SANTA CLARA, Calif. — The Bears still have a chance to secure a first-round bye, but in beating the San Francisco 49ers 14-9 on Sunday at Levi’s Stadium also ensured they will be no worse than the NFC No. 3 seed for their first playoff appearance in eight years next month.
With their win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, the New Orleans Saints (13-2) clinched home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. The 11-4 Bears will finish with a better record than the No. 4-seed Dallas Cowboys (9-6) and could still leapfrog the 12-3 Los Angeles Rams on the final weekend of the season. The Bears would need to beat the Minnesota Vikings a week from Sunday while also having the Rams lose at home to the 49ers for that best-case scenario to come to fruition.
The Bears’ win over the 49ers on Sunday was not particularly pretty, yet for a team that entered Sunday just 3-3 away from Chicago, it was important. A few poor decisions by Mitch Trubisky in the first half — like his ill-advised lateral that resulted in a lost fumble or an interception in the end zone wiped out by a defensive holding penalty — clouded an otherwise efficient, yet not incredibly productive, game. The Bears seemingly dodged a number of bullets, like a near-lost fumble by Allen Robinson early in the their quarter or that Trubisky interception called back for a holding flag.
Trubisky, though, completed 25-of-29 passes (86 percent) for 246 yards with a touchdown and a passer rating of 113.7. Outside of a 43-yard strike to Robinson, Trubisky had another take-what’s-there game, and in the second half made a few key plays to make sure the Bears were able to secure their win — though Robinson’s late fumble did give the 49ers a late chance to win.
That was after Danny Trevathan’s fourth quarter interception — which came one play after the 49ers converted a third-and-13 and entered the red zone — seemed to effectively seal thing. The Bears’ defense didn’t allow a touchdown for the second time this year, holding the 49ers to three Robbie Gould field goals. Akiem Hicks had a monster game with three pass break-ups at the line, while Roquan Smith notched his fifth sack of the year and Khalil Mack was frequently disruptive.
With a chance at securing that first-round bye, coach Matt Nagy may not opt to rest his starters next weekend in Minneapolis. While the Bears will need some help in the form of a Rams/Saints loss, Nagy said last week that he’d do whatever he could to earn the first weekend in January off.
The Bears also could have a hand in who they play in the first round of the playoffs if the Rams/Saints win next week, too. If the Bears beat the Vikings, that could knock Minnesota out of the playoffs with wins by the Philadelphia Eagles and Seattle Seahawks. A loss to Minnesota could, conversely, mean the Vikings come to Soldier Field for the Wild Card round of the playoffs.Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Bears and stream the ‘Football Aftershow’ easily on your device.