Cincinnati, Ohio — Before the season started, fans of the Cincinnati Bengals were hopeful that the team was capable of making a defensive turnaround. Last year, they were the third-worst team defensively, conceding 455 points, with only Tampa Bay and Oakland being behind. In the first game of the season, they held the Seattle Seahawks at three touchdowns, narrowly losing 20–21. However, fans’ hopes of an improved defense dissipated once again. This time, it happened in week 2, during the Bengals’ first home opener, which they played against the San Francisco 49ers.
This Sunday, a week after a promising away game against the Seahawks, the Bengals’ defense crumbled and showed once again a familiar face. In what was Zac Taylor’s debut at Paul Brown Stadium (it’s his first year as the Bengals’ head coach), the Bengals allowed a total of 572 yards, with the 49ers grabbing a convincing 41–17 win. It’s been the fifth-worst total since the last year’s outing against the Buccaneers (then, the number of yards amounted to 576), and the game will go down as one of the worst in the history of the franchise.
It’s symbolic that the total numbers of yards were that close to each other. Sunday saw the Bengals (0–2) struggle with mostly the same issues they had during Marvin Lewis’ final year as the Cincinnati coach. The Bengals allowed (for the nth time) several big plays to go through the air and struggled with finishing the job whenever they happened to push the 49ers into third down. San Francisco (2–0) managed to convert five third-down plays out of nine attempted.
Defending Against Rushing
It was obvious from the kickoff that the 49ers wouldn’t have any major issues with running the ball. Their starter RB Matt Breida rushed a total of 259 yards. Even with head coach Kyle Shanahan putting the brakes on in the fourth quarter, the 49ers still had an average of 6.5 rushing yards per attempt. Essentially, the Bengals’ defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo couldn’t come up with an answer to the opposition attacking options.
QBs and Running
Andy Dalton, the Bengals’ quarterback, opened the game impressively, connecting eight straight completions. It seemed as if they would have a positive day at least on the offense, but Dalton couldn’t follow it up with any consistency. He attempted 42 passes, out of which he completed 26 for 311 yards. Dalton threw two touchdowns, as well as one interception, and the 49ers’ defense sacked him four times. The stats on their own don’t seem that bad, but they’re helped with a 66-yard pass, caught by John Ross III, for a late touchdown which had no effect on the outcome.
The Bengals struggled once again with running the ball, with Joe Mixon totaling 17 yards on eleven carries. Dalton was forced to pass the ball and take risks since they were chasing the Niners from early on. His San Francisco’s counterpart, Jimmy Garoppolo, had three touchdown passes, 297 yards, and one interception.
Despite not being too worried about it in the preseason, the absence of a rushing attack is proving to be a major problem for the Bengals’ coaching staff. In their two opening games combined, the Bengals managed to rush only 59 yards. Their problems at the line of scrimmage will only grow bigger now that they have to do without starting LG Michael Jordan, who left the field due to an injury in his left knee. If they want to find an effective offense (and one that will be able to cover their defensive woes), they need to learn how to run the ball.