clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Position-by-position grades from the 49ers 26-23 overtime win in Cincinnati

It sure did not come easy, but the 49ers got a much needed win.

San Francisco 49ers v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images

The San Francisco 49ers pulled out a much-needed 26-23 overtime win on the road against the Cincinnati Bengals, but it did not come without plenty of stress. The 49ers led 20-6 entering the fourth quarter and had the ball, but Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow generated a late-game comeback that nearly cost the Niners the game. Luckily for San Francisco, their defense held up long enough for the offense to come through in overtime.

Here are the complete position-by-position grades for the 49ers:

Quarterbacks: B-

Jimmy Garoppolo was mediocre for most of the first half, struggling to convert on third down. The 49ers went 0-6 on third down in the first half and failed to turn a short field on two Bengals turnovers into a touchdown. However, those turnovers combined with a good defensive effort gave San Francisco a 17-6 halftime lead.

Garoppolo had some huge mistakes in the second half, fumbling on a dropback despite not being hit and throwing a pass on the final drive of the fourth quarter that was dropped by Bengals safety Jesse Bates III, but to Garoppolo’s credit, he delivered several great throws on the 49ers final two drives of the game and was a perfect 6-for-6 on their game-winning overtime drive.

Running backs: C+

In his postgame press conference, head coach Kyle Shanahan acknowledged that the 49ers’ struggles on third-down limited their opportunities to get the run game going. The Niners ran the ball on more than half of their plays in the first half, but they could not retain possession long enough to wear down the Bengals' defense. Jeff Wilson Jr. was solid in the backfield and racked up 56 rushing yards on 13 attempts despite limited space from the offensive line. However, he was unable to generate any big plays.

Tight ends: A+

George Kittle is once again playing like the best tight end in the NFL, and with a limited Deebo Samuel on Sunday, Shanahan leaned heavily on the 49ers’ top tight end. Kittle hauled in an incredible 13 of his 15 targets for 151 receiving yards and a touchdown, and his numbers could have been even better if the referees had not missed a blatant pass interference by Bengals safety Vonn Bell.

Wide receivers: B-

Deebo Samuel got just one target through the air, which went for a 22-yard reception, but he also recorded 37 yards and a touchdown on eight carries. It seemed clear that Shanahan did not want to lean heavily on Samuel, who was playing through a hamstring injury, and with Kittle playing at an elite level, that was easier to manage.

Brandon Aiyuk scored a walk-off touchdown in overtime, finishing with six receptions for 62 receiving yards and a touchdown. The 2020 first-round pick was the team’s most productive receiver, but it was far from a perfect performance. Aiyuk acknowledged misjudging the sideline on a 6-yard pass from Garoppolo to the endzone in the third quarter. While he made a great catch, he failed to get two feet down, and the Niners ultimately had to settle for a field goal.

Jauan Jennings has solidified himself as the 49ers’ third receiver, recording a career-high three receptions for 46 receiving yards, including a huge 25-yard reception in overtime on Sunday. Had a few bounces gone differently, though, Jennings easily could have been the goat of the game. He fumbled after one of his receptions but was able to recover and had another reception knocked out, although it was ultimately ruled an incompletion.

Offensive line: D

It was another bad day for the 49ers’ offensive line. The Niners runners had limited room to operate, and as San Francisco was forced to lean on the passing game more and more, the Bengals were able to generate consistent pressure upfront. The Bengals recorded four even though they lost their most productive pass rusher to an injury at the end of the first half. Backup right tackle Tom Compton was once again a consistent problem.

Defensive line: A+

The Bengals offensive line remains one of their biggest weaknesses, and the 49ers took advantage. Nick Bosa, Arik Armstead, Samson Ebukam, and Arden Key combined for 24 pressures per PFF. Bosa was truly incredible, impacting plays all game long. Despite losing a sack because of an Ambry Thomas illegal-hands-to-the-face penalty, Bosa still recorded two sacks and two tackles for loss.

Linebackers: A

Both Azeez Al-Shaair and Fred Warner were forced off the field with injuries at various points throughout the game, but they were difference makers when they were. Al-Shaair was forced out with an elbow injury but assuming it’s not a long-term injury. He has further set himself up for a good payday this offseason. Al-Shaair recorded 11 tackles, three tackles for loss, a sack, and a pass defended in the first half. He’s a playmaker. Warner’s final statline was not as impressive (7 tackles), but he still made several big stops.

Cornerbacks: D

Given the 49ers’ options at corner, Sunday’s performance was far from the worst-case scenario. Ambry Thomas and Josh Norman struggled in coverage and were the primary reason the Niners allowed more than 10 yards per pass attempt to Burrow despite their excellent pass rush. Thomas had two costly hands-to-the-face penalties that undid a 49ers interception and sack, but Thomas’ performance would have been less noteworthy had they come on different plays. K’Waun Williams was solid in the slot and came up with a huge third-down sack, but Norman and Thomas left a lot to be desired (as expected) on the outside.

Safeties: A-

Jimmie Ward would have had his third interception of the season if it weren’t for Thomas’ penalty, and that play encapsulated the 49ers’ secondary play all game. Thomas and Norman had their struggles and limited defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans all game. Still, the Niners trio of safeties, particularly Ward and Jaquiski Tartt, did a fantastic job limiting the damage Cincinnati could do against the 49ers depleted cornerback group. Talanoa Hufanga got turned around by Ja’Marr Chase for a touchdown on a broken play, but otherwise, the Niners’ safeties made few mistakes.

Special teams: B

In terms of impact, the special teams unit clearly deserves an A or A+, recording the game's only two turnovers. However, I’m not sure how much credit the 49ers special teamers deserve for the two fumbled returns, one that was muffed without contact. I was still leaning towards giving this unit one of the highest grades, but then Mitch Wishnowsky recorded a 29-yard punt, and Robbie Gould missed a 47-yard field goal that could have ended the game in regulation.