SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Perhaps the best thing that can be said about the Bears’ 14-9 win over the San Francisco 49ers Sunday at Levi’s Stadium is this: The Bears, again, proved they’re a team that knows how to win in nearly any given set of circumstances.
Was this the Bears’ best win of the year? Far from it. Was it full of highlight reel plays by the offense and a bunch of coordinated post-turnover dances by the defense? Hardly. Was it the kind of game that’ll be looked back on in January as a turning point for the season? Not at all.
But the Bears kept their hopes of earning a first-round bye alive with this win. And this is a team that showed it can win games in a number of different ways. To wit, on Sunday:
— The Bears’ defense didn’t allow a touchdown, the second time it’s accomplished that feat in a game this year, and didn’t give up a single point in the second half.
— The Bears’ offense chewed up 18:44 of clock time in the second half, and would’ve been able to have the ball for the final 7:37 of the game had Allen Robinson not fumbled after picking up a first down just after the two minute warning.
The Bears did that without winning the turnover battle (lost 2-1) while managing their fewest points of the year (previous lows: 15 against the Los Angeles Rams, 16 against the Arizona Cardinals). They had to make a defensive stop after Robinson’s fumble, and were able to do that with the help of an odd fourth-down decision by Nick Mullens to huck a pass toward the end zone instead of run for what looked like a makeable first down.
“Because we’ve been in this situation so many times and have come up big, it’s almost expected of us,” cornerback Prince Amukamara said. “Like when we had to go back on the field to help win it for our team, everyone was poised and no one was shaking. We expected great things to come out of it an we’re glad we stood up for our team.”
This is a Bears team that is hurtling toward the playoffs with a clear identity: A world-beating defense and an offense that, so long as it stays within itself, is good enough to make the necessary plays to win without back-breaking mistakes. And what gives the Bears confidence is this team’s ability to make plays late in games to win — it’s, essentially, the kind of winning attitude that hasn’t been seen around Halas Hall in a long time.
“You never know how every single game is going to shake down, and I think just the experiences we’ve been through have made us a stronger, smarter team and more importantly have united us as a family,” quarterback Mitch Trubisky said. “So the things we’ve been through and the experiences in each game, you kind of take that and you carry with you and then you’re just drawing back on experience. You’re out here and when you get into that situation again, you’re like okay, we’ve been here before, stick to what we do, trust in each other and everyone out here go do their jobs and then nobody freaks out, everyone’s just calm, cool, everyone do their jobs and we’re just playing football.”
While Trubisky completed a remarkable 25 of his 29 passes (86 percent), he did make two rough mistakes in the first half: First, firing a lateral to Tarik Cohen on a run-pass option that resulted in a lost fumble; and second, under-throwing a pass toward the end zone that was intercepted, only to be bailed out by a defensive holding call. The Bears’ defense was good enough to paper over the first mistake and hold the 49ers to a field goal; Trubisky rebounded a few plays later from the second one and hit Anthony Miller for a touchdown.
The Bears will march on to Minnesota next weekend to end their regular season with, at least, their highest win total since 2010 — the last time they made the playoffs. A win over the Vikings would give the Bears a dozen victories, which would represent their highest total since 2006, when this team last made the Super Bowl.
But what’s clear is the Bears are a team that not only knows how to win, but believes it’ll win no matter the situation or opponent. And that’ll count for something when the playoffs start next month.
“We’re steady growing,” linebacker Danny Trevathan said. “I think we’re peaking.”