As impressive as the Bengals were in last Sunday's opener in Seattle playing complementary team football, they struggled during Sunday's Paul Brown Stadium opener on both sides of the ball when the offense couldn't bail out the defense in the face of San Francisco's 500-yard onslaught in just three quarters on a relentless 52 plays that the 49ers brought into the fourth quarter they finished off a 41-17 victory.
Trailing 24-10 heading into the second half, the Bengals couldn't turn it around when their stunned defense had no answers against the pass or the run. The 49ers basically handed it off in a third quarter when their back-up running backs gouged them for 98 yards alone and when running back Jeff Wilson (activated Saturday from the practice squad) backed linebacker Nick Vigil into the end zone on a four-yard touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter San Francisco had 517 yards, 205 of them on the ground and a 41-10 lead, the most points the Bengals have allowed in a home opener.
During the course of the day the Bengals lost pass rusher Carl Lawson (hamstring), defensive lineman Kerry Wynn (concussion) and left guard Michael Jordan (carted off with a knee injury) in a shocking week-long reversal. Left tackle Andre Smith also left with a groin injury.
In that second half, the Bengals very rarely set the edge on defense. In the third quarter, Dalton was sacked three times as he worked behind the fourth left tackle of the spring and summer in John Jerry. When Jordan left, Billy Price moved into left guard.
The Niners took the opening kickoff of the second half and ignored a holding penalty to go 75 yards on seven plays in a brisk 2:50 that was highlighted by a wide-open 34-yard catch by rookie wide receiver Deebo Samuels on the first snap of the second half. The biggest play of that third quarter was tight end George Kittle's 36-yard catch working against safety Jessie Bates III. Other than that the Bengals just couldn't shut down the run and nearly allowed more yards in a game than they did last season, when they gave up 500 yards three times. Sunday it was 572, four off last season's high of 576.
The Bengals did see rookie tight end Drew Sample's first NFL catch in the fourth quarter and John Ross grabbed a 66-yard touchdown pass with 45 seconds left to give him his second straight 100-yard day. Fellow wide receiver Tyler Boyd also went over 100 yards with 115 on nine catches. But typical of the day his 16-yard touchdown catch on fourth-and-one was nullified by a holding call on Price.
The five penalties, a punch-less running game that garnered just 18 yards and the 49ers' creative, clever offense that rocked the Bengals defense for more yards than they allowed last week dealt them a 24-10 half-time deficit.
A double pass wide-receiver screen and Samuel's diving catch on third-and-four working against slot cornerback B.W. Webb led to Robbie Gould's chip-shot field goal with two seconds left in a half dominated by San Francisco's offensive line that racked up 291 yards as the Bengals tackled poorly, were constantly out of position against a slew of motions and wilted under the 49ers' 14 rushes for 94 yards in 81-degree heat.
The final drive was set up by Bengals quarterback Dalton's (15 of 25 for 164 yards plus a TD in the half) first interception of the season. It came in a two-minute drill short circuited when he was chased out of the pocket and his bid to hit tight end Tyler Eifert was short and picked off by linebacker Kwon Alexander. That allowed Frisco its own hurry-up drill.
49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (11 of 18 for 181 yards) stunned the defense with touchdown passes of 38 and 39 yards as San Francisco took a 14-7 lead by racking up 135 yards on its first 12 plays.
After his strong outing last week, Andre Smith's very tough first quarter included allowing a sack, a false start and a hold as the Bengals could scrape together just three rush yards on eight attempts. The Bengals turned to their fourth left tackle of the summer. Veteran John Jerry.
The Bengals tried to get back into it in the second quarter and had a great chance to tie at 14 when Garoppolo heaved a jump ball and William Jackson recorded the first interception by a Bengals cornerback since 2017 (the second of his career and first since his pick-six of Aaron Rodgers in September of 2017) and put Cincinnati on the Niner 26.
But they went backward. A nice screen to running back Joe Mixon got called back on a hold by rookie left guard Michael Jordan and Dalton got penalized getting chased out of the pocket when he threw a ball past the line of scrimmage. That turned a 47-yard field goal into a 52-yarder and for the second straight week Randy Bullock pulled it left,
The Niners then promptly made it hurt and took a 21-7 lead by absolutely shredding Cincinnati's run defense on 90 yards just three minutes into the second quarter. The big play came on third-and-1, a play that defensive tackle Geno Atkins blew up and forced running back Matt Breida to cut in the backfield. But there was no one there to track Breida and he took off on a 34-yard run on a bunch of missed tackles. Garoppolo didn't have to put it in the air (but he did and tight end George Kittle got his first catch on a nine-yarder) and they ran it from two yards out to make it 21-7 with 10:09 left in the half.
The Bengals got it back to 21-10 when wide receiver John Ross caught a short slant and it took it 34 yards to set up Bullock's field goal with 7:02 left. Right after the big play to Ross, Dalton went up top to rookie wide receiver Damion Willis and he nearly made a great one-handed grab in the end zone. Dalton did get a third-down conversion to wide receiver Alex Erickson, but on the next one he tried a back-shoulder throw when Erickson went straight and they had to settle for the field goal.
The game had an ominous start. In his first game as a Bengal linebacker LaRoy Reynolds was called for a hold on the opening kickoff. On first down, Dalton tried play-action and it fazed the Niners none at all as they teed off on the pass rush. End Arik Armstead got inside Smith for the sack and then on second down Dalton and Mixon botched the handoff and Mixon had to fall on it. And Kevin Huber's punt was lousy, too, barely reaching midfield.
Then the defense took its turn. On second-down Garoppolo went play-action rollout and then threw back against the grain and there was absolutely no one covering wide receiver Marquise Goodwin down the middle and he waltzed into the end zone for a 38-yard touchdown just four minutes into the game.
On the Niners' next series, the Bengals couldn't stop the running game fueled by pulling offensive linemen as they ran for 94 yards in the half with a big push up front. But it was a screen pass that killed them. Webb blitzed and Garoppolo threw it right in the spot and Raheem Mostert went 38 yards untouched.
The Bengals tied the game at 7 on their second possession when they scored a red-zone touchdown for the first time this season, spurred by Dalton's 5-for-5 effort anchored on a 47-yarder to wide-open wide receiver Tyler Boyd on an out-and-up down the left sideline. Boyd then converted a third-and-four over the middle despite a holding call and Mixon converted a third-and-two on a rumble up the middle near the goal line. Then Dalton hit Eifert for a one-yard touchdown after Eifert lined up tight to the line of scrimmage, blocked, then fanned out for the catch.
But that was a rare bright spot. Mixon had just 13 yards on eight carries, Ross had a drop and so did Willis.
The game kicked off at 81 degrees. They came into the game 3-5 in home games of at least 81 degrees, 3-4 at the Paul.