Cincinnati's defense has two starters who played for the team that played for the team that the Bengals will be hosting on Sunday, the San Francisco 49ers -- linebacker Manny Lawson