JUSTIN FIELDS SUCCEEDS IN SPACE
Justin Fields still hasn’t put up eye-popping passing stats this season. But the first time we saw the Bears get Fields out into space often, and we saw him make many great plays in those scenarios. He was efficient, completing 19 of 27 passes, but he also managed some chunk gains too. Coming into Week 8, Fields had only managed a pedestrian 6.2 yards per attempt. That number wasn’t much better by the end of the game since he needed to take
Fields did well running the ball in space too. In the past we’ve seen Fields hold the ball behind the line of scrimmage, trying to give his playmakers time to get open downfield. But against the Niners, Fields showed no hesitation. If his passing options were covered, and he saw green, Fields took off immediately. He rattled off several big plays this way, including making some third-down conversions look easy. None were better than his truly incredible 22-yard touchdown scramble. The Bears 4th-and-1 play looked destined to be a turnover on downs, but Fields made four or five guys miss on his way to the end zone.
Fields finished the day with a career-high 103 rushing yards.
BEARS BETTER ON 3RD DOWN, CAN’T CONVERT IN RED ZONE
One of the biggest bugaboos for the Bears this year has been poor performance on third down. Heading into the 49ers game, their 31.25% conversion rate on third down was the worst in the league. That has cut drives short, and limited the Bears’ red zone opportunities. But they flipped the script on Sunday, going 8-15 on third down, giving them more scoring opportunities than usual. Problem was, the Bears couldn’t cash in on all those chances, scoring only two touchdowns (one coming on Fields’ crazy scramble) vs. three field goals. The offense could have put this game away in the first half, but since they had to settle for three points more often than not, the 49ers were able to hang around and eventually turn the tide with Deebo Samuel’s enormous 83-yard catch and run on 3rd-and-19. After that, San Francisco took control of the momentum and never looked back.
Which brings us to our final observation...
DEFENSE GASHED AGAIN
While the offense certainly doesn’t look like a top-tier unit yet, they played much better on Sunday and dominated the time of possession, 37:11 to 22:49. They also made huge plays to try to wrest back momentum, after the defense gave it up on Samuel’s aforementioned 83-yard catch. But that one play seemed to be the back breaker, as the 49ers scored a touchdown right after that, then easily marched down the field for two more touchdown drives, then the game-icing field goal. Equally concerning is the fact that the Bears once-solid run defense has now surrendered gaudy YPC numbers in three-straight games. After being gashed by Aaron Jones, AJ Dillon and Leonard Fournette in Weeks 6 and 7, Elijah Moore racked up 137 yards on just 18 carries for an incredible 7.6 YPC average. This unit used to have a penchant for making big plays in big moments, but they couldn’t make a stop at all against the 49ers.