Bengals Defense Seeks Reversal

San Francisco 49ers running back Raheem Mostert (31) runs the ball against Cincinnati Bengals free safety Jessie Bates (30) during the second half an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 15, 2019, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Gary Landers)
Safety Jessie Bates III meets 49ers running back Raheem Mostert Sunday.

Bengals defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo sat in the toughest of all chairs Monday when he dissected Sunday’s performance that yielded an astounding 259 rushing yards to the 49ers back-up running backs. That’s because a week ago he sat in the same chair to analyze how his guys stuffed the defending NFL rushing champions’ first-string backfield in Seattle.

“I thought we matched up well with Seattle in terms of their power run game. We have big guys. This thing yesterday, we are talking about a two-back run scheme,” Anarumo said. “Look around the league, there’s not a ton of that these days. There’s a lot of one-back. That got on us quick. Simulating it in practice we saw, but the first time we saw it live was yesterday. So, the two-back stuff got us all off-kilter a little bit. It shouldn’t but it did.”

One-back, two-back. It doesn’t matter. If the fits are lousy, they’re going to give up 6.2 yards per carry. What galls Anarumo is that he called plenty of eight-man fronts to stop the run and they were still either getting there late or in the wrong gap. The operative numbers weren’t 259 rushing yards or 572 total. For Anarumo it was more than 160 yards coming after contact and 100 yards coming off screen passes.

“Half their yards came after missed tackles and screens,” Anarumo said. “Take those two things away and you can’t, but that’s a major part of what they did. All the credit to the Niners, but it’s unacceptable. They threw everything at us but the kitchen sink. It comes back to doing our job. We’ve got guys in position to make plays. At the end of the day when we’re there and have a chance to make a play, we have to make it.”

If you want the problem in a microcosm, go back to that third-and-one from the Bengals 49 with 11:26 left in the first half. Niners lead, 14-7. Defensive tackle Geno Atkins blows up the play in the backfield, forcing running back Matt Breida to make a cut to the Niners’ right edge. Cornerback William Jackson is there, but can’t take him down and linebacker Nick Vigil overshoots the play. It goes for 34 yards and less than a minute later it is 21-7.

“What we were excellent on, I think the guys even used the term up in Seattle, was pinning the hip. You've heard them say that,” Anarumo said. “Well, if we just pin the hip, it's a (tackle for loss). Instead it goes for 30-something yards, which is ridiculous. It's just the fundamentals of the things that we all did right a week ago, but we did none of that this week. Ultimately it doesn't matter what we did in Seattle. We've got to do what we did yesterday and we've got to move on and go get the Bills. That's what important.”

That’s really got Anarumo irked because he says a week of game preparation is so intense, you can’t spend time on pinning the hip stuff.

“I mean that goes back to April,” he said. “So we're still a work in progress that way. I think you saw a little bit of a program (the 49ers) that's in their third year as a staff vs. a program that's in their sixth month. I'm not making excuses by any shape or form, but we're still working on things that we shouldn't be and we'll get that fixed this week.”?

Last year, the Bengals gave up three 500-yard games in a defense these guys will tell you was just too complex to operate. That didn’t appear to be the problem Sunday.

“I think we can all do things better, but we called the same defenses and I don't think there was that much of a problem in terms of communication between myself and the players,” Anarumo said. “That part was actually good, we just weren't executing.”

It doesn’t sound like Anarumo is thinking about adding another linebacker to the mix. He’s only used two from scrimmage this season, Vigil and Preston Brown, but he considers ends Carlos Dunlap, Sam Hubbard and Carl Lawson as hybrid backers. As Dunlap and Hubbard said after the game, the Niners did some damage on the edge.

“It just gets back to holding the edge and keeping contain,” Anarumo said. “A couple times like the players already mentioned, we were in position to do that and we didn’t. That is a Day 1 thing. We can’t chase ghosts. You go chase plays you are going to give up more than you make. That’s kind of what we did. We got a little bit overaggressive at times and lost the edge of the defense.”

From the toughest chair in the game, Anarumo gazed at the ultimate decision-maker.

“While the game got away from us, we watched it, the guys are out of the building now, it's 3:30, and we're moving on to Buffalo,” Anarumo said of the clock. “We got our points across we needed to. We'll correct one or two more things on Wednesday, in terms of scheme things that we need to, but all of our emphasis will be going up to play Buffalo.”

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