CHICAGO — The San Francisco 49ers believe better days are coming now that they have quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.
His first start for them was a promising one.
Garoppolo threw for 293 yards, and Robbie Gould kicked a 24-yard field goal in the closing seconds to lift the 49ers to a 15-14 victory over the Chicago Bears on Sunday.
It was quite a homecoming for Garoppolo, who grew up near Chicago and played at Eastern Illinois.
“You always dream of it as a little kid,” he said. “I can remember ever since I was in elementary school, really. You always have that dream of playing in the NFL. You don’t really know if it’s going to come true or not, but it’s crazy how things work out.”
Garoppolo grew up a Bears fan but never attended an NFL game until he entered the league. His shot at starting comes after he backed up Tom Brady for 3 1/2 years before getting dealt to San Francisco (2-10) at the trade deadline in late October.
He looked good in a cameo at the end of last week’s loss at Seattle, throwing a touchdown on the final play.
Against Chicago (3-9), he completed 26 of 37 passes with an interception. He showed poise on the winning drive, leading San Francisco from its 8.
But it was a sloppy win for the 49ers. They’re going to have to cut down on the penalties and do a better job finishing drives if they’re going to start to string wins together.
That won’t be easy, with the schedule taking a tough turn following next week’s game at Houston. The final three games are against Tennessee, Jacksonville and the Los Angeles Rams.
“We’ve really been trying to emphasize learning how to win,” coach Kyle Shanahan said. “We haven’t done that much around here lately, and it does take time to learn how to do that.”
Some things to know after the 49ers picked up a rare win while handing Chicago its fifth straight loss:
TRIUMPHANT RETURN: Gould pumped his right arm and screamed at the Chicago sideline after he kicked the winner . It was a sweet moment for the Bears’ all-time leader in points and field goals made.
He made all five attempts — none longer than 35 yards — in his first appearance at Soldier Field since the Bears cut him prior to the 2016 opener. In 11 seasons with the Bears, he was 276 for 323.
BIG RETURN: Tarik Cohen returned a punt 61 yards for a touchdown. That made him the first NFL rookie with rushing, receiving, passing and punt return TDs in a season since Gale Sayers in 1965.
Cohen initially ran about 15 yards back in the opposite direction before crossing left and finding an opening.
“I was worried that I might get tackled for a loss of yards,” Cohen said. “But in that case, just like my coaches always tell me, trust my speed, just go with the plan and get back left.”
TRUBISKY’S TROUBLES: Shut down by Philadelphia last week, Chicago’s Mitchell Trubisky put up better numbers this time..
Trubisky had a 117.2 passer rating, but threw only 15 passes. He had 12 completions for 102 yards and a touchdown.
“I thought I took care of the football, was pretty efficient throwing the ball but we’ve just got to do it more often and we’ve just got to be better on third down so we can keep our defense off the field,” Trubisky said.
STRATEGIC QUESTION: Bears coach John Fox could have given his team a chance to win with a late touchdown drive by letting San Francisco score a TD with 1½ minutes remaining. It would have put the 49ers up 19-14 and left the Bears with time.
Instead, he opted to play defense and attempt to block Gould’s winner as the 49ers killed off all but 4 seconds of the clock.
“We felt good about the block we had on the potential field goal,” Fox said. “Neither one of those are great options at the 4- or 5-yard line.”
SEEING RED: The 49ers came into the game ranked 25th in red zone efficiency. They were 0 for 5 in this game, with penalties hurting them.
“I’ve only been here a short while so it’s going to take a little time but I think overall we’re going in the right direction,” Garoppolo said.