Bears keep No. 2 seed hopes alive with ugly win over 49ers

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — The Chicago Bears‘ dream of a first-round playoff bye is still alive after they escaped with a 14-9 victory over the pesky San Francisco 49ers.

By virtue of Sunday’s win, the Bears (11-4) have wrapped up at least the third seed in the NFC.

But a victory against the Minnesota Vikings next Sunday, coupled with a Los Angeles Rams loss to the 49ers, would propel Chicago to the No. 2 seed, which carries with it a coveted bye week.

The Bears, anchored by one of the NFL’s top defenses, are going to be tough to defeat at home, where they went 7-1 in the regular season, their best record at Soldier Field since 2005.

Of course, the Vikings have plenty of motivation in Week 17, since they’ll need to knock off the Bears — or have the Eagles lose to the Redskins — to earn a wild-card berth.

The Rams will also be heavy favorites in their regular-season finale against the Niners, but Kyle Shanahan’s team is no pushover.

The Bears learned that the hard way on Sunday.

Despite playing their backup quarterback (Nick Mullens) and losing two important members on offense (running back Matt Breida and wide receiver Dante Pettis), the 49ers put up a fight to the end.

In fact, the Bears are incredibly fortunate that Mitchell Trubisky’s second-quarter end zone interception was negated by a San Francisco defensive holding penalty, and that an Allen Robinson third-quarter fumble deep inside Bears territory was overturned after review.

If those plays had gone the other way, the final outcome would likely be different.

Statistically speaking, Trubisky had an above-average outing, completing 25 of 29 passes for 246 yards and one touchdown, but the Bears never found much rhythm on offense.

Still, the Bears’ defense is so superior that San Francisco could muster only three Robbie Gould field goals. Gould, by the way, has scored the past 24 points for the 49ers in games against the Bears.

The Bears’ defense all season has come up with key turnovers, none bigger than Danny Trevathan’s interception of a tipped pass with 7:37 left in the game that ended a promising drive by the 49ers.

The Bears’ defense also stood tall late in the fourth quarter when yet another Robinson fumble gave the 49ers a new lease on life.

The Bears entered Week 16 as the league’s top team in takeaways, interceptions and points off turnovers.

Because of that defensive dominance, they leave Santa Clara as the NFC’s No. 3 seed, with a chance for even more next week.

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