Brady knew it wasn't over, told Gronkowski to cool it on the celebration

Tom Brady had a feeling. He knew there was only less than a minute left in his team's game with the Steelers. But he also knew that was plenty of time for something crazy to go down. 

After completing a two-point conversion on a fade to Rob Gronkowski -- the piece de resistance of Gronkowski's monster day, most of which was spent being checked by second-year safety Sean Davis -- the big tight end celebrated and hammed it up for an on-the-field camera like he was in a late-90s rap video. 

Brady interrupted his teammate mid-dance. "Hey!" he shouted at Gronkowski. "It ain't over."

"Fifty-five seconds, that’s still a lot of time," Brady said after the game. "They hit the one big play, and before you know it they are knocking on our end zone’s door. [Roethlisberger] made a really great throw [to Jesse James], but they just couldn’t come up with it. Then the great tackle [by Malcolm Butler] on the [Darius Heyward-Bey] crossing route. They tried to fake spike it on third down, but our guys were aware and made a great play."

Brady's message to Gronkowski late was reminiscent of the end of Super Bowl LI, when it was at first somewhat unclear as to whether or not James White got into the end zone for the walk-off game-winner. At that point in time, Brady went from initially celebrating, to unsure White got in. He told his teammates to hold off on the partying until the play was reviewed -- kind of in the same way he told Gronkowski to chill out. 

We know how it worked out. And even if the stakes weren't quite as high, the finish in Pittsburgh was about as dramatic as it gets for a regular-season game. 

"That was great. It was a lot of fun," Brady said. "It was a great environment and a great team that we played that played really well. The weather conditions -- it kind of rained the whole game. It was just one of those days where you go back and forth, you play right to the end, and the ball bounces some weird ways. I’m glad it bounced our way today."

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Belichick highlights fourth-quarter kickoff as key in win over Steelers

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Belichick highlights fourth-quarter kickoff as key in win over Steelers

Leave it to Bill Belichick to shed light on the importance of the kicking game after a game like the one his team played on Sunday. 

Of all the memorable moments in New England's 27-24 win, the one Belichick brought up unprompted in his post-game press conference wasn't a Rob Gronkowski catch, or a Tom Brady throw, or a touchdown that was ruled to be an incompletion.

It was a kickoff. Specifically, the kickoff that occurred immediately before the final Steelers drive of the game. 

Belichick's point? That there were countless plays that mattered, involving an unspecified number of players. Team game.

"A lot of guys played well," Belichick said. "Tom played well. Rob played well, but we got a lot of great play from really everybody on the team. You can just go right down the line. Every play was a big play. 

"The kickoff after we scored was a big play. If that had been a touchback, I don’t know, they might have scored on that pass. It would have been maybe on the 1-yard line. Every play is a big play."

The pass Belichick referred to was the 69-yard catch-and-run that was completed to JuJu Smith-Schuster with 52 seconds left in the game. It moved the Steelers from the 21-yard line to the Patriots' 10 in less than 20 seconds. 

One play prior, Smith-Schuster returned a Stephen Gostkowski kick out of his own end zone for 22 yards before being tackled by Patriots special-teamer Nicholas Grigsby. It was Grigsby's second "teams" tackle of the game, and his third game under Belichick since being signed off of the Ravens practice squad last month.

The difference between Grigsby's tackle and a touchback in the box score was four yards so maybe Smith-Schuster's rumble down the sideline to the 10 wouldn't have resulted in a touchdown.

But you never know. And that's why, to Belichick, every play was big. Even in a game like that one, where hours of sports talk on television and radio will be devoted to a handful of moments that occurred in the last two minutes.

It's an approach that has helped shaped the style of the coach who watched his team win its ninth straight division title and 15th of the last 17. It all matters. 

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