By ANDREW SELIGMAN | AP Sports Writer
CHICAGO (AP) — Justin Fields rolled to his left with two defenders closing in on him. As his quarterback scrambled one way, Dante Pettis broke toward the opposite side.
Fields saw his receiver wide open. He lofted a pass across the field, and Pettis took it the rest of the way for a 51-yard touchdown that kicked the Bears into gear.
Fields threw for two second-half scores, Eddie Jackson set up a TD with an interception and Chicago gave Matt Eberflus a win in his head coaching debut, beating the San Francisco 49ers 19-10 on a rain-soaked Sunday.
It was a sweet start for a new regime. The Bears decided to make major changes after last season, when they went 6-11 and missed the playoffs for the ninth time in 11 years.
General manager Ryan Poles and Eberflus took over for the fired Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy. And their first game was a win over a team that played in the NFC championship game last season. Go figure.
“I’m not surprised. I’m not surprised,” Eberflus said. “I thought the guys executed. I thought that they hung in there. That’s what you’ve got to do in the NFL. It’s never going to be perfect, it’s always going to be hard. Always. Most times it comes down to the end, just like that. That’s the way the NFL is.”
Fields shook off a rough first half. The long touchdown to Pettis, a former 49er, with the Bears trailing 10-0 was, he said, “the play that changed the momentum of our game.”
Fields connected with Equanimeous St. Brown for an 18-yarder early in the fourth to put Chicago on top 13-10. Jackson then picked off Trey Lance near midfield for his first interception since 2019 and returned the ball to the 21. That led to a 6-yard touchdown run by Khalil Herbert, making it 19-10.
Fields, the No. 11 overall pick in 2019, was 8 of 17 for 121 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. The former Ohio State star is trying to convince Eberflus and new general manager Ryan Poles he can solidify a position that has long been a weakness for Chicago.
“Coach always says it’s mental and physical stamina,” Fields said. “Who can play the longest, the hardest and just play every play. We won this game with mental and physical stamina.”
San Francisco running back Elijah Mitchell left the game in the first half with a knee injury and did not return. Niners star tight end George Kittle missed the game because of a groin issue.
Heavy rain flooded the area and drenched the new Bermuda grass installed this week instead of the traditional Kentucky bluegrass used in a stadium often criticized for its choppy surface. As the final seconds ticked away, Bears players took head-first dives into the drenched end zone.
COMING UP DRY
The Bears also got called for an unusual penalty near the end of the first half, when their holder got flagged for bringing out a towel to dry a small area of the field ahead of a field goal try. Rookie Trenton Gill used a towel to dry the spot where the kick would be attempted. Kicker Cairo Santos also stepped on the towel and used it to dry a different area.
PENALTIES, MISSED CHANCES
The 49ers were hurt by 12 penalties for 99 yards and were just 1 for 3 in the red zone. Combine that with the opportunities they missed, and it wasn't hard to figure out why they lost.
“You see that in the stat sheet and you know what happened out there," coach Kyle Shanahan said.
Lance, drafted eight spots ahead of Fields, completed 13 of 28 passes for 164 yards and an interception.
“Man, I made too many mistakes,” he said.
Deebo Samuel ran for a 6-yard score in the second quarter after losing a fumble deep in Chicago territory in the early going. But he caught just two passes for 14 yards.
Nick Bosa added a sack.
“We know what we need to fix,” Samuel said. “We were real good in the locker room as far as people knowing what we need to do to win the game.”
49ers: Mitchell — who set a franchise rookie record with 963 yards rushing last season — ran for 41 before exiting in the second quarter. Shanahan said the medical stiff initially thought he could return to the game. He said he was not sure if this will be a long-term injury.
Bears: The Bears announced no injuries during the game.
49ers: Host Seattle on Sept. 18.
Bears: Visit Green Bay on Sept. 18.
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