In the snowy confines of Soldier Field, the 49ers seemed frozen in place during a listless 26-6 loss to the Chicago Bears Sunday.
Colin Kaepernick’s impressive four-game stretch skidded to an icy halt, with the quarterback being benched in favor of Blaine Gabbert after completing just 1-of-5 attempts for four yards through 47 minutes of play.
Gabbert fared marginally better, completing four of 10 attempts for 35 yards while getting sacked for a safety deep into garbage time.
San Francisco (1-11) was ineffective in nearly every manner. The team racked up 11 unsightly penalties for 106 yards, surrendered six sacks, had multiple drops on the few passes they attempted, and allowed yet another 100-yard game from Bears’ running back Jordan Howard.
Considering sacks and penalties, the 49ers gained just eight positive yards of total offense, with 147 total yards going forward, compared to 139 moving backward.
As sleety conditions took their toll on the 49ers passing game, the team was forced to ride running back Carlos Hyde — to little effect. The running back finished with a decent 92 yards on 20 carries, but couldn’t find the end zone for the second straight game.
Just four receivers would gain a reception for San Francisco, with receivers Jeremy Kerley and Chris Harper, tight end Vance McDonald and running back Carlos Hyde making up the team’s five catches for 39 yards.
While Hyde found tough sledding across the snowy turf, Bears running back Howard exploded for 117 yards on 30 carries and three touchdowns that helped to sink the 49ers to their 11th-straight loss.
After needing nearly 29 minutes to complete his first pass, Bears quarterback Matt Barkley burst the game open in favor of Chicago (3-9) with an efficient 192 yards on 11-of-18 passing, completing nine first downs through the air.
Coming into Sunday with just one more win than the 49ers, the Bears still looked vastly superior to a San Francisco squad that continues to hurt their own cause with silly penalties, an anemic offense and the affinity for giving up big plays.
With Hyde’s 74 first-half rushing yards providing the only source of offense for San Francisco, it was left to the 49ers’ special teams to create opportunities for points.
Robinson appeared to run back the punt into the end zone from the Chicago 34 — and was flagged for excessive celebration with his teammates — before things got worse, quickly, as officials determined Robinson had stepped out of bounds at the four-yard line, negating the apparent score.
San Francisco couldn’t make up the 15-yard loss in the red zone, opting instead for a 31-yard field goal from Phil Dawson for a 3-0 lead.
The 49ers would convert another field goal off of a special teams turnover after a forced fumble by Jimmie Ward started the San Francisco offense at their own 37-yard line.
San Francisco mustered 27 yards before being forced to settle for a 28-yard field goal from Dawson.
The cold conditions hampered both team’s passing games. The 49ers and Bears opted to run conservative, run-heavy offenses that worked to little avail over the first 30 minutes of play.
San Francisco’s first completed pass of the day came with 7:30 remaining in the second quarter on an unremarkable four-yard gain to tight end Vance McDonald.
Chicago would have to wait even longer, with quarterback Matt Barkley not earning his first reception until the 1:30 mark in the second quarter.
But Barkley’s completion lit a fire under the Bears passing game, with the veteran quarterback going on to complete three more receptions on eight tries before a suspect pass interference call in the end zone on Tremaine Brock. Howard scored the game’s first touchdown on the ensuing play with a one-yard plunge for a 7-6 halftime lead.
Barkley and the Bears offense picked up where they left off to start the third, as the veteran quarterback would take to the air to beat the 49ers’ defense.
Barkley found receivers Josh Bellamy and Meredith for big gains of 20+ yards to pick up two of the team’s three third down conversions on the drive.
Howard notched his second touchdown of the game on yet another third-down attempt with a two-yard plunge into the end zone to give the Bears a 14-6 advantage.
Chicago’s third-straight touchdown would be earned in the same way, with Barkley connecting on two big plays to Bellamy for a total of 52 yards before Howard would plunge his way through a scrum of 49ers’ defenders for his third touchdown of the day from five yards out.
With the game steadily in their control, Chicago went on to add five more points on a field goal and a safety on the team’s sixth sack.