DENVER, CO - SEPTEMBER 18: Running Back Cedric Benson #32 of the Cincinnati Bengals runs with the ball past defensive end Robert Ayers #91 of the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on September 18, 2011 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
The 49ers could very well have their hands full with rookie QB Andy Dalton on Sunday but they also find themselves dealing with a tough running back in Cedric Benson. Through two games, Benson has rushed for 180 yards with 121 yards in their 27-17 win over Cleveland followed by 59 yards in their 24-22 loss to Denver. In both games Andy Dalton had success, although in the loss he was flinging the ball all over the place with some solid success.
Cedric Benson is coming off back-to-back 1,000 yard rushing seasons and after early struggles in his career he seems to have found his way in Cincinnati. He faces a three-game suspension that won't start before next week so the 49ers get to deal with him this week.
It's hard to make a whole lot of conclusions about the rushing attack after only three games. Football Outsiders ranks him eighth among running backs in success rate, but 17th in DVOA. According to FO, a higher success rate and lower DVOA indicates a guy who will get the necessary yards needed to make a play successful, but doesn't generally get a whole lot more to break the play open.
FO's running back ranks don't separate the performance of the running back from the offensive line. Their offensive line rankings do attempt to do that. They rank the Bengals 18th in adjusted line yards and generally at or below average for most of the categories they consider. After a quick tweet to @fo_dtuccitto, the Bengals would appear to be a decent mix of offensive line and running back performance, as opposed to more of one or the other. In looking at the OL rankings, a team like the Patriots is offensive line driven (good power/stuffed, poor 2nd level/open field) while the Falcon are more running back driven (the opposite).
The 49ers defensive line has been up to the task thus far this year and they'll need the continued support of Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman in run support. Andy Dalton could still have a good day like last week, but if the 49ers can contain Cedric Benson, this could become a tougher ballgame for the Bengals to win.