CINCINNATI, OH - SEPTEMBER 25: Vernon Davis #85 of the San Francisco 49ers runs up field against Reggie Nelson #20 of the Cincinnati Bengals during their game on September 25, 2011 at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio. The 49ers defeated the Bengals 13-8. (Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images)
Entering Week 3 of our 2011 recap, we take a look at the 49ers first road game of the season versus the Cincinnati Bengals. It was a game where players Shawntae Spencer, Chilo Rachal and Madieu Williams saw significant time on the field - obviously they were not factors for most of the season. Both the offense and defense also did not feature terribly aggressive gameplans.
In the following piece, we will break down quarter-by-quarter, the 49ers third game on 2011 against the Bengals. Follow me after the jump for match-up details and in-depth analysis.
The 49ers won the opening toss but elected to defer, which was beginning to become a trend. The Bengals came out with a methodical first drive, getting a couple first downs and getting into the 49ers red zone. Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton was surprisingly calm and sharp for rookie second-rounder.
A noticeable presence on the 49ers defensive front was Ray McDonald who was getting pressure pretty consistently, beating his man inside. The offensive attack by Cincinnati appeared perfectly balanced, and San Francisco was having trouble against the pass early. As an entire front seven, there was a lack of pressure and the defensive backs at times were nowhere to be found.
But sure enough, the 49ers red zone defense was stingy, always penetrating and swarming in goal situations. Ahmad Brooks came out hot and fierce and proved to be a factor in the game. The 49ers forced a field goal on an otherwise strong opening drive by the Bengals.
The 49ers retaliated with an inept offensive attack. The one highlight of the first quarter was a 22-yard Vernon Davis catch off a wheel route coming out of the backfield. The ball placement by Smith was on point, as he released a crisp touch pass.
But the Bengals defense was solid against the run and the 49ers were having trouble in protection. It was apparent that the right side of the line was hemorrhaging due to the start of Chilo Rachal. Rachal was getting beat and Smith was having a tough time making throws under the immense pressure. Regardless, San Francisco came out throwing more than the previous two weeks.
It was 3-0 Cincinnati entering the second quarter.
Cincinnati was playing the field position game with the Niners - both with good defense and new offense. San Francisco was not getting field good position on offense during the game, and had trouble engineering longer drives. Smith remained under pressure, chucking bad passes all because Rachal was in the starting lineup.
Not only was Rachal sloppy in protection, but he began to draw penalties. In the second quarter, he got his first penalty of the game with a holding call - his second was a false start. We saw that when Smith actually had time he was able to connect to Josh Morgan, Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree. Nevertheless, it was still a very generic offensive game plan.
Under pressure, Smith was trying to push it downfield when he had a wide open Frank Gore that he could have hit for a gain but didn't. So decision-making on Smith's part also hampered any chances at early success.
The 49ers defense kept them in the game though. A huge unblocked sack by Ahmad Brooks - knocking Dalton's helmet off - got the Niners defense fired up. San Francisco began to show their unbelievably consistent tackling technique.
The defense held strong in the first half, but 49ers offense was anemic.
Alert: Chilo Rachal benched in place of Adam Snyder
With Rachal out and Snyder in, the 49ers hoped to dismiss some of the offensive woes they had in the first half. Though new ones of course around in the second half: the ground game couldn't take off and there were some noteworthy drops from both Crabtree and Gore.
Ray McDonald continued to pressure on Dalton and keep the 49ers alive in this matchup. Had it not been for the San Francisco defense, Dalton and wide receiver A.J. Green might've put this one away before halftime.
Now with more time in the pocket, Smith makes a great throw and Vernon Davis makes a great catch. Davis beat defensive back Reggie Nelson deep up the right sideline; Smith stepped up in the pocket and took a hit to deliver a perfect 39-yard pass downfield to his tight end.
While the 49ers were in striking distance, a great touchdown catch by Crabtree was wrongfully called back for illegal touching. Referees claimed the receiver stepped out of bounds before he made the grab in the back of the end zone; I think the replay says otherwise.
San Francisco had to settle for a field goal to make it 3-3 game. Before the third quarter could come to a close, the Bengals registered their fifth team sack on the day.
The San Francisco defensive linemen continued to pressure with four or less rushers; especially Ray McDonald and Ahmad Brooks from the left side. San Francisco's first offensive possession in the fourth quarter ended in a Gore fumble, forced by linebacker Rey Mauluga and recovered by Jonathan Fanene.
The Bengals didn't really capitalize, but added a field goal to take a 6-3 lead.
Even though it was looking bleak for the Niners, the offensive came alive just enough when it counted. Mr. Reliable, Vernon Davis got things going on the 49ers last drive on a tight end throwback screen. Davis had a very good game connecting with Smith, with 8 catches for 114 yards.
In the red zone, Kendall Hunter took a handoff to the left and burst through for a rushing touchdown to give San Francisco a 10-6 lead with just under 4 minutes left. It was a 10 play, 72-yard drive to take their first lead of the game and score their first TD of the game.
But the Bengals had some time left. Fortunately, Carlos Rogers undercut a pass intended for Andre Caldwell, registering a clutch interception, his first as a 49er. With an additional David Akers field goal, it put the 49ers up 13-6 with 2 minutes left.
On what was likely the last drive for the Bengals, a game sealing interception was made by 49ers back up safety Reggie Smith. This sealed the deal for San Francisco who rebounded from their loss in Week 2 to the Cowboys.
Follow me on Twitter: @DeSimone80