The Chicago Bears were big underdogs Week 1, but after a strong second half — and perhaps a little help from Mother Nature — they won their season opener at Soldier Field against the San Francisco 49ers, 19-10.
Bears head coach Matt Eberflus became just the fifth Bears head coach in history to win his debut, joining George Halas, Neil Armstrong, Dick Jauron and Marc Trestman, who was the last to do it in 2013. Chicago scored all 19 of its points in the second half, also finishing the game with a strong defensive performance, allowing just three points in the final two quarters.
Both teams battled the elements, as heavy rains soaked the field for parts of the game, culminating with virtual downpours in the fourth quarter.
The Bears ultimately executed better on the sloppy field, and after the game, Chicago’s starting cornerback Jaylon Johnson said he saw some quit in the eyes of some 49ers players.
Johnson: ‘They Wanted to Go Back Home’
Johnson, who finished with four total tackles (one for loss) and a forced fumble, said after the game that the wet field may have gotten to San Francisco’s players.
“Having those conditions, being down two scores … it’s hard to really do a lot with those weather conditions,” Johnson said, per Kevin Fishbain of The Athletic. “You could see it in their eyes. They was trying to get out of here and go back home.”
It was a tale of two halves for the Bears, who managed just five first downs, no points and 3.0 net yards passing in the first half. While they didn’t finish with gaudy numbers by any means (19 points, 15 first downs, 105 net passing yards), they won the turnover battle and ultimately handled the elements better.
Bears All-Pro safety Eddie Jackson forced the second turnover of the game for Chicago, picking off 49ers QB Trey Lance with 9:52 remaining in the fourth quarter. Jackson returned the ball 26 yards, setting the Bears’ offense up in the red zone. It was a key play at a pivotal time, and it was his first interception since Week 17 of the 2019 season.
Penalties, Crowd Also a Problem for 49ers
The Bears also played far more disciplined ball than the 49ers, finishing with just three penalties for 24 yards, while San Francisco drew 12 flags for 99 yards. Keeping mistakes to a minimum was key for Chicago, but an animated home crowd didn’t hurt, either.
Rookie safety Jaquan Brisker noted that despite being a young defense, the unit played with increasing confidence as the game progressed, and he also credited the fans.
“It felt good when we had a huge lead especially with the great Bears fans that came in,” Brisker said about the tempo in the fourth quarter. “Couldn’t really hear anything, got a couple of false starts. You can tell that the fans played a huge role, that was awesome. The defense, we got more confidence and more swagger when the fans get into the game.”
Bears head coach Matt Eberflus was pleased with the results, and he praised Johnson and Brisker for their alert play. “Jaylon punched it, and then Brisker recovered it, and it was an outstanding play,” Eberflus said about Johnson’s forced fumble.
Don’t expect the team to rest on its laurels after the upset, though.
“It’s the 24-hour rule,” Eberflus said. “I told the guys enjoy the victory. I said we’re back to work tomorrow, and we’re going to be squared away looking at the next opponent.”