Through the midpoint of the season, one of the few positive things you could say about the 49ers was that they were the least-penalized team in the NFL.
Now you can’t say that.
Following a recent trend for the 49ers, they were penalized much more than the Bears on Sunday, including three infractions that surely cost them points early in the game.
The most prominent involved a snow angel in the north end zone. It happened after the 49ers thought they had scored a touchdown when Shaun Draughn blocked a Chicago punt in the second quarter and Dontae Johnson returned the ball into the end zone. Rookie cornerback Rashard Robinson celebrated by following Johnson’s lead – falling to the ground and making a snow angel in the end zone – and drew an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
Adding to the bad decision was the fact that Johnson’s heel went out of bounds at the 4-yard line. Instead of six points or having the ball at the 4, the 49ers started the drive on the Bears’ 19. They eventually converted the punt block into three points but felt they should have had more.
“We really were good on penalties earlier in the year,” Draughn said. “The problems were turnovers and not executing. But the last couple of games, we’ve had penalties that have really hurt us. And that’s the hidden yardage in a game. We can’t hurt ourselves, especially in conditions like this.”
Draughn was involved into two other big plays that were erased by penalties.
In the first quarter, a holding call against tight end Vance McDonald wiped out a long run by Draughn to the Chicago 15-yard line. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick later was sacked on the possession and the 49ers had to punt.
As the second quarter began, Draughn again had the 49ers in scoring position with a 15-yard run to the Bears’ 18. That gain, however, was canceled by a holding penalty against rookie guard Joshua Garnett.
Over the past five games, the 49ers have been penalized 46 times for 417 yards. Their opponents have been flagged 20 times for 172 yards over the same span.
Temperature flux – The 49ers’ week-long sojourn in Orlando, Fla., may have shaved miles off their itinerary, but it didn’t exactly prepare the team for the conditions in Chicago.
The temperature at kickoff Sunday was 33 degrees, more than 50 degrees cooler than it was in Orlando during the run-up to the game. And the Bears seemed to have a better grasp on the cold, wet football, especially when it came to the passing game.
Still, 49ers coach Chip Kelly dismissed the notion that the disparity in conditions played a role.
“It’s not like we could have practiced in Saskatchewan,” he said. “It is what it is. Both teams played in the same weather.”
Draughn’s block – Draughn recorded his first blocked punt since 2012 when he was with the Chiefs.
“It was just a classic up-and-under move, and I just went hard to try to get it,” he said. “I turned my shoulder so (my opponent) really couldn’t hold me. At that point, I just kept going until I got to the punter’s foot.”
Injuries – Linebacker Nick Bellore and McDonald left the game in the second half. Neither appeared to be seriously injured.