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49ers takeaways: What we learned from 14-9 loss to Bears at Levi's Stadium

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49ers takeaways: What we learned from 14-9 loss to Bears at Levi's Stadium

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SANTA CLARA -– The NFC North champion Chicago Bears turned Levi’s Stadium into their West Coast home Sunday.

Thousands of Bears backers invaded Northern California, and the 49ers were unable to beat Chicago at its own game.

The Bears held on for a 14-9 victory, as Nick Mullens threw a desperation fourth-down pass out of bounds when he could have run for the first down from the Chicago 45-yard line with more than a minute to play.

In a game dominated by defense and both offenses lacking in big-play ability, the Bears were able to grind it out to snap the 49ers’ two-game winning streak. Chicago improved to 11-4, while the 49ers fell to 4-11.

Things got heated late in the fourth quarter when 49ers safety Marcell Harris’ late hit on a sliding Mitchell Trubisky led to a scuffle along the Bears sideline.

Cornerback Richard Sherman, and Bears players Joshua Bellamy and Anthony Miller were ejected from the game for the final five minutes of the game.

Here are three quick takeaways from the game:

Top priority: Re-sign Robbie

Robbie Gould has been darn-near automatic since signing with the 49ers on the first day of NFL free agency in 2017. But the kicker's contract is up at the end of the season, and Gould kept his family in Chicago because of the uncertainty of the offseason.

The 49ers must do everything in their power to keep Gould around. After all, Levi’s Stadium is not an easy venue for kickers. The 49ers need a veteran to handle the chores, and Gould, 36, is one of the best in the history of sport.

On Sunday, Gould made all three of his field-goal attempts. Last year, he kicked five field goals in a 15-14 victory over the Bears, the team for which he played his first 11 NFL seasons.

Gould has made 71 of his 74 field-goal attempts in two seasons with the 49ers, and rates No. 2 on the NFL’s all-time accuracy list.

The battle to keep Mack contained

49ers offensive tackles Joe Staley and Mike McGlinchey held up well against Bears edge rusher Khalil Mack, a leading candidate for NFL Defensive Player of the Year.

Mullens got rid of the ball quickly with three-step drops, and the 49ers made an emphasis on staying out of third-and-long situations. On the 49ers’ first trip inside the red zone, coach Kyle Shanahan opted to take the three points instead of pressing the issue on a third-and-11 play. Running back Jeff Wilson took an inside handoff for 2 yards, as Shanahan decided not to risk a sack and pushing the 49ers out of field-goal range.

Mack became a big factor in the second half, as he had quarterback pressures on three consecutive plays in one three-and-out series.

Because of the Bears’ threat of a pass rush, the 49ers were not able to push the ball down the field. Mullens completed 22 of 38 passes for 241 yards and no touchdowns with one interception.

Goodwin back in every-down role

When the 49ers signed Marquise Goodwin before the 2017 season, they did not envision him being a starter and an every-down player. But Goodwin was back in that role after Dante Pettis left with a knee injury in the first half.

Goodwin was at the center of one of the big plays of the game when a Mullens fourth-quarter pass deflected off his hands, leading to linebacker Danny Trevathan’s interception. The 49ers would like to pick and choose how, when and where to use Goodwin’s speed through the course of a game.

Pettis likely will be a starter next season, and the 49ers have to figure out how to get another starting-caliber wideout on the roster next season. Goodwin played sparingly the past three weeks, as Pettis and Kendrick Bourne were the starters.

After Pettis’ injury, Goodwin played and caught three passes for 29 yards.

49ers mailbag: Could co-coordinators ease Kyle Shanahan's workload?

49ers mailbag: Could co-coordinators ease Kyle Shanahan's workload?

It has been two weeks since the 49ers’ loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV. That’s more than enough time to turn the page and look ahead.

So that’s what we’re doing -- with the help from some of our Twitter friends. Here is the first offseason edition of the 49ers Mailbag.

Kyle Shanahan is one of the best play-callers in the NFL. I don’t think there’s even a question about that. Is there? So I can’t envision any scenario in which Shanahan stops doing the thing he does best.

Shanahan certainly believes McDaniel and LaFleur are ready to call plays. McDaniel and LaFleur are, in essence, co-offensive coordinators. They are responsible for putting together the first components of the weekly game plan.

Through the first three seasons together with the 49ers, they have found a pretty good rhythm together and Shanahan finds himself placing more trust in them. What they’re doing is working.

If the 49ers have the $19 million-plus in cap room to devote to a franchise tag for Arik Armstead, then I think they could work out a long-term deal that would work for both sides.

As for the question about a tag-and-trade, I’m sure you’re thinking about how the Kansas City Chiefs tagged Dee Ford a year ago and, then, traded him to the 49ers. In that instance, the Chiefs had Frank Clark on the line, so that made sense.

