Photo: Scott Strazzante / The Chronicle
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It won’t be another December to remember.
A year after the 49ers whipped a division champion at home in Week 16 en route to 5-0 finish, they couldn’t duplicate the feat Sunday.
Instead, the Bears, the NFC North champions, stopped the 49ers’ mild bit of season-ending momentum with a 14-9 win at Levi’s Stadium, which was stuffed with black-and-orange clad fans cheering the road team.
The 49ers (4-11), who entered with two straight wins over playoff-contending teams, were a year removed from a 44-33 win over Jacksonville, which reached the AFC Championship Game.
On Sunday, however, their similar upset bid ended with just over a minute left in the game.
On 4th-and-4 from Chicago’s 45-yard line, quarterback Nick Mullens rolled right and, despite having ample room to run for a first down, heaved a deep pass to well-covered wideout Marquise Goodwin that sailed well out of bounds near the end zone.
As Mullens walked to the sideline, he put his hands on his helmet, perhaps realizing his mistake.
Less than a minute earlier, the Bears momentarily appeared to seal a win with a 9-yard completion from Mitch Trubisky to wide receiver Allen Robinson on 3rd-and-3 on the first play after the two-minute warning. However, rookie cornerback Tarvarius Moore punched the ball out of Robinson’s grasp and cornerback Greg Mabin recovered the fumble with 1:52 remaining.
The 49ers had another shot to take the lead with just under eight minutes left in the fourth quarter.
Trailing 14-9, the 49ers were at Chicago’s 20-yard line following a 22-yard pass from Mullens to Kendrick Bourne on a 3rd-and-13.
On first down, Mullens’ throw to Goodwin bounced off Goodwin’s hands and was intercepted by linebacker Danny Trevathan. Mullens’ throw was a bit out in front of Goodwin and the wideout also appeared to slow down on his crossing route, anticipating a hit from Trevathan.
The late-game failures were part of a forgettable offensive performance against the NFL’s third-ranked defense., which limited them to 15 first downs, 279 yards and three field goals.
It wasn’t just Chicago’s defense, however.
The 49ers offense was hampered by more injuries.
In the first half, they lost starting running back Matt Breida (ankle), tight end Garrett Celek (concussion) and rookie Dante Pettis (knee), who had been serving as their de facto No. 1 wide receiver.
The first half didn’t feature much action – the 49ers led, 9-7, at halftime on three field goals by Robbie Gould – but it did have a monumental moment: The 49ers had their first takeaway since Oct. 28.
In the second quarter, Trubisky threw a pass to Tarik Cohen behind the line of scrimmage that defensive tackle DeForest Buckner recovered after the running back couldn’t corral the lateral.
The takeaway was the 49ers’ sixth of the season and ended a drought in which they didn’t force a turnover in six games and 392 minutes and 49 seconds of game action.
With the 49ers leading 9-7 in the third quarter, the Bears took the lead with a 12-play, 90-yard drive that took nearly eight minutes. Trubisky was 7 for 7 for 49 yards, completing passes of 9, 6, 7, 6, 6, 5 and 10 yards. The march was capped by a 2-yard run by running back Jordan Howard.
After a scoreless first quarter, the 49ers took a 6-0 lead in the second quarter on field goals of 33 and 30 yards by Gould. The Bears took the lead on a 75-yard drive that ended with a 4-yard pass from Trubisky to wide receiver Anthony Miller, who beat rookie cornerback Tarvarius Moore for the easy score in the left corner of the zone.
The 49ers held a 9-7 edge at halftime thanks to a 23-yard field goal by Gould that ended the second quarter.
In the fourth quarter, there was a fracas near the Bears sideline after rookie safety Marcell Harris hit Trubisky as he was sliding at the end of a 7-yard scramble. In the melee, 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman threw a series of punches and he was ejected, along with Bears wide receiver Joshua Bellamy and Miller.
This post was originally posted at https://www.sfgate.com/49ers/article/Mullens-mistake-ends-49ers-upset-bid-in-13487865.php.