John Fox (49ers at Bears)
This week’s Situational Call is arguably the most unusual this NFL season. It came at the end of the game between the San Francisco 49ers (1-10) and the Chicago Bears (3-8). The game was won 15-14 on former Bears kicker, Robbie Gould’s, last-second FG to give the 49ers their second win of the season, and second win in three games.
The Bears struggled to get any run game going against the third-worst run defense in the league. QB Mitchell Trubisky was 12 for 15 but only amassed for 102 yards. Despite their struggles on offense, the Bears scored the only offensive touchdown in the game. This was set up by an interception that put them in better field position. The other touchdown came on a 61-yard Tarik Cohen punt return for a touchdown.
The Bears defense was able to stall the 49ers to five FGs, despite four long drives at least five minutes in length. The last of these long drives was 8:25 minutes long and would end up winning the game.
The Bears were up 14-12 with under two minutes left in the game. The 49ers were in the redzone at the Bears’ 10-yard line. RB Kyle Juszczyk rushed for three yards but was down at the Chicago 7 with 1:40 left. Timeout Chicago, their second. RB Carlos Hyde took the next carry for another four yards to the Chicago 3 with 1:34 left. Timeout Chicago, their last. On 2nd and Goal at their own 3-yard line, with no timeouts left, Bears Head Coach John Fox had to make an interesting decision.
Fox couldn’t stop the clock anymore and the 49ers had two more plays to score. Predictably, the 49ers ran two more plays (for losses) and the clock down to six seconds before K Gould nailed the 24-yard chip shot.
Fox was put in a tough spot as soon as he bypassed the opportunity to call his timeouts before the 2-minute warning and while the 49ers were outside FG range. This was at a 3rd and 9 at the San Francisco 49-yard line with 2:17 left.
Instead, the 49ers were able to march down the field and run the clock at the same time. Once they were in the redzone and Fox was out of timeouts, they had the game won.
The only thing Fox could’ve done to give his team a chance was let the 49ers score a touchdown. It seems strange to let the opposing team score, but it was Fox’s only option to stop the clock and get the ball back. Had he let Juszczyk score he would’ve had about 1:40 left, and if he let Hyde score about 1:35 left. Additionally, if he didn’t use his two remaining timeouts, he would’ve been down 19-14 with about 1:30 left and two timeouts.
It seems counter-intuitive to let your opponent score a TD, but this was one of the exceptions. By not letting the 49ers score, Fox gave the fate of the game to the opposing team, something worse than letting your opponent score. Fox’s clock management put him in an unfavorable position, but his decision to let the 49ers run the clock down didn’t help his team. That is Week 13’s Situational Call.