CINCINNATI -- Any positivity about a defensive turnaround in 2019 dissipated in the Cincinnati Bengals’ home opener against the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday.
One week after a promising showing, the Bengals’ defense resembled the historically bad unit from last year in a 41-17 loss to the 49ers. In first-year coach Zac Taylor’s home debut, Cincinnati allowed 572 total yards that finished as one of the worst performances in franchise history. It was the fifth-highest total since the Bengals allowed 576 yards against Tampa Bay last season.
It’s fitting that the yardage totals were pretty similar. On Sunday, Cincinnati (0-2) struggled with many of the same things that were problematic in Marvin Lewis’ final year as the team’s coach. The Bengals allowed several big plays through the air and couldn’t get off the field whenever they were fortunate enough to push San Francisco to third down. The 49ers (2-0) converted five of their nine third-down plays.
Biggest hole in the game plan: From the opening kickoff, the 49ers had no problems moving the ball on the ground. Behind starting running back Matt Breida, San Francisco totaled 259 rushing yards. The 49ers averaged 6.5 rushing yards per attempt even when coach Kyle Shanahan scaled back the aggressiveness in the fourth quarter. Cincinnati defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo had no answer for the 49ers’ rushing attack.
QB breakdown: Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton started out with eight straight completions. After that, he failed to find consistent success. He completed 26-of-42 passes for 311 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. While the numbers don’t seem that bad, they are partially padded by a late 66-yard touchdown pass to John Ross III. It didn’t help that the Bengals struggled to run the ball for the second straight week (Joe Mixon had 17 yards on 11 carries) and Cincinnati was forced to pass the ball often because it was chasing the Niners for most of the day.
Troubling trend: The Bengals’ coaching staff wasn’t concerned about the absence of a rushing attack in the preseason. But after two games in the regular season, it’s a major issue. The Bengals tallied only 25 yards rushing after a 34-yard effort against Seattle in the opener. Cincinnati struggled at the line of scrimmage and lost another starter when left guard Michael Jordan was carted off the field with a left knee injury. The Bengals will need to find a way to move the ball on the ground for Taylor’s offense to be effective.