By Chris Emma—
CHICAGO (CBS) — In the end, it was bittersweet. In the moment, it was euphoric.
Robbie Gould’s revenge game brought plenty of emotions, including a message to the Bears sideline after he hit a 24-yard field goal – his fifth of the game – in the closing seconds to lift the 49ers a 15-14 win at Soldier Field on Sunday over the team that released him.
One can only imagine what Gould said as he shouted in the Bears’ direction as the 49ers’ hero of the day, as he didn’t reveal it.
“That one was pretty special for me,” Gould said of his game-winning kick.
Gould was a hero of many great Chicago victories. He kicked the 2006 Bears to the NFC Championship Game in January 2007 with a game-winning field goal in overtime, one seemingly countless clutch moments that he was a part of. That’s why his departure was so surprising.
The Bears released Gould, the franchise’s all-time leading scorer, in September 2016 just before the season opener in a stunning move to cut salary. Gould had been struggling during the preseason and was due to make $3 million with a $500,000 roster bonus, which led general manager Ryan Pace to the decision.
In turn, the Bears signed Connor Barth, who was released two weeks ago after struggling this season and missing a game-tying field goal late in a loss to the Lions.
After being released last year, Gould spent a lot of time assessing his career before reinventing himself as a kicker. He worked on improving his footwork and approach to the ball. Gould kicked in five games with the Giants last season – including one against the Bears at MetLife Stadium – and was signed by the 49ers in March. He has gone 36-of-38 in his field goals since being released by Chicago.
In the aftermath of his winning kick Sunday, Gould expressed what the victory meant to his 49ers, who improved to 2-10 on the season. Then he reflected back on being a Bear and why Sunday was bittersweet.
“I played a long time here,” Gould said. “I was going against a team that I have a lot of respect for. But just coming back to a place where it’s probably the greatest sports organization, greatest group of fans I’ve ever been a part of. And now to be a Niner and see the faithful and how great they’ve been with us through thick and thin. This one means a lot to me in a lot of different ways.
“This organization meant a lot to my career. You really look at the heartbeat of where I grew up. I was in that locker room across the hall and with guys like (Brian) Urlacher, those guys like Olin Kreutz, those guys like Patrick Mannelly, Brad Maynard, Jay Cutler. The list goes on and on.”
Bears linebacker Lamarr Houston understands what it was like for Gould on Sunday. He was released by the Bears in early September but was claimed off waivers this past week and rejoined the team in Chicago.
There’s an added motivation for anybody in that situation, but especially a player of Gould’s stature at his position.
“Any time you play somebody you used to play for, you want to have a great game,” Houston said. “He did that.”
Gould was positioned well for each of his five field goals, with his kicks coming from 33, 28, 35, 34 and 24 yards out. New 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo managed well in his first start with the team, going 26-of-37 for 293 yards.
While the 49ers were 10-of-18 on third down, they couldn’t capitalize on any of their five red-zone opportunities. That led them to Gould, the kicker whom coach Kyle Shanahan said earlier this week is “pretty much automatic.”
In returning to Soldier Field a member of the 49ers, Gould was once again “good as Gould.”
“To come in here,” Gould said, “get a win like that and kick a game-winner, I don’t think I could’ve written it any better to be honest with you.”