San Francisco 49ers (1-1) vs. Cincinnati Bengals (1-1)
Paul Brown Stadium
Kickoff: 10:00 AM (PST)
The 49ers travel for their first road game of the season to Cincinnati to go up against the Bengals on Sunday. Both teams are 1-1 and suffered a heartbreaking loss last Sunday. The 49ers blew a ten point lead in the fourth quarter against the Cowboys and the Bengals came up short in the final seconds of the game against the Broncos. The Bengals are lead by rookie Andy Dalton at quarterback but he looked impressive last week and could give the 49ers defense trouble. Expect a lot of field goals in the game from both teams. Here are five things to watch out for in tomorrow’s game:
Jim Harbaugh’s approach to the offense
I thought I would not have to describe the 49ers offense again as the Jimmy Raye Harbaugh offense but after two games only 415 yards have been gained. To put that stat into perspective Panthers rookie QB Cam Newton had over 400 passing yards in his NFL debut. Through two games the 49ers offensive approach looks no different than the Two Mike’s approach which ultimately doomed them and the team. Alex Smith at QB? Check. Frank Gore is the workhorse? Check. Head coach doesn’t trust the offense? Check. Running play on 3-and-long? Check.
Using the excuse of the lockout hurting the 49ers development on offense is no longer relevant. If Cam Newton can pick up an offense in the same amount of time and start the season with 854 passing yards, why can’t the 49ers offense put up more than 200 yards a game? A big reason is because Smith is under center. But this was Harbaugh’s own doing because he wanted Smith as his quarterback without bringing in another veteran QB. Rookie QB Colin Kaepernick is still progressing but how much worse do you think the offense would be with him at quarterback? If Harbaugh is not going to trust his offense to win games and lean on the defense, why not start Kaepernick to give him experience?
Harbaugh, like the coaches before him, is taking a conservative approach to the offense. I understand Harbaugh’s approach is partly because of a lack of talent and experience at quarterback. Harbaugh could have upgraded at QB but he is thinking in the long-term with Smith being a holdover for Kaepernick. I respect his approach but as a fan it is frustrating to see the same lame offensive philosophy that didn’t work for Nolan or Singletary being used by Harbaugh.
Former 49ers now Bengals
One of the storylines in the game is the 49ers going up against former teammates now on the Bengals. All of the former Niners are on defense with linebacker Manny Lawson, cornerback Nate Clements and safety Taylor Mays. Lawson and Clements are starting and Mays will be suiting up for the first time in the regular season for the Bengals. It will be interesting to watch the former Niners go up against their former teammates as Lawson and Clements were released and Mays was traded by the 49ers in the off-season.
Defensive lineman Justin Smith, linebacker Ahmad Brooks and safety Madieu Williams began their NFL careers as Bengals.
Alex Smith’s concussion
This week the 49ers announced Alex Smith suffered a concussion in the second quarter of last week’s loss to the Cowboys. Smith suffered the concussion when Cowboys linebacker Anthony Spencer threw him on the ground on his head and shoulder. Smith has passed all the neurological tests this week and is expected to play against the Bengals. Kaepernick took snaps with the starting offense this week as a precaution. Smith was not restricted in practice this week but his confidence could be affected by the concussion. The 49ers offense could be in trouble this week with Smith’s concussion and receiving threats hurt with Braylon Edwards out for the game and Michael Crabtree listed as probable. If Harbaugh allows his offense to pass in the game tight end Vernon Davis will need to step up. Davis can attract defenders away from other receivers like he did on the 49ers two passing TD’s last week.
Being a Niners fan it is hard to watch rookies Cam Newton and Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton command a successful offense. Dalton had a great performance last week against the Broncos passing for 332 yards and two touchdowns. The 49ers defense could have their hands full with Dalton, WR’s A.J. Green and Jerome Simpson, and RB Cedric Benson. Benson recently received a three-game suspension but will play against the 49ers as he is appealing the suspension. Simpson made it into the news recently that 2.5 pounds of marijuana was tracked to his home this week. Simpson will most likely be suspended but is able to play Sunday. If he does not play it would be the Bengals who hold him out. He is listed as questionable on the injury report even though he does not have an injury. We will wait and see if Simpson and Benson’s troubles affect the Bengals offense on Sunday.
First Road Game
The 49ers have a bad history playing games on the road. The team’s last non-divisional road game win was in 2008 against the Bills. The 49ers won the game 10-3. The 49ers three road wins before that were in 2006 against the Broncos and Lions and in 2003 against the Eagles. That is a total of four road wins against non-divisional opponents since 2003. Adding to the 49ers difficulty of playing on the road is playing a game at 10:00 AM. West coast teams historically play bad when they travel to the East coast with the 49ers right at the top of that list. Harbaugh will be coaching in his first road game. The 49ers return to the East coast in week four traveling to Philadelphia. The Eagles will be a much harder opponent than the Bengals so this weeks game is a must win.