The San Francisco 49ers visit the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 2, so Niner Noise went behind enemy lines with our FanSided friends, Stripe Hype, to break down this game.
The No. 1 enemy for the San Francisco 49ers right now is the Cincinnati Bengals, who are sitting at 0-1 after a tough 21-20 road loss against the Niners’ NFC West rivals, the Seattle Seahawks, in Week 1.
In many ways, it looked as if Cincinnati won the game, outside of the score. Meanwhile, San Francisco is coming off its own Week 1 victory, beating the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 31-17.
Likewise, one could argue the Bengals lost that game more than the 49ers won it.
Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo tossed just 166 yards during the game, yet managed to pick up the win. Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton led all quarterbacks in Week 1 with 418 pass yards, but he was on the losing end.
Such is the nature of the NFL.
Either way, the 49ers’ road contest in Cincinnati will be vital for head coach Kyle Shanahan’s hopes to ascend the league’s ranks. And to preview this contest, Niner Noise went behind the scenes with FanSided’s Bengals site, Stripe Hype, and site co-expert Dylan Streibig.
Let’s dive into what our friends at Stripe Hype had to say about the game, shall we?
NN: The Bengals offense sure showed up in Week 1 in a tough place for a road team to play, CenturyLink Field in Seattle. What are the differences you’ve seen from head coach Zac Taylor’s offense, and how have they translated into some newfound Bengals success lately?
"SH: The thing that jumped out to me the most was that, even though the offensive line played well in Seattle, Taylor is doing everything he can to make sure that Andy Dalton gets the ball out of his hand quickly in order to protect the shortcomings of that unit.Also, Taylor seems to know how to use speedy receiver John Ross and unafraid to play young players. Two things that cannot be said of the previous regime."
NN: How has Taylor made a difference for quarterback Andy Dalton? It seems like Dalton has been under the microscope for a few years now, so how important is it for Cincinnati to try resurrecting Dalton’s career? Or do you think the Bengals would like to go a different direction, ultimately?
"SH: In addition to building around the quick release mentioned above, I think Dalton is benefiting from having a young offensive mind as his head coach and play caller. It is uncharted territory for him.As far as the future, Cincinnati did not take a quarterback early in this past draft, but they also don’t have a ton of money tied to him after this year. In short, if Dalton gets the team back to the playoffs this year, he probably stays.If not, the Bengals probably look elsewhere, or perhaps give current rookie and backup Ryan Finley the keys to the franchise."
NN: Cincinnati had one of the worst defenses in the league a year ago, yet this unit held the Seahawks to just 232 all-purpose yards last week. Is this a sign of things to come, or do you think it was just an anomaly and the Bengals defense still has a long way to go before making those big-time improvements?
"SH: New defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo deserves a lot of credit for last week’s effort. The players from last year are largely the same. For that reason, it was likely an anomaly.Still, there’s nowhere for the unit to go but up after last year."
NN: Both the 49ers and Bengals are dealing with some notable injuries, wide receiver A.J. Green and running back Joe Mixon on Cincinnati’s side. Running back Tevin Coleman for San Francisco. Who do you think winds up having the best performance Sunday among the players stepping up into the voids left by injured players?
"SH: Well, John Ross needs to build on last week’s career day. Also, if Mixon plays or not, the Bengals need to generate some sort of run game after failing to do so in Seattle. Some of that will fall on veteran scat back Giovani Bernard and recent signee Samaje Perine."
NN: What’s one key matchup, players or groups, you’re looking forward to watching when the Niners and Bengals kick off this Sunday?
"SH: How are the Bengals going to cover George Kittle? I have no idea. The team is only carrying five linebackers and one of them just signed this week. The Bengals doing creative things in the secondary to work around this, but Kittle is matchup nightmare, even for traditional and historically good defenses.Cincinnati just has to hope Kittle doesn’t win the game for his team by himself like he did last year against Denver."
NN: Who wins and why?
"SH: The Bengals win this 24-20. They statistically dominated Seattle last week, red-zone issues and turnovers are what cost them. These things typically get cleaned up, at least a little bit when an inexperienced team comes home."
The 49ers and Bengals kick off on Sunday, Sept. 15 at 1 p.m. ET from Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati.