SANTA CLARA, California – Matt Nagy maintained all week that clinching the NFC North wasn’t going to change the team’s mentality as they approach the final two games of the season.
Not only did they want to keep their recent momentum going, but they still have a shot to get a bye for the first round in the playoffs.
It wasn’t the prettiest football they played all season, but in the end, Nagy got his goals in the first of the team’s final two games against the 49ers on Sunday.
The Bears knocked off San Francisco 14-9 at Levi’s Stadium, using a long third quarter drive and a strong defense to push them to their 11th victory of the season. It keeps the Bears in contention for a potential first round bye as they head to Minnesota for their season finale against the Vikings next Sunday.
New Orleans did clinch home field advantage throughout the playoffs with their win over the Steelers, so the Bears would need a victory at US Bank Stadium plus a win by San Francisco over the Rams in Los Angeles to get the bye.
Jordan Howard’s third quarter touchdown to complete a 90-yard drive proved to be the difference in the game as the Bears’ defense pitched a shutout in the second half. A forced fourth down incompletion with just over a minute left sealed a wild game which the Bears grounded out a victory.
San Francisco could have built a sizable advantage in the first half as the offense struggled, but the Bears defense forced a trio of 49ers field goals by former kicker Robbie Gould. Between the second and third was the visitor’s only touchdown of the half – a five-yard scoring throw from Mitchell Trubisky to Anthony Miller – with Gould’s last-second kick putting San Francisco up 9-7 at the half.
The Bears’ longest drive of the season by time – 7:43 – driving 90 yards and scoring on a two-yard Howard run to make it 14-9. From there out, it was up to the Bears’ defense to keep it going.
Danny Trevathan stalled out a drive with an interception on a tipped Nick Mullens’ pass as the 49ers got to the Bears’ 20-yard line. But they would get it back on a bizarre next drive for the Bears, which included a scuffle following a late hit on Trubisky that resulted in Josh Bellamy, Miller, and San Francisco’s Richard Sherman being ejected.
Allen Robinson, who made a few critical catches on the afternoon, appeared to make another on third down after the two minute warning. But after getting the first down, he had the ball popped out of his hands Tarvarius Moore and was recovered by Greg Mabin.
Mullen would get the 49ers one first down, but the Bears stopped them at midfield on downs, picking up a victory that was strong on meaning if not on style points.