WOW. So how about that football game, huh? In classic 49ers fashion, our beloved team from San Francisco provides us with a game that could be described as anything but mundane, a contest that was jam-packed with action all the way down the stretch until the 49ers walked it off with a touchdown late in overtime.
First off, the Bengals are a GOOD team. Their ability to scratch and claw (no pun intended) their way back into this game was admirable. For a brief moment, it felt like they had seized all the momentum and were going to escape this game with a win on their home turf. But the 49ers were not about to go away lightly, and the poise they displayed when this game hung in the balance is something every player on that team should be proud of.
Going on the road, across the country, against a playoff team is a challenging set of obstacles for any team to overcome. However, the 49ers not only did that but did so in a way that they somehow managed to simultaneously dominate (they held Cincy to 6 points through the first 50+ minutes of the game) while also displaying tremendous resiliency when they responded with a 75-yard touchdown drive to end the game after Cincinnati had reeled off 17 unanswered points.
This might have been my favorite win of the season, given the wide range of emotions experienced while watching this game. At the end of the day, good teams find ways to win games like this, and the 49ers were able to weather the highs and lows before finding a way to escape Paul Brown Stadium with a win that vaulted them into the 6th seed in the NFC playoff race.
I’m going to share five statistics that I thought put the cherry on top of this outstanding victory.
This is the amount of receiving yards per game this season for tight end George Kittle, who finished the day with 13 receptions for 151 yards and a touchdown. The 75.7 yards per game is the highest mark in the league among tight ends, yet another reminder that when number 85 is on the field, he is on the shortlist of the best players to play the position
It was the second consecutive game that Kittle eclipsed 150 yards while scoring a touchdown, and the fourth time he has done so in his career broke a tie with Hall of Fame tight end Shannon Sharpe for the most such games by a tight end in NFL history. Kittle has recorded 22 catches for 332 yards and three touchdowns over his last two games.
The amount of yards opposing teams have lost on Nick Bosa’s 14 sacks this season is more than any other player in the NFL, except Micah Parsons (114.5 yards). Bosa had yet another game that reminds you just how special of a talent the 49ers have anchoring their defense, and his 1.5 sacks in this game vaulted him to 14.0 on the season, which is 3rd in the league trailing only Myles Garret (15.0) and TJ Watt (16.0)
Bosa wreaked havoc on Cincinnati’s offensive line throughout the entire game, recording ten pressures which were the most Bosa has had in a game since Super Bowl 54 and his third-highest total ever. Again, I cannot begin to overstate how impressive that is for a player who is a little over a year removed from a significant knee injury. In year 3, it is beyond clear we are witnessing a generational talent who almost assuredly still has room to improve (which should terrify offensive linemen around the league).
The amount of rushing touchdowns Deebo Samuel has recorded on the season, passing Kordell Stewart for second all-time among wide receivers in a single season. Samuel only trails Lenny Moore for the all-time record, which Moore set with the Baltimore Colts in 1961 when he finished the year with seven rushing touchdowns.
To put into context just how impressive this total is in today’s game, Samuel currently has the same amount of rushing touchdowns as
- Dalvin Cook
- Nick Chubb
- Najee Harris
The versatility and flexibility Samuel brings to this offense is something that I don’t think can be matched by any other player in the league at this moment. To be this effective as a runner while also being a 1000+ yard wide receiver is truly a sight to behold. I don’t think anyone would argue that Deebo Samuel has been the clear-cut MVP of the 49ers offense in 2021, and you could make a case for the entire team as well.
Jimmy Garoppolo’s completion percentage on the 49ers game-winning drive in overtime. On a drive the 49ers needed to have, Garoppolo went 6-6 for 78 yards and a touchdown, hitting Brandon Aiyuk for a 12-yard score to cap off a masterful march down the field to win the game.
Garoppolo made two increasingly impressive throws on this drive back shoulder
- (2nd & 7 from the SF 28 yard line)
A back-shoulder ball down the right sideline to Jauan Jennings for a 25 yard gain, thrown into a contested area with extremely precise placement to Jennings backside and away from the defender.
- (3rd & 5 from CIN 21 yard line)
A throw over the middle to George Kittle split the nearby defenders and kept the chains moving on a drive that had the potential to leave Kyle Shanahan with a very tough decision on fourth down had they not converted. Garoppolo displayed tremendous poise in a huge spot and delivered on the most crucial third down of the 49ers season.
It was far from Garoppolo’s best game, but credit is due for how he showed up in a clutch time when his team needed him most.
The amount of yardage the 49ers had gifted opponents via pass interference penalties entering their matchup with the Bengals. How many did they have in Cincinnati? Zero. The 49ers defense was not called for a single pass interference penalty against the Bengals, which is astounding when you think of how much those calls have plagued them and the circumstances surrounding this game (explosive Bengals passing attack vs. a depleted 49ers secondary).
In his first NFL start, Ambry Thomas was called for two illegal hands to the face penalties, which unfortunately erased a sack and interception. However, those penalties are five yards and an automatic first down (and as back-breaking as they had the potential to be). The 49ers' secondary was still able to avoid the spot foul via defensive pass interference, which made Cincinnati earn their chunk plays in the passing game.
All things considered, I thought they did a great job as a unit avoiding gifting the Bengals free yards via DPI, a penalty that has cost the 49ers 22.9 yards per call on average. While Cincinnati’s pass game started to pick up steam late, I thought DeMeco Ryans and that defensive unit devised a fantastic game plan and executed it at a level that is beyond commendable given the recent shakeup the cornerback position.
So here the 49ers stand at 7-6, as they sit firmly in the 6 seed of the NFC and have ultimate control over their chance to make the playoffs (which feels more and more likely by the week). Handle business at home against Atlanta this week, and that path becomes even more apparent. But for now, enjoy this win because man, oh man, was that a fun one in Cincinnati.