What went wrong for defense on 83-yard Deebo Samuel screen


The Bears defense didn’t do a particularly good job of stopping Jimmy Garoppolo and the 49ers offense on Sunday. Outside of the first series, where the Niners missed a field goal attempt, and the last series, where Garoppolo ended the game with a few kneel downs, San Francisco scored on every single one of their possessions. The Bears defense never forced a punt, and they never created a takeaway. But if there was one play to hone in on as the decisive moment in the game, it would have to be Deebo Samuel’s 83-yard catch and run. Matt Nagy himself said that was the one play he believed changed the game. It set up San Francisco’s first touchdown of the game, which brought the Niners within one point of the Bears.

“I thought that was a pivotal part of the game,” said Nagy. “We continued to stay in the game after that, but we just didn’t do enough to finish it… you can just feel it and you felt like you know we were up seven and we had field position and that is one of those plays that we're going to look back at and wish we had back.”

But defensive breakdowns happen, and offenses are able to put up huge gains. One play usually does not make or break a defense. What truly made this play a back breaker was the fact that it came on a 3rd-and-19 screen play. A play that the Bears have seen and defended dozens of times before.


“Just one of those plays that you hate to be a part of,” said secondary coach Deshea Townsend. “You know, you’re just waiting on somebody to tackle him, and it didn’t happen until he was on the one.

“We’ve gotta have guys coming from the front line to chase it down, we’ve got to make sure we turn it back in, we can’t go behind blocks, and ultimately somebody’s just gotta go in there and make that play. That’s what happens on screens, but it’s not just one finger. That’s a team defensive type of play.”

In Nagy’s eyes, it was the Bears’ poor angles of pursuit that doomed the defense, and allowed Samuel to break free for a huge gain.

“Really that's what it comes down to,” Nagy said. “I mean they did a good job of blocking it and we didn't do a great job of being able to have pursuit angles which is such a big part of this game.”

If there was one silver lining on the play, it would be DeAndre Houston-Carson’s speed, stamina and effort to chase Samuel down and force him out of bounds at the one-yard line.

“Yeah, that was huge,” said Townsend. “That’s who we are. It gives us the opportunity to go make them snap it again. We have enough playmakers on our team, if we make you snap it again, we have enough playmakers where they can make a play. That’s who he is.”

The Bears nearly did pull off the goal line stand, too. Following a 49ers false start, the Bears managed to keep them out of the end zone on first and second down. But the Niners punched it in on their third try, a weird looking Garoppolo keeper.

That opened the floodgates for San Francisco. They scored touchdowns on their next two drives, easily, and ended up winning by a comfortable margin.

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