3 Things To Watch – San Francisco 49ers

181102-Kirkpatrick-Dre_entrance (AP)
Cincinnati Bengals defensive back Dre Kirkpatrick (27) reacts as he runs onto the field prior to an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2018 at Paul Brown Stadium. (NFL Photos via AP)

For those inside Paul Brown Stadium, the energy and anticipation for Sunday's home opener against the San Francisco 49ers has been a long time coming.

Not only is Sunday's game the Bengals' home opener, but it's the first regular season home game for head coach Zac Taylor. There's optimism abound even after a hard-fought 21-20 Week 1 loss at Seattle.

"Unfortunately we didn't win that (Seattle) game, but I'd like to think that the people who watched the game and the people that came to the game to support us saw the type of team they want to represent and be excited about," Taylor said. "That's a step in the right direction. Let's get people at the game, and let's create an environment where it's a hostile (environment) at home for us. We want to continue to win games at home and make this a difficult place to play." 

Fans can help create that hostile environment by purchasing tickets to the opener. Fans can get tickets by calling the Bengals Ticket Hotline at (513) 621-8383, online at Bengals.com or by visiting the Paul Brown Stadium ticket office. Fans can call the Bengals Ticket Hotline or chat with a ticket representative online if they have any questions.

Here are three things to watch in the Bengals' home opener.

1. Control The 49ers Defensive Line – The 49ers defense had a strong performance in their Week 1 win against Tampa Bay, creating four turnovers, including two interceptions returned for touchdowns.

With most defenses the pass rush sets the tone and San Francisco is no different. The Niners showcase a defensive line that boasts five former first-round picks. End Dee Ford leads the way along with the No. 2 overall pick in April's NFL draft, Nick Bosa. That duo joins previous Niners first-rounders Arik Armstead, DeForest Buckner and Solomon Thomas into a group that is smart, athletic and fast. Against Tampa Bay, the 49ers pressured the quarterback on 40.5 percent of drop backs, fifth-best in the NFL.

It's a defensive front that has caught the Bengals eye during film study.

"Everybody has good players," quarterback Andy Dalton said. "It's the NFL. For us, we need to prepare for another good front. This team created a lot of turnovers last week. They've played well. We need to be ready for it."

A look at some of the top photos from the Bengals-49ers contests through the years.

2. Playmaking Tight Ends – Sunday's game features one of the best individual tight ends in the league in San Francisco's George Kittle. Kittle led the 49ers with eight catches for 54 yards, but what didn't show up in the box score were penalties wiping three 49ers touchdowns off the board in the first half, two of which were scored by Kittle. 

Kittle is a mismatch against any team he faces, but his counterparts on the Bengals side might be as dangerous. Tyler Eifert and C.J. Uzomah each took advantage of mismatches against Seattle. Uzomah had four catches on five targets for 66 yards, while Eifert hauled in five catches for 27 yards. Three of Eifert's catches led to first down conversions.

3. Pace And Space - Since 2011, the rookie season of both Dalton and WR A.J. Green, the Bengals own a 46-1-2 record (.959) when scoring 25 or more points. The Bengals were 6-0 in 2018 when scoring 25 points or more, and 0-10 when failing to hit the mark.

To get to the 25-point plateau, don't be surprised if the Bengals offense looks even more up-tempo. Even without Green at Seattle, and Mixon only playing two and a half quarters, Dalton completed passes to eight different receivers. What's even more impressive was he achieved that feat in one of the toughest road environments in the NFL.

"We'll play as many snaps as it takes to win the game," Taylor said. "You never know. If our defense causes a lot of turnovers and we get a lot of extra plays, we'll be at 90 plays when you didn't do much to create that on offense – the defense did. It can go either way. We just have to make the most of them."


Kickoff: 1 p.m. Eastern.

Television: The game will air on FOX. In the Bengals' home region, it will be carried by WXIX-TV (Ch. 19) in Cincinnati, WGRT-TV (Ch. 45) in Dayton, WDKY-TV (Ch. 56) in Lexington, and WTTE-TV (Ch. 28) in Columbus. Broadcasters are Thom Brennaman (play-by-play), Chris Spielman (analyst) and Shannon Spake (sideline reporter).

Radio: The game will air on the Bengals Radio Network, led by Cincinnati flagship stations WCKY-AM (ESPN 1530) and WEBN-FM (102.7). Broadcasters are Dan Hoard (play-by-play) and Dave Lapham (analyst). WLW-AM (700) joins the flagship stations in broadcasting the Bengals game initially, but will break away to broadcast the Cincinnati Reds game (at approximately 3:30 p.m. Eastern).