CHICAGO –- After spending most of the season getting blown out in road games, the 49ers did not let it get out of hand early.
In fact, it never got out of hand like most of the 49ers’ games away from Levi’s Stadium this season.
The 49ers took this one to the very end, and pulled out an improbable 26-20 victory over the Chicago Bears when Blaine Gabbert hooked up with Torrey Smith on a 71-yard touchdown two minutes and 10 seconds into overtime.
The 49ers (4-8) looked as if they would suffer another loss, but Robbie Gould badly hooked a 36-yard field goal attempt on the final play of regulation at Soldier Field.
It was the franchise's longest overtime touchdown play since Garrison Hearst's 96-yard touchdown run in the 1998 season opener against the New York Jets.
Gabbert and the offense did not get much going throughout most of the first four quarters. But when the 49ers needed a tying touchdown in the closing minutes, Gabbert came through with his legs.
Ka'Deem Carey gave the Bears a 20-13 lead on a 4-yard touchdown run with 3:32 remaining in regulation. Gabbert responded by leading the 49ers on a six-play, 64-yard touchdown drive. He took in the final 44 yards with the longest run of his NFL career. Phil Dawson's extra point tied the game at 20-20.
But the 49ers had to sweat it out after Deonte Thompson's 74-yard kickoff return set up Gould for a chance at the game-winning kick. Earlier in the game, Gould misssed a 40-yard fieid-goal attempt.
The 49ers’ offense had negative yards on their first three drives of the game, but they got a spark from their defense to inject some life in the team.
Defensive back Jimmie Ward, who was beaten for three touchdowns against then-Bears receiver Brandon Marshall last season as a rookie, got into the end zone against the Bears for the 49ers’ first score of the game on Sunday.
Ward read a bubble screen perfectly to jump in front of receiver Alshon Jeffery to intercept the pass and return it 29 yards for a touchdown. Ward punctuated his first NFL touchdown with a somersault into the end zone.
Gabbert, making his fourth consecutive start since taking over for Colin Kaepernick, completed 18 of 32 passes for 196 yards and a touchdown. The 49ers are 2-2 in the games in which Gabbert has started.
Gabbert also led the team in rushing, carrying six times for 75 yards and a touchdown.
Running back Shaun Draughn carried 13 times for 36 yards and a touchdown. He added five receptions for 50 yards.
Run game re-emerges: Draughn scored on a one-yard run in the second quarter to provide the 49ers with their first rushing touchdown since Oct. 11 against the New York Giants.
Carlos Hyde accounted for the 49ers’ last rushing touchdown in the game in which he sustained a stress fracture in his right foot. The 49ers’ streak without a touchdown reached six games.
Draughn’s touchdown run capped a 16-play, 81-yard drive and pulled the 49ers with a 13-13 tie.
Not automatic: Phil Dawson has missed only two kicks all season and both of them were blocked. His extra point after Ward’s touchdown was blocked. It was his first missed extra point since the NFL moved the point-after to a 33-yard kick. In Dawson’s career, he has made 439 of 448 extra points.
It was also the 49ers’ first miss of an extra-point kick since 2003. During that season, the 49ers had three different kickers miss extra points: Jeff Chandler, Owen Pochman and Todd Peterson.
Injury report: Tight end Vance McDonald sustained a concussion in the first half and did not return. Meanwhile, linebacker NaVorro Bowman returned to action in the second half after being evaluated for a possible concussion..
Outside linebacker Aaron Lynch left the game in the third quarter and was diagnosed with a concussion.
McDonald’s injury left the 49ers with just one tight end in uniform. Garrett Celek was inactive for Sunday’s game due to a high-ankle sprain.
The 49ers were forced to play two backup inside linebackers at the end of the first half, as starter Michael Wilhoite also left the game in the first half with an aggravation of the ankle injury. He did not return.
Gerald Hodges and Nick Bellore played linebacker in place of Wilhoite and Bowman. Wilhoite did not return.
The 49ers on Saturday released backup inside linebacker Shayne Skov to make room on the 53-man roster for center Daniel Kilgore, who helped compensate for the team’s shortage of tight ends by lining up at that spot.
This ‘n’ that:
Linebacker Ray-Ray Armstrong was active and in uniform for the first time since the 49ers claimed him off waivers from the Oakland Raiders. Armstrong lined up for the 49ers on the opening kickoff return of the game. Armstrong was penalized in the second quarter for his late hit on Bears return man Deonte Thompson. . . Running back Travaris Cadet had his first touches as a member of the 49ers in the first half when he caught a pass for 6 yards and had two carries for 5 yards. . . Safety Jaquiski Tartt recorded his second sack of the season when he grabbed Cutler in the fourth quarter and tossed him down like a rag doll on a third-down play to force a punt. . . The 49ers pulled into a tie for the bottom spot in the NFC West with the St. Louis Rams, who dropped to 4-8 with a 27-3 loss to the Arizona Cardinals.