In this case, I don’t think there’s anyone who plays Armstead’s position they would prefer over him. Armstead is exactly what the 49ers need: A defensive end on base downs who moves inside next to DeForest Buckner to rush the passer in nickel situations.

There is no need for the 49ers to do anything with Thomas, except work with him to continue to improve and become more valuable as a rotational player on the defensive line. The 49ers certainly will not pick up the fifth-year option on Thomas for the 2021 season. But with Thomas’ rookie contract guaranteed, there is no cap advantage in parting ways with him this year.

Regardless, Thomas should have a significant role next season. But if for whatever reason Armstead is not back, Thomas has a strong chance to be a starter.

The possibility of recouping a draft pick is part of the reason the 49ers felt compelled to make the trade in the first place. In my opinion, they would have preferred Mohamed Sanu, who was under contract through the 2020 season. But the Patriots offered the Atlanta Falcons a second-round draft pick, and the 49ers did not have a second-round pick after dealing it to Kansas City for Dee Ford.

Instead, the 49ers acquired Sanders and a fifth-round pick from Denver in return for third- and fourth-round draft picks. The 49ers do not figure to be active with veteran acquisitions on the free-agent market this offseason, so it is likely the 49ers have more losses than gains. If Sanders is a loss, the 49ers would stand a good chance of picking up a compensatory pick for the 2021 draft.

Get stronger. Work. Work. Work.

Pettis had a good offseason program a year ago, but he was not the same player when he came back for training camp. Other receivers on the team came back stronger at the opening of camp. Pettis did not. That is why Pettis struggled and fell out of favor to the point he rarely played in the second half of the season.

Pettis needs to take it up another few notches to get stronger and avoid the nagging injuries that also set him back last season. Pettis has more ability than almost anyone on the team to run some of Shanahan’s favorite routes. He will have an opportunity to prove himself in the offseason and training camp this year.

If Jalen Hurd and Pettis are both healthy, I think the answer is Hurd. The reason is because of his size and his unique skill set.

I envision Hurd being a big part of the 49ers’ two-minute offense because of his versatility. The 49ers can line him up anywhere in the formation, including running back. That puts the onus on the defense to figure out how they want to treat him. Is he a runner, wide receiver or tight end? Then, based on the defensive personnel, the 49ers can exploit those weaknesses.

[RELATED: Juice sick of Jimmy G, Shanahan criticism after Super Bowl]

The draft takes place more than a month after free agency. So the answer to this question could change, based on what the 49ers’ roster looks like at the time of the draft. But, right now, if the 49ers hold onto the No. 31 overall pick, the team can choose among the best available wide receiver, cornerback or defensive lineman.

There are two ways to look at this. But if there’s a team willing to move up to No. 31 overall, then that is the default move. It would make a lot of sense to sit out the first round of the draft to come away with multiple picks on Day 2.

But if there is someone at No. 31 with whom the organization has fallen in love, then they should take that player. The advantage of holding onto the first-round draft pick is that the 49ers would control the contract rights to the player for five years, instead of four.

49ers' Kyle Juszczyk sick of Jimmy Garoppolo, Kyle Shanahan criticism

49ers' Kyle Juszczyk sick of Jimmy Garoppolo, Kyle Shanahan criticism

Losing the Super Bowl was tough on the 49ers, to say the least. It was especially tough for the team's fullback, Kyle Juszczyk, who hated hearing the criticism of Jimmy Garoppolo and Kyle Shanahan, his quarterback and coach.

"Those are two guys that have absolutely nothing to prove to the rest of the guys in the locker room," Juice said Friday on NFL Network's "Good Morning Football." "You look at Jimmy, for people that are stats guys, 4,000 yards passing, better than a two-to-one, touchdown-interception ratio, 70 percent completion."

He added with that alone, you're looking at a "phenomenal quarterback."

"For whatever reason, Jimmy just gets this extra criticism, this extra heat, but I think at one point in the game he was like 19-for-22," Jusczyk said. 

"That's football, though -- you just change one or two plays in the game, and the whole dialogue changes, the whole narrative."

Juice mentioned the moment that could have put Jimmy G in the same category as Tom Brady as a Super Bowl MVP. The moment that could have led to the 49ers popping champagne in San Francisco amongst the faithful.

That could have been a game-changer.

The play in question caused wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders to storm out of the media room following the Super Bowl LIV loss to the Chiefs. Garoppolo's overthrow in the fourth quarter changed everything.

[RELATED: What Juice regrets most from 49ers' Super Bowl collapse]

And they know it. Jimmy knows it. Sanders knows it. Shanahan knows it. 

"It's a shame that one or two plays can really change everyone's outlook on someone," Juszczyk said.