Much like Chicago’s 21-point comeback in 2014 sparked the downfall of the 49ers’ Kaepernick-Harbaugh tandem, San Francisco’s 26-20 overtime win over the Bears Sunday may have just birthed the Blaine Gabbert era.
Led by an energized and athletic Gabbert, the 49ers scored the game’s final 13 points — including a 71-yard, game-winning bomb from Gabbert to Torrey Smith in overtime — to upset the home Bears and effectively eliminate Chicago from playoff contention.
49ers Head Coach Jim Tomsula praised his quarterback postgame:
“I think that we’ve continued, since Blaine has been here, every week, he keeps steeping up and stepping up. And the group is stepping up and stepping up with him. That’s really encouraging.”
During a first quarter that yielded only five yards of offense, the 49ers defense provided the excitement, holding the now-healthy Bears offense to two field goals while hitting paydirt of their own.
A Jay Cutler screen pass was jumped by 49er corner back Jimmie Ward, an interception also unveiled nothing but green between the second-year corner and the painted grass. Ward flipped into the end zone in front of Cutler for the 49ers’ first first-quarter touchdown of the season. Placekicker Phil Dawson’s extra point was blocked by Chicago defensive lineman Eddie Goldman, keeping the game tied at 6-6.
After a Matt Forte run gave Chicago a 13-6 lead, running back Shaun Draughn rumbled one yard for his first touchdown as a 49er to cap an 81-yard drive and tie the game at 13-13 heading into halftime.
The Bears went ahead 20-13 on an 83-yard drive ending with a four-yard touchdown run by Bears’ Ka’Deem Carey.
On the ensuing kickoff, Chicago defensive back Sherrick McManis was called for a low block as Bruce Ellington returned the kick to the 21. Six plays later, Gabbert scrambled from his pocket, unable to find the open receiver over the middle, and went untouched 44 yards for the score and the 20-20.
The effort appeared to have been wasted seconds later, when Chicago return man Deonte Thompson found a crease in the San Francisco coverage and snuck up the left side to the San Francisco 28. Well within Gould’s field goal range, Cutler and the Bears were happy to bleed the clock and leave the outcome on their kicker’s capable leg.
With two seconds left in the game, however, Gould’s the 36-yard attempt sailed wide left to bring on overtime.
After winning the coin toss, the Bears defense forced the 49ers’ seventh three-and-out of the game, before the 49ers stood stout to return the favor.
On the first play of their second overtime possession, Gabbert found a wide open Torrey Smith deep outside of the left hash. As Smith crossed the goal line, he gave his team its first road win of the season.
“That was executed well … It was a heck of a throw and a heck of a route, catch.”
Gabbert finished 18-for-32 for 196 yards and one touchdown through the air while adding 75 yards and the tying score on six carries. Draughn chipped in 36 yards on 13 carries as well as 50 yards on five catches.
The Bears were paced by Cutler’s 18-for-31 with 202 yards, with the costly interception in the first quarter. Running backs Matt Forte (21 carries for 84 yards and a touchdown) and Jeremy Langford (12 carries for 59 yards) split the workload on the ground, while Alshon Jeffery snatched four passes for 85 yards.
The 49ers will visit Cleveland in Week 14 for a Sunday morning game against the 2-10 Browns.