1. Same old defensive woes
Last year, the Bengals had three straight games allowing 500 yards or more to their opponent, and this game closely resembled the woes of that defense. Missed tackles were a huge problem, and the 49ers quickly realized they could easily run the ball down their throats and then confuse them with trick plays.
Cincinnati gave up 259 yards rushing, and the 49ers averaged 8.4 yards per offensive play. Matt Breida rushed for 121 yards on 12 carries. Their third-string running back, Jeff Wilson, who came off the practice squad this week, had more yards rushing (34) than all of the Bengals combined.
The most telling play came on San Francisco’s first drive when Marquise Goodwin lined up at the tight end spot and floated across the field on a wheel route that no one saw coming. Left wide open, he caught the pass around the 20-yard line and took it in for a 38-yard touchdown.
“We never could stop the bleeding there in the first half,” coach Zac Taylor said. “They kept moving the ball, rushed for a ton of yards, that’s tough. Especially the 49ers, when they can run the ball on first and second down, then it opens up all the play-action screens, all the things they can do to keep you on your toes and then it’s tough to get pressure on the quarterback when they are reeling like that. When they are playing with a lead, they are going to be tough to beat and we gave them a lead in the first half.”
2. Absentee running game
For a second straight week, the Bengals couldn’t get their running game going. That was somewhat expected in the opener at Seattle but Joe Mixon came back healthy after an ankle injury in the third quarter last week and still managed only 17 yards on 11 carries with a long of nine yards in a full game Sunday.
The Bengals finished with a total of 25 yards on 19 carries for an average of 1.3 yards per carry.
“It’s definitely frustrating to me,” Mixon said. “Honestly, I feel like Week 1 I got hurt, Week 2 that was a peon performance. At the end of the day, I gotta look myself in the mirror. How bad did I want it? Like I said, I don’t know what I gotta do but I’m gonna get it done. I’m gonna figure it out.”
3. Mental errors
Taylor felt like the difference between last week and this week was mental errors – they didn’t have those at Seattle and he was baffled to see so many this week. Mental mistakes led to blown coverage on defense and penalties were a problem for the offense. It didn’t help the Bengals had to turn to third-string left tackle John Jerry for much of the game and rookie left guard Mike Jordan had to exit on a cart with a knee injury in the fourth quarter.
Left tackle Andre Smith, who has been starting in place of Cordy Glenn (concussion), went out in the second quarter with a right groin injury and returned briefly to block for a field goal but never reappeared. He hadn’t been playing particularly well before his injury, either, as he allowed a sack, then was called for a hold on what would have been Mixon’s longest run of the day and two plays later was charged with a false start.
“I just felt like they got us a little rattled today,” cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick said. “We could have communicated better, executed better, but for the most part there wasn’t a lot they did. They just played hard-nosed football and took it to us.”
4. Dalton struggles
Dalton got off to a decent start, completing his first nine passes, but he struggled for a while after that and finished 26 of 42 for 311 yards with two touchdowns, four sacks and one interception. He badly underthrew Tyler Eifert as the Bengals were moving into 49ers territory late in the second quarter, trailing by 11 points, and San Francisco tacked on a late field goal to extend the lead going into the break.
Tyler Boyd still finished with 10 catches on 10 targets for 122 yards (one touchdown was negated by a penalty) and John Ross had 112 yards and one touchdown (a 66-yarder in the fourth quarter) on four catches. Ross had a 34-yard catch that he might have been able to turn into a score had he just kept running, instead of trying to make a move with two defenders to his sides.
5. Too early to worry
Ross’ touchdown prevented the Bengals from suffering their worst home opener loss in franchise history (the worst one was a 34-6 loss to San Diego in 2002), but that’s not much solace after a game in which they allowed the fifth-most yards in team history.
Taylor was adamant it was a loss the Bengals “have to own” because they “weren’t good in any phase,” and players remain confident this isn’t the team they want to be.
“Right now there is no reason to jump off the ship and say we aren’t worth a (darn) because I know the work we put in,” safety Shawn Williams said. “We just have to put it together. … Every Sunday counts. Yes, this counts, but it doesn’t mean we are out of anything. Everything we want to accomplish is still ahead of us. Tomorrow we come back in and fix it and go back to work.”
Bengals at Bills, 1 p.m., WHIO-TV Ch. 7, Ch. 12; 1530, 102.7, 104.7