The busiest defense in the NFL finally got a half day.
Through the first 12 games of the season, the 49ers offense’s difficulty in sustaining drives, coupled with the defense’s inability to get off the field on third downs, resulted in San Francisco’s defenders being on the field for more snaps, 805, than any other team’s.
Against the Bears, that wasn’t an issue. Chicago’s offensive possessions usually ended in punts while the 49ers held the ball for 38:47, their best time of possession since September 28, 2014. The offense played 75 snaps; the defense was on the field a season-low 37 snaps.
Teams with lopsided time-of-possession averages usually benefit from stong running attacks. The 49ers’ ground game was adequate against the Bears - it averaged 3.2 yards a carry -- but it was timely throws by quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo that sustained San Francisco’s drives on Sunday. The 49ers were 10-18 on third downs, including four of seven in situations when it was third-and-6 or longer.
Kyle Shanahan on Monday noted there were a few times in which the play clock nearly reached zero and that the process of calling plays, lining up and getting the snap off was slower than usual in Garoppolo’s first 49ers start. But everything mostly went smoothly considering the circumstance.
“I went in not really sure how it would be, but it went a lot better than expected.” said Shanahan, who, not surprisingly, said Garoppolo would make his second start Sunday in Houston.
Other snap data:
* Safeties Eric Reid and Adrian Colbert, cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon and linebacker Reuben Foster played all 37 snaps. Colbert (thumb) and Witherspoon (ankle) were questionable heading into the game. Cornerback Dontae Johnson missed five snaps, all of which went to rookie Greg Mabin. The Bears’ only touchdown came with Mabin in coverage; Witherspoon surrendered one completion on the afternoon.
* Defensive tackle DeForest Buckner’s 26 snaps were the lowest of his career. Solomon Thomas (29) was the defensive line’s snap leader. He finished with one tackle and one quarterback hit. Ledger Douzable started at ‘big end’ in place of Tank Carradine, who was a healthy scratch. Douzable did not register any official stats; neither did Buckner. Newcomer Sheldon Day played 15 snaps and had three tackles.
* The 49ers got good production from the defensive end spot, something that has been missing most of the season. Elvis Dumervil, who enters in third-and-long situations, played 14 snaps and registered a sack. He leads the 49ers in that category with 5 1/2. Newcomer Cassius Marsh played 11 snaps, getting a strip sack on one of them.
* On offense, each member of the starting offensive line played 75 snaps. So did Garoppolo.
* Carlos Hyde and Matt Breida were the only 49ers running backs in uniform. Hyde played 50 snaps, Breida 24. Hyde averaged 3.2 yards a carry on 17 tries; Breida averaged 3.8 on 12 carries.
* The wide-receiver snaps were divided like this: Marquise Goodwin 58, Louis Murphy 42, Trent Taylor 31, Kendrick Bourne 25 and Aldrick Robinson 18. Victor Bolden Jr. was in uniform but was limited to special teams. Among tight ends and fullbacks, Garrett Celek led the way with 52 snaps, George Kittle had 27, Logan Paulsen 8 and Kyle Juszczyk 40.
* Quarterback C.J. Beathard was the only 49er in uniform who did not play.