The 49ers lost two in a row after going 5-0 to start the season, so are they frauds or just hitting an inevitable speed bump?
The San Francisco 49ers opened up the 2023 season as one of the juggernauts in the NFC, starting off 5-0 as they were one of the last two teams to be defeated heading into Week 6.
San Francisco's offense put up 30 points in its first three contests. After suffering two losses in a row, however, the 49ers' chokehold on the NFL appears to be loosening.
In Week 6 against the Cleveland Browns, quarterback Brock Purdy's play was not to his standard. He finished the contest throwing 12-of-27, only 125 yards, one touchdown and one interception (his first of the year).
Up until this point, All-Pro running back Christian McCaffrey had made a case to be named MVP. However, he was limited to just 52 yards from scrimmage. Making matters worse, rookie kicker Jake Moody missed two field goals, going 1-of-3 on the day, and his second miss could have been the potential game-winner.
Meanwhile, the Niners' defense allowed 160 yards rushing, and Browns star wide receiver Amari Cooper was able to record four receptions for 108 yards.
This was the first game that the 49ers did not put up at least 30 points. In fact, they were held to under 20 points by the strong Cleveland defense.
Then, Week 7 saw the Niners struggling to score, as well. They were held to just 17 points again, this time in a Monday Night Football loss to the Minnesota Vikings.
Purdy did better as he threw 21-of-30 for 272 yards, and another touchdown, but he had two more picks. This was also the second time wide receiver Deebo Samuel missed action because of injury.
San Francisco tallied a meager 65 yards rushing against Minnesota, and McCaffrey was held to under 100 yards from scrimmage once more, while Moody missed yet another field goal.
The 49ers' defense allowed 452 yards including 378 by air. Wide receiver Jordan Addison had seven7 receptions, 123 yards and a touchdown for the Vikings as tight end T.J. Hockenson also added 11 receptions for 86 yards.
So, what happened and what needs to happen for 49ers?
San Francisco's defense is not necessarily to blame. The 49ers allowed 19 points and 22 points, respectively.
However, the offense has only been able to produce 34 points combined after two games. Prior to Week 6, the 49ers were averaging over 30 per game.
Despite it being his first year in San Francisco, Moody has to perform better for his squad. Missing three field goals in the last two weeks is simply not the golden standard in the Bay Area.
Purdy's three turnovers in as many games is also a red flag and cause for some blame. The second-year quarterback must be able to control the ball and avoid opposing secondaries from picking him off.
Seeing McCaffrey bounce back and be a terror to opposing defenses should give a shot of adrenaline in the 49ers' arms.
A healthy Samuel will also help, too.
The Niners have a chance to make a statement as they host the Cincinnati Bengals this week. The 49ers have won all five contests Purdy has not thrown an interception, so that might be a point of emphasis for the contest.
San Francisco's defense also faces a tall order in the Bengals' offensive weapons like quarterback Joe Burrow, wide receivers Ja'Marr Chase and Tee Higgins, and running back Joe Mixon.
Moody, of course, must put the ball through the uprights, especially when the game is on the line.
If the 49ers can cut down on their mistakes, limit their opponents' offensive productivity and score at will, this game should get San Francisco back into the win column.
If not, they will enter their bye in Week 9 as losers of three in a row.