By GENE CHAMBERLAIN | Associated Press
CHICAGO (AP) — The Chicago Bears seemed to miss linebacker Khalil Mack and safety Eddie Jackson more than coach Matt Nagy.
They were without Nagy on Sunday against San Francisco because of COVID-19, but it was their defense that allowed seven straight scoring drives in a 33-22 loss to the 49ers.
"Obviously it was a game of two halves," said special teams coordinator Chris Tabor, who ran the team with Nagy out. "I thought we played good football there in the first half.
"We were doing the things that we wanted to do but in the second half. We couldn't get off the field when we needed to get off the field."
The Bears' offensive players said they missed Nagy's energy on the sidelines even if it looked as if it was the defensive side lacking energy.
"Definitely, his vocal-ness and just being able to pick up everybody energy-wise, he definitely was missed today for sure," wide receiver Darnell Mooney said.
Justin Fields' electric 22-yard touchdown run got Chicago (3-5) within one in the fourth quarter, but Cairo Santos missed the ensuing extra point. Then the defense gave up a 75-yard drive capped by Jimmy Garoppolo's 5-yard touchdown run.
Later in the quarter, they allowed a 49-yard drive to Joey Slye's 32-yard field goal that sealed the win for the 49ers (3-4).
"I think we have to appreciate the offense for stepping up and putting up points, right?" defensive end Akiem Hicks said. "As a defense, that's all you can ask for. So I think the onus falls on us to stand up toward the end of that game."
Mack, who leads the team with six sacks, missed his first game since 2018 because of a foot injury. The Bears lost Jackson on the second play to a hamstring injury.
"Those things are gonna happen," Hicks said. "It happened to me against Detroit, right? Unfortunately, we can't predict who's going to be able to play on Sunday, but we have to understand that."
A week after Chicago lost 38-3 to Tom Brady and Tampa Bay, the Bears surrendered 137 yards rushing to Elijah Mitchell and 322 yards passing to Garoppolo.
The Bears led 16-9 in the third quarter, but couldn't hold on.
"Going into the half we thought we had the game under control," Hicks said. "I think that when we came back out we loosened up on some fundamental things, some techniques, some just overall playmaking. We let some of that slip and they took advantage of it."
The saving grace for Chicago was Fields.
The rookie quarterback helped the Bears go 8 of 15 on third down. He finished with 175 yards passing and a touchdown to Jesse James.
Fields' 22-yard TD run included a spin move that got him away from Fred Warner.
"It's just instinct," Fields said "I just saw pressure in my face and just instinctively tried to get away from him. It was that simple."
Fields became the first Bears quarterback since Bobby Douglass in 1973 to run for 100 yards, finishing with 103 on the ground.
"I think No. 1 improved today," Tabor said. "I thought you saw he made plays with his legs and led our team. I thought he threw the ball well. He gave us a chance and obviously he's a special player. I mean, he made nothing into something."