Film Study: Five takeaways from the Bears’ 14-9 win against the 49ers

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Bears LB Danny Trevathan made his second interception of the season against the 49ers. | Robert Reiners/Getty Images

Which play feels better for an inside linebacker: an interception or a sack?

“Oh, the interception,” Roquan Smith said. “It’s an interception. All day. Absolutely.”

With that said, Smith was ecstatic for teammate Danny Trevathan, who came through with a momentum-shifting interception in the fourth quarter of the Bears’ 14-9 victory.

“He was in the perfect place at the perfect time,” Smith said.

It’s what the defense has done all season. Here are five takeaways after watching film of the Bears’ 11th victory:

Lurking in the shadows

Smith’s emergence over the second half of this season has overshadowed Trevathan’s reliable play. Overall, they’re quite the tandem.

Against the 49ers, Trevathan made seven solo tackles and his important interception in the fourth quarter, when his hard-hitting reputation seemed to come into play.

On first-and-10 from the Bears’ 20, Trevathan came off his coverage against tight end George Kittle, while receiver Marquise Goodwin ran an underneath crossing route against Smith.

Quarterback Nick Mullens’ pass went off of Goodwin’s hands and right to Trevathan.

“We had an out route [and] a shallow [crossing] route,” Mullens said. “I thought [Goodwin] outran the backer [Smith]. I just left it too far out in front of him. Just an execution error that can’t happen at a crucial point in the game.”

Errors like that happen often against the Bears, especially when they’ve set a physical tone, which they did against the 49ers. Trevathan was in position to strike Goodwin if a catch was made. Instead, he made his second interception this season.

Mullens also had defensive lineman Akiem Hicks barreling his way with his left arm up. Hicks already had batted down three of his passes in the game.

“There’s been some bend-but-don’t-break for us,” coach Matt Nagy said Monday. “That’s not the first time that that’s happened with getting a turnover in that area. I love the fact that they’re saying they expect that because that means they’re believing in it.”

A tackling machine

Smith was everywhere again. He led the Bears with nine total tackles. His sack of Mullens in the third quarter on second-and-eight also deterred a 49ers drive.

“I would definitely say that things have slowed down game in, game out,” Smith said. “But it’s more just running to the ball. I pride myself on high effort and maximizing each and every play.”

For Smith, a “slowed down” game means recognizing what he’s seeing and reacting immediately. His sack happened that way.

Smith said he read the 49ers’ offensive linemen, who flowed left. Fullback Kyle Juszczyk was given a free release past Smith, too. He had help with Trevathan and safety Deon Bush in coverage.

“I knew once [the quarterback] faked it,” Smith said.

Stopping Kittle

The Bears successfully contained Kittle, the 49ers’ Pro Bowl tight end who had 210 receiving yards two weeks ago against the Broncos.

“They did a really good job of using two edge guys to try to jam me every single route,” Kittle said after the game. “If I wasn’t standing up, or if I was, they still tried to get hands on, which definitely messed with the timing of the play. [It] kind of gets in the way.”

Outside linebackers Khalil Mack and Leonard Floyd did impede some routes, but it wasn’t as much as Kittle thought. The coverage and tackling of Smith, safety Adrian Amos and others stood out.

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Kittle made only seven catches on 12 targets for 74 yards. He had only two catches for 14 yards in the first half. Amos broke up a pass intended for Kittle in the end zone, even though it looked close to being pass interference. But four of Amos’ eight tackles also came against Kittle.

“He’s a Pro Bowler,” cornerback Prince Amukamara said. “Coach said a stat that he has about 700 yards after the catch. So we know that sometimes he’s wide open and sometimes he’s broken tackles. We were very aware.”

What was that?

Mitch Trubisky’s lateral pass to running back Tarik Cohen that essentially turned into a long fumble was a play with three options for Trubisky: give it to running back Jordan Howard, keep it and run or throw it to Cohen on a screen.

Sound like a lot? It can be.

“That’s a part of some of the [run-pass option] stuff that we do,” Nagy said after the game. “There’s going to be some times where if you’re going to go ahead and say, ‘We’re either going to run it or throw within the same play,’ [then] there’s going to be some times where you don’t make 100 percent great decisions. But we have to be able to accept that.”

It’s also accepting that the defense can find ways to beat such plays. In this case, Trubisky said the 49ers did a good job “scraping” on the Bears’ second-and-one play.

Linebacker Elijah Lee cut outside of defensive end Robert Blair and past right tackle Bobby Massie. Linebacker Fred Warner also ran with Cohen in coverage.

“That’s a good technique by them,” Trubisky said. “The [defensive] end squeezes, which gives me a pull read, but then the backer scrapes and they do that at the end there.”

It forced Trubisky into an errant throw to his third option: a screen to Cohen.

“[It’s] just being smart with the football,” Trubisky said. “I should have just pulled it and gotten [the first down] right away.”

Hey, Mr. Robinson

Robinson’s lost fumble notwithstanding, Trubisky’s two third-down completions to him in the final minutes were two more signs of their blossoming chemistry.

Niners rookie cornerback

Tarvarius Moore was no match for Robinson on third-and-four and third-and-three.

Trubisky’s first conversion was a perfect throw, low and away from Moore. Robinson then beat Moore on a quick slant for the second conversion as Trubisky stood strong against a blitz.

“At the end, you’re thinking playmakers, not plays,” Trubisky said. “When you have the matchup you want and you have a guy like Allen on the outside, who you have that trust in, you just let them work a little bit and put the ball in a spot where only he can go grab it.”

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