SANTA CLARA, Calif. _ The man tried to tell Bengals head coach Zac Taylor that the 49ers very rarely lose here at Levi's Stadium, but like his team did all day in a 31-17 clinic they never trailed against the NFC iron of the 49ers, he beat him to the punch.
"They had won 11 straight here. Those are the things we feed our players," said Taylor, who did the same kind of feeding before last year's win in Buffalo. "This is a team that responds. They want to hear that. They want to hear that the Bills had one home playoff loss. They want to hear this team had won 11 straight here. Someone has to beat them, it's going to be us. They want that information to fuel them."
Taylor told his team last week that he now considered it to be the month of November. That's when the Bengals came out of the last two byes to win road games on the way to the AFC title game. Now the Bengals, who started 1-3, are 4-3. The Niners, who started 5-0, are 5-3.
"This gives us the momentum we need," said linebacker Germaine Pratt, after he does what he does and grabs big second-half turnovers. "It shows the mindset we're in, what part of the season we're in, we're in the second phase of the season. We're in that kill mode when we play that Bengals football in November."
That's why everybody got a game ball.
BENGALS BURROW: Taylor says the play that "catapulted," the Bengals came on the fifth play when quarterback Joe Burrow somehow got out of three sacks on third-and-long. The 49ers' Arik Armstead seemed to have him until Burrow suddenly emerged and fired a 10-yarder on the sidelines to wide receiver Tee Higgins.
"You talk about the games we lost. It was those plays we didn't make," Taylor said. "I don't use that word 'unbelievable,' anymore. I've learned to sit there and not say anything, think anything when (Burrow) is back there in the pocket. Moving around. Just learn your lesson. Year four."
Higgins was among those shaking his head.
"I thought he was sacked. So I stopped," said Higgins, who supported Ja'Marr Chase's 100 yards with 69 in his biggest game in a month. "Next thing you know, I saw him running, so I just tried to get open."
Chase was thinking the same thing.
"I thought he stopped scrambling because I didn't even know he threw the ball," Chase said. "After the play I looked at the screen and just watched the whole play. I didn't realize he did so much on that play. Hell of a job by him."
There was that, his longest run of the season for 20 yards, an audibled third-and-nine for ten where the 10th yard came off a deke on slot cornerback Isaiah Oliver, and a hit from All Pro middle linebacker Fred Warner.
That's when Chase whispered to himself, "He's a tough mother ... "
But go back to that first one and that made Burrow feel good too, now a good six weeks that may as well be six years from the tweaked calf against Baltimore.
"Athleticism, acceleration, explosiveness, They were a focus of mine in the offseason," said Burrow, whose near flawless 28 of 32 passing for 286 yards he spiced with 43 rush yards on six resourceful attempts. "I just haven't been able to show that as much. It was nice to have that (work out)."
LBS SPEAK: Burrow had his best day of the season with a scalding 134.8 passer rating that beat 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy at his own game, handing the 2022 draft wunderkind his first home loss of his career in his ninth start at Levi's.
But linebackers Germaine Pratt and Logan Wilson secured it with second-half interceptions on consecutive Purdy passes. Pratt's pick came in a 17-10 game with the Niners eight yards from tying it as the third quarter was dying.
Then Pratt made what Burrow called the best defensive play he's ever seen. Purdy was running a zone read and tried to bait Pratt. But this is the man his teammates call 'Playoff P," because of his big plays in big moments.
"Sam (Hubbard) did a great job pinching off the shovel pass to Kittle," Pratt said of left end Sam Hubbard covering tight end George Kittle. "I thought he was going to give it to the running back. He should have. He tried to extend the play and I put my hand up. He wanted me to take the bait like he was going to run, but he was trying to dump it over me."
Pratt got one hand on it and kept it in-bounds long enough to hang on.
"We wouldn't trade them for anything," Taylor. "There are a lot of good tandems … but we wouldn't trade them."
It was not lost on Pratt that he and Wilson (he picked Purdy's next throw that set up Chase's touchdown) had done the deed on the home turf of the linebacker tandem regarded as the NFL's best, the 49ers' Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw.
"We know what we're capable of," Pratt said. "Me and Logan. The best duo in the game. The best in the game in critical situations. We're going to make those plays in critical situations."