SF 49ers: 2019 blowout vs. Bengals a blueprint for 2020 Week 2 vs. Jets

George Kittle #85 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
George Kittle #85 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images) /

As the SF 49ers attempt to rebound from a Week 1 defeat, they could look forward to Week 2, but also backward to 2019 as well.

Week 1 didn’t go as planned for the SF 49ers, losing a heartbreaking, ugly, but still winnable game to the upstart Arizona Cardinals 24-20.

But in spite all of the disappointment, the Niners head into a stretch of games against three teams that picked within the top-15 of the 2019 NFL Draft, as they travel to MetLife Stadium two weeks in a row to take on the New York Jets and New York Giants, respectively, and then welcome the Miami Dolphins to Levi’s Stadium in Week 5, with the sputtering Philadelphia Eagles sandwiched in between.

In other words, there might be a cure for what ailed the SF 49ers in their opening day loss. Some of that will be in the form of returns from injuries for rookie wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk and center Ben Garland, but it will also help that the teams coming up in the schedule are not among the NFL’s elite.

And yes, you could say the same of the Cardinals (they selected eighth overall in the most recent draft, for example), but there was very little doubt Arizona improved coming into 2020, even if it isn’t among the best teams in the NFL yet.

All this to say: hope is not lost.

The Week 1 defeat was ugly and unfortunate, but there is still time to right the ship and still contend for the NFC West crown and make noise in the NFL’s expanded playoffs for this season.

That journey begins with their first matchup against a team purporting to be from New York, as they face off against quarterback Sam Darnold and the Jets.

And while it is important to always be looking forward and dealing with the opponent in front of you, there could also be a lesson to be learned from the Week 2 contest from the SF 49ers’ 2019 campaign: a blowout victory over the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium 41-17.

Part of what makes the quality of the 49ers’ play this past Sunday so bothersome is that they were not able to overcome the bad execution and win the game anyway, something head coach Kyle Shanahan’s group was able to do quite adeptly last season several times.

Most notable among those was the Week 1 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Tampa, a game the 49ers won 31-17 but was actually much closer than the final score would indicate.

Part of that was the gift wrapping of two defensive touchdowns by former Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston, who would go on to be the first quarterback in NFL history to throw both 30 touchdowns and 30 interceptions in the same season.

If you remove those two pick-sixes, you have a tie game that the 49ers offense needs to win in the final moments. Instead, you have a win that looked more comfortable than it was. And a glance at the box score indicates quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo was not particularly sharp in his first starting coming off a 2018 ACL tear.

Garoppolo finished the game 18-of-27 for 166 yards, one touchdown, and one interception, which was itself a pick-six for the Bucs. In fact, the offense, on the whole, wasn’t exactly firing on all cylinders with the Bucs outgaining the Niners 295 to 256 on that side of the ball.

Sound familiar yet?

The SF 49ers quarterback looked equally shaky last Sunday as he did in last season’s opener, although his stat line is a little cleaner: 19-of-33 for 259 yards, two touchdowns, and no picks. But outside of a few drives, the offense, much like it did last season, never really got rolling; the defense bailed them out, securing victory.

So as I said earlier: the only major difference was the result, starting the season 1-0 as opposed to the 0-1 kickoff for 2020.

With that in mind, it feels appropriate to look back at the Bengals game to grant some hope for the future for the SF 49ers and their fans.

SF 49ers can use 2019 Week 2 win vs. Bengals as harbinger vs. Jets

Unlike the 2020 Jets, who are coming off a rough loss to the Buffalo Bills in Week 1, the Bengals actually nearly pulled off an upset of the Seattle Seahawks in their first game of that season before succumbing to the 49ers in Week 2.

And from the outset of that game, the Bengals had no answers for the 49ers offense, as the Niners jumped out to a 21-7 lead early in the second quarter and never looked back.

The overall offensive numbers looked a lot better, too.

Garoppolo finished 17-of-25 for 296 yards, three touchdowns, and one pick, en route to a 131.0 passer rating. And the running game kicked in 259 more yards on 42 carries and two more touchdowns to wrack up 571 yards of total offense.

The 49ers defense was also solid, sacking former Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton four times, forcing one fumble, and intercepting Dalton once.

Ultimately, it was the second of eight straight wins to start the season, and while it wasn’t their most impressive victory of the year, it seemed to have gotten the offense moving in the right direction as opposed to Week 1.

This coming Sunday against the Jets, it is vital the SF 49ers get off to an equally excellent start and take advantage of a weak Jets’ defense who struggled last week against Buffalo and quarterback Josh Allen.

In Cincinnati last year, that meant scoring on four of their six first-half drives, including three touchdowns, while the defense held the Bengals to just two scores.

If the Jets defense is weak, then their offense might be even weaker, with Darnold struggling to make an impact so far in his NFL career and a stable of solid but unspectacular pass catchers. Add to that the injury to running back Le’Veon Bell (hamstring), and the Jets are severely lacking in the playmaker department.

And while this will allow former SF 49ers running back Frank Gore the chance to start against his former team for the first time since he left San Francisco, it is certainly a break for the Niners defense to miss Bell.

The biggest area of the Jets offense the 49ers should be primed to exploit, however, is the offensive line, which according to Pro Football Focus, allowed 21 total pressures, including 17 hurries, three sacks, and one additional hit to the Bills in Week 1.

The Bills, like the Niners, possess one of the league’s elite defensive lines, so it stands to reason that the likes of EDGEs Nick Bosa and Dee Ford, along with other players like Arik Armstead, Kerry Hyder, and rookie defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw, should be able to make Darnold’s day a rough one on Sunday.

Unlike Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray, Darnold isn’t as elusive, so the 49ers should be able to contain him in the pocket and keep him under duress throughout the game.

Next. SF 49ers vs. NY Jets: 5 Week 2 X-factors for Kyle Shanahan. dark

So, no. Starting the season with a loss to a division foe was not the most ideal way to begin the 2020 campaign. But if 2019 and the Jets’ opener in Buffalo are any indications, the SF 49ers ought to be able to handle their business in Week 2 and even up their record to 1-1 on the year.