Game Preview

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Game Preview: 49ers at Bengals | Week 2

Cincinnati Bengals defensive back Dre Kirkpatrick (27) in coverage during a week 2 NFL football against the Baltimore Ravens on Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018 in Cincinnati. Cincinnati won 34-23. (Aaron M. Sprecher via AP)
The Bengals have won three of the last five meetings,including the most recent meeting, 24-14 at San Francisco in 2015.

Kickoff: 1 p.m. Eastern.

Television: The game will air on FOX-TV. 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; all sports) 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).

Setting the scene: Cincinnati opens its home schedule on Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers, as the Zac Taylor-led Bengals make their Paul Brown Stadium debut in regular season play. The Bengals, though, will have to shake off last week’s loss to Seattle, a game in which they dominated the stat sheet but fell by a narrow one-point margin.

The Bengals’ loss came despite lopsided statistical advantages in several key categories, including total yards (429 to 233), first downs (22 to 12), net passing yards (395 to 161) and time of possession (35:50 to 24:10). But the Seahawks forced three turnovers to the Bengals’ one, and they scored TDs on both red-zone opportunities while Cincinnati managed just two FGs on its three opportunities.

Despite the disappointing result, Sunday’s game created a healthy dose of optimism after strong performances on both sides of the ball. On offense, QB Andy Dalton notched career-highs in both completions (35) and passing yards (418), en route to a 106.5 passer rating. It was Dalton’s first career 400-yard passing game, and the most passing yards in a season-opener in Bengals history.

Also garnering praise was third-year WR John Ross, who had his best game as a pro after two seasons of battling injuries and struggling to stay on the field. Ross, who played collegiately at the University of Washington, starred in his homecoming to the Emerald City, logging career-highs in receptions (seven), receiving yards (158) and receiving TDs (two). Ross’ TDs went for 33 yards on a flea-flicker, and 55 yards on a deep ball to put the Bengals on top at halftime.

On the other side of the ball, the defensive line stole the show. The line held the Seahawks’ powerful rushing attack to just 72 yards, 88 below their NFL-best 160-yard average last season. The Bengals also recorded six tackles for losses on the day, including four sacks. Two of those sacks came from second-year DE Sam Hubbard, who was making his first career start.

The Bengals’ nine previous head coaches were 4-5 in their home debuts, a mark Taylor will look to even up this weekend. A key factor in doing so will be the availability of injured HB Joe Mixon (ankle) and OT Cordy Glenn (concussion), whose statuses Taylor deemed on Monday as “day-to-day.”

San Francisco last week won their season-opener at Tampa Bay, 31-17.

The series: The 49ers lead 11-4, including their close victories in each of the Bengals’ two Super Bowls. The 49ers prevailed 26-21 in Super Bowl XVI at Pontiac, Mich. (1981 season) and won 20-16 in Super Bowl XXIII at Miami (‘88 season). The 49ers hold the highest winning percentage (.733) against the Bengals of any NFL team, but the Bengals have won three of the last five meetings,including the most recent meeting, 24-14 at San Francisco in 2015. The 49ers’ last win came in their most recent trip to Cincinnati, 13-8 in 2011. This weekend’s matchup is just the third visit to Paul Brown Stadium for the 49ers, and it’s only their seventh visit ever to Cincinnati. The series is split 1-1 at PBS, and the 49ers lead the series 4-2 in the Queen City overall.

Bengals’ defensive turnaround: The Bengals struggled on defense last season, ranking last in the NFL in total defense (413.6 yards per game), last in pass defense (275.9), 29th in rush defense (137.8) and 30th in points allowed (28.4). And although the team hired a new head coach with an offensive background, much attention was paid by the team to improving the defense over the offseason.

And while the Bengals have played just one game so far this season, it appears the defense is on the right track. After the completion of Week 1 games, the Bengals rank fourth in the NFL in total defense (233.0), fourth in pass defense (161.0), eighth in rush defense (72.0) and 13th in points allowed (21.0). It should also be noted that Seattle, Cincinnati’s Week 1 opponent, led the NFL in rushing offense last season at 160 yards per game.

The Bengals’ defense forced seven three-and-outs (any time a defense has three or fewer plays with no first downs, excluding kneel-downs) at Seattle, their most in a game since the 2017 season finale at Baltimore, and only the third time with as many three-and-outs since the beginning of the 2015 season.

The Bengals also outgained the Seahawks by 196 yards (429 to 233), marking only the fourth time in team history Cincinnati lost a game while outgaining an opponent by as many yards, and the first time since the 2010 season (Game 16 vs. Baltimore — 395 to 199 total yards).

Bengals-49ers connections: 49ers TE Garrett Celek (Reserve/Physically Unable to Perform) is from Cincinnati (La Salle High School) ... Bengals HB Joe Mixon is from Oakley, Calif. (Freedom High School) ... Bengals OT Jonah Williams (Reserve/Physically Unable to Perform) is from Folsom, Calif. (Folsom High School) ... 49ers DL Nick Bosa played at Ohio State University ... Bengals DT Niles Scott (Reserve/Injured) entered the NFL as a college free agent signee of the 49ers in 2018, and spent time on the team’s practice squad last season ... Bengals S Trayvon Henderson (practice squad) is from Sacramento, Calif. (Grant Union High School) ... Bengals LB Hardy Nickerson (practice squad) is from Oakland, Calif. (Bishop O’Dowd High School) and played at the University of California, Berkley from 2012-15 ... 49ers LS Colin Holba is from Louisville, Ky., and played at the University of Louisville ... Bengals linebackers coach Tem Lukabu was on the 49ers’ coaching staff from 2016-17 ... Bengals wide receivers coach Bob Bicknell was on the 49ers’ coaching staff in 2016 ... Bengals offensive coordinator attended De La Salle High School in Concord, Calif., where he played quarterback during part of the school’s national-record 151-game winning streak ... 49ers director of performance monitoring/strength and conditioning assistant Shea Thompson was an assistant with the Bengals’ strength and conditioning staff from 2016-18 ... 49ers assistant offensive line coach Zach Yenser is from Fort Mitchell, Ky. ... 49ers running backs coach Robert Turner played at Ohio State from 1989-90 ... Bengals strength and conditioning coach Joey Boese coached at Fresno State University from 2012-15 ... Bengals assistant strength and conditioning coach Todd Hunt played defensive end (2012-15) and coached (’16-17) at Fresno State University ... Bengals assistant strength and conditioning coach Garrett Swanson was a punter/kicker at Fresno State University from 2012-15.

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