The Cincinnati Kid is a sack away from tying a Cincinnati icon and tag team partner Trey Hendrickson is hot on his heels as the Bengals' Bash Brothers cool the blistering bookends of one of the NFL's steamiest pass rushes this weekend during the bye.
Sam Hubbard's next sack ties him with two-time Pro Bowl nose tackle Tim Krumrie for 10th place on the Bengals all-time list with 34.5 career sacks. It's still a remarkable number for history's most prolific tackling nose tackle, and it's also a number Hendrickson might reach this season, too, since he goes into the break leading all NFL defensive ends with seven sacks. That's one off the league lead set by outside backers Danielle Hunter of Minnesota and T. J. Watt of Pittsburgh.
"(Hendrickson is) always in the backfield," says defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo. "He's always in the quarterback's lap."
In just 37 games for the Bengals, Hendrickson is already 15th on the list with 29 sacks, two more than Coy Bacon and three fewer than Gary Burley.
MORE RUSH: The last time the Bengals went to San Francisco, they clinched their fifth straight playoff berth when recent practice squad pickup AJ McCarron won his first NFL start in a 24-14 victory in 2015 backed by a Bengals defense that forced four turnovers and had four sacks.
Given how both teams are playing defense this season, it's shaping up to be the same kind of game when the Bengals head to The Bay next weekend.
Both are among the league leaders in generating turnovers, sacks, and quarterback hits. Just for spice the 49ers, who play the Vikings Monday night, are fourth in red zone offense and face a Bengals defense that soared to 11th in red zone after last Sunday's remarkable stand stoned Seattle three times.
"(The red zone) has been our calling card. That has to continue," Anarumo says. "We're taking the ball away, too, and sacking the quarterback. Anytime you can do all three of those things …"
With 19 sacks (Hubbard and tackle B.J. Hill are courting career-highs with three each) the Bengals are on pace to break the 2012 team record of 51 sacks with 54. They're also tied for fourth in the NFL with San Fran tied for eighth.
But according to Pro Football Reference, the 49ers lead the league in quarterback knockdowns with 27, 11 of them from Pro Bowl edger and Hubbard Ohio State buddy Nick Bosa. The Bengals are just three behind and tied for third, thanks to seven each by Hubbard and Hill, the only teammates in the top ten.
It was Hubbard and Hill who pulled off Sunday's last snap stunt when they both ended up on top of Seattle quarterback Geno Smith for an incompletion and the win. It came on Hubbard's season-high 65th snap and Hill's 55th, one off his 2023 high he's hit twice.
Hill's career-high is 5.5 sacks and he's already got the three he had last year on career-high 816 snaps, nearly 80 percent of the plays. D-line coach Marion Hobby is continuing to roll Hill out there this year at a 73-percent clip and he's getting to the quarterback like he never has in his six seasons.
"I just think we're leaving them out there a little bit more," Anarumo says. "Anytime you get those big guys that can push the pocket inside, because they're obviously paying a ton of attention to Trey for good reason.
"(Hill's) a good three-down guy, a three-down player that can affect the quarterback. (But) stout enough to sit in against these double-team hard-run teams. Those guys are hard to find these days, and they're smart football players. They don't make error in there. It's important those guys play that way and are consistent."
The Bengals defense hasn't been shy about turning it over either, and the numbers say that's going to be a big factor against the Niners. Both teams are among nine teams with at least 10 turnovers.
The 49ers have 11 and lead the NFL with a plus-8 turnover ratio. The Bengals are tied for sixth there at plus-five with 10 turnovers. They're on pace to generate their most in five seasons under Anarumo with 28, which would be their most since the 2013 AFC North champs had 31.
JOE REBOUND: Ok, Ok. When quarterback Joe Burrow hit the 18-19-mile-per-hour mark on the GPS with a scramble last Sunday, it offered empirical evidence the strained right calf is a thing of the past.
More evidence is his completion percentage. When he went into Opening Day, his career mark was just over 68 % for the best of all-time, a hair ahead of his idol Drew Brees' 67.7 In his first three games he fell out of first place with a combined 55.3% But in his last two games he went for 74% and has climbed back to within a decimal point of Brees at 67.6, tied with Jimmy Garoppolo.
Offensive coordinator Brian Callahan is sold. The bye week has been seen as the line of demarcation for the calf injury.
"It sure feels like he is. If he's not normal, he's pretty close," Callahan said before the coaches broke for the bye. "Thankfully. That's a good thing. "Obviously a handful of days-off should put him in a pretty good place coming out of the bye. And that was always the hope and the goal. To get to this point where he was feeling pretty close to normal."
He had a good half and a bad half last Sunday that featured his 15 straight completions in the first half. That was his most since he sifted 16 straight 51 weeks ago against the Falcons. The number to hit is a game of 21. Ring of Honor member Ken Anderson holds the club record with 20 straight in the 1982 finale, per Elias.