Describing the 49ers 13-8 win over the Bengals to fellow NFL fans, I have used “ugly”, “we’ll take it and the 2-1 start” and “a win is a win” most commonly. All game the defense once again put the offense in position to score points, the only problem was they only scored two field goals, one touchdown and punted seven times. Alex Smith and the offense can thank the defense for being able to stop the Bengals offense all game and not let the win slip away in the final minutes like against the Cowboys. The loss to the Cowboys was not on the defense, even though they gave up a ten-point lead in the fourth quarter, but on the offense because they could not sustain any drives in the second-half to keep the D off the field. Broken rib or not, if you are going up against a tired defense a team will find a way to win.
I was able to stay wake watching the 49ers vs. Bengals game even though it can be described as the most boring game in the NFL so far this season. It might have been because it was an early game and I was fully rested in the morning. Yet, I still found myself yawning. The 49ers identity this season is starting to materialized: Nothing exciting to watch but effective enough to win a game. This is probably not what offensive minded Jim Harbaugh envisioned for the 49ers before the season. But the reality of the situation is the 49ers are good on defense, but bad on offense. You can see it in the way they play and just by looking at their stats on offense.
The 49ers are ranked dead-last in offense this season. The offense has a total of 641 yards through three-games, averaging 213.7 yards per game. The 641 yards are not just passing yards, that is running and passing combined. To put the stat into perspective the number one offense in the NFL, New England Patriots, almost average more yards per game on offense (540.3 yards) than the 49ers have through three-games. Of the 70 points scored by the 49ers this season less than half, 30 points, have been scored on offensive touchdowns. RB Frank Gore ranks fourth in the NFL in rushing attempts with 59 but only averages 2.5 yards per carry with zero touchdowns. Nothing is exciting about those stats but you might be surprised where the 49ers are actually most effective on offense, at quarterback. Alex Smith has QB rating of 91.3 which is lands him at number 13 on the stats list and a completion rating of 68.9 landing him at number four on the list.
Those stats show the passing game can be effective but you wouldn’t it because of the way Harbaugh runs the offense which is continuing his Jimmy Raye Harbaugh approach. Harbaugh does not trust the offense to pass which can be seen in the amount of throws Smith has attempted. Smith has only 74 attempts which lands him at 31 on the stats list just ahead Jaguars QB Luke McCown. When I blame the offense for the Cowboys loss it has a lot to do with the play calling by Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Greg Roman. Luckily for Harbaugh and Roman the Jimmy Raye Harbaugh offense approach did not cost them the game against the Bengals. The defense was able to continue stopping the Bengals offense while the offense finally found the end zone late in the game.
13 points may have been enough against the Bengals but more than one touchdown by the offense will be needed in week four. The 49ers will get their first true test of the season against a very good Eagles team. The 49ers will need both excitement and be effective on offense if they want to even think of keeping up with the Eagles.