For the first time all season, the 49ers offense went three-and-out. For the third game in a row, the Bengals scored a touchdown on its opening drive.
The Bengals drove 85 yards on ten plays. Arik Armstead and Nick Bosa had Joe Burrow dead to rights, but he escaped and converted a pass to Tee Higgins on 3rd & 8. That would be the final third down attempt of the drive before Tyler Boyd beat Isaiah Oliver for a touchdown.
Brock Purdy had an impressive drive himself. First, he ran for 16 yards when nobody was open. On the next play, Purdy avoided a pass rusher, then found Brandon Aiyuk 31 yards down the field. Christian McCaffrey scored for the 17th time in a row, and the Niners tied the game at 7.
Burrow and the Bengals answered with a 58-yard scoring drive of their own. It looked effortless, as they needed five plays and only one second down to take the lead after Burrow threw his second touchdown pass of the game to take the lead 14-7.
After a punt, the 49ers defense faced a 3rd & 9 at midfield with just over ten minutes to play, but Burrow scrambled on a designed run for a first down to keep the drive alive. Armstead finished on the ensuring third down.
Armstead’s sack ended up making quite the difference, as the Bengals field goal kicker missed from 50, which gave San Francisco favorable field position.
Purdy found Aiyuk for a 23-yard gain to start the drive. The Niners made their way into Bengals territory in no time, but a holding on Jauan Jennings stalled a promising drive to make it 2nd & 20. Jake Moody’s 36-yard field goal brought the Niners within four with just over two minutes to play in the half.
Burrow did not struggle to move the ball down the field, after gains of 9, 9, 8, 7, 11,9, and 7 put the Bengals inside the 49ers 3-yard line. But Clelin Ferrell’s hustle forced a fumble, and the 49ers escaped without surrendering a point.
The score at halftime was 14-10, but it felt like the score wasn’t that close. The Bengals would get the ball to start the third quarter. Kyle Shanahan throwing the ball down the field out of his end zone was his way of telling us he didn’t trust his defense today.
Charvarius Ward was penalized for another questionable pass interference, but Arik Armstead saved the day with his second sack on the afternoon. This came after Burrow picked up another 20 yards on a designed run.
Evan McPherson nailed a 56-yard field goal to make it 17-10. Both teams traded punts, after Isaiah Oliver’s tackle for loss on second down.
San Francisco had yet another lengthy drive. They started on their 24-yard line, before Purdy found Aiyuk for 15, then Kittle for 20, before running for 12 yards.
Purdy attempted to throw it to Elijah Mitchell, who would’ve strolled in for a walk-in touchdown, but Germain Pratt tipped the ball to himself and caught the interception. We went from a tie game to the Bengals moving the ball in a matter of two plays after Burrow found Tee Higgins for a 33-yard gain.
The 49ers defense did their job, and forced Cincinnati to punt after the explosive play to Higgins. However, Purdy looked more like Jimmy Garoppolo on his next throwing attempt, where he failed to see the underneath linebacker for an interception.
On the following play, Ja’Marr Chase lined up 1-on-1 against Oliver in the slot, and that went about as expected. That touchdown made it 24-10.
Purdy looked more like his usual self when the offense got the ball back. Aiyuk and gains of 25 and 15. Purdy found McCaffrey from four yards out to make it 24-17.
The defense would get one last chance to get off the field with over eight minutes to play. This was the kind of drive why you pay Bosa, Armstead, and Hargrave. But Burrow had throws of 21 and 20, before scrambling for another first down. Joe Mixon’s five-yard touchdown run made it 31-17, putting the game out of reach.
Today, for the first time in a long time, looked like the 49ers don’t have the talent to compete on the defensive side of the ball. Perhaps that’s a prisoner of the moment statement, but Higgins and Chase combined for 169 yards.
Burrow went 28-for-32 for 282 yards and 3 touchdowns. He also rushed for 44 yards on five carries. Against a high-level offense, the 49ers looked outclassed. Think about this, the Bengals only had 7 third downs on 61 plays today and 51 percent of Burrow’s throws resulted in a first down.
Turnovers can’t happen offensively, but giving up 31 points to anybody can’t happen if the 49ers are going to consider themselves a championship contender. The 49ers will spend the bye week doing some soul-searching.