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Blaine Gabbert Delivers in Clutch to Lift 49ers over Bears

After taking criticism for settling for safer, underneath throws in the team's Week 12 loss to the Arizona Cardinals, Blaine Gabbert and the San Francisco 49ers offense did much of the same with Chicago taking away the deep ball in the first 60 minutes of Sunday's contest.

Outside of a Shaun Draughn dump-off for 26 yards, San Francisco's longest reception prior to overtime was 12 yards to Garrett Celek.

But even as patience in the stands and at home may have been waning, there was no such anxiety under center for the 49ers.

"Patience is something you have to learn over time," Gabbert said.

With the Bears defense adjusting to favor short and intermediate routes, the 49ers finally saw their opportunity to strike deep. And boy did it come at the right time.

On San Francisco's first play of its second overtime possession, Gabbert unleashed an arching play-action pass over the heads of the Chicago secondary and into the waiting arms of Torrey Smith for a walk-off, 71-yard touchdown. 

The perfectly-timed play sent the 49ers home with a dramatic, 26-20 road victory at Solider Field.

"They took the bait," Gabbert said. "It was set up by all the throws we had underneath early on and all the runs we had out of that formation.

"Torrey did a great job selling the deep cross and then hitting the back pylon. I tried to cut it loose early with as much air under it as possible. It worked out beautifully."

The score capped a thrilling finish, which included a missed 36-yard field goal as time expired in regulation that would've given the Bears the win.

"It was crazy," Gabbert said. "The emotional highs and lows in any NFL game are wild. Especially in a game like that when it's back and forth coming down to the wire there.

"Our guys did a tremendous job on both sides of the football, fighting through the adversity, playing clutch football and coming out with the victory."

The 49ers likely wouldn't have survived into overtime without Gabbert's earlier heroics. With the team trailing by seven points late in the fourth quarter, the quarterback led San Francisco on a six-play, 64-yard touchdown drive to tie the game.

Gabbert scrambled three times during the drive for 60 yards, including a highlight-reel, 44-yard touchdown run through the teeth of the Bears defense.

"Those are the times that make playing this game so special," Gabbert said. "You put in so much work throughout the week to have the ball in your hand last, coming down to the wire in the two-minute drill.

"I just tried to lead the team to the best of my ability and get a touchdown by any means possible."

Gabbert finished the afternoon completing 18-of-32 passes for 196 yards and an 84.9 quarterback rating. He also added 75 yards on the ground. Those stats won't blow anybody away, but they certainly don't tell the whole story of Gabbert's gritty performance.

In four starts for the 49ers since taking over for Colin Kaepernick, Gabbert has continuously improved. To date, the 26-year-old has completed 65.3 percent of his passes for 767 yards and a 91.0 passer rating. His record his 2-2 and Sunday marked Gabbert's first outdoor road victory of his five-year career.

"He keeps stepping up and the group keeps stepping up with him," Jim Tomsula said. "That's really encouraging."

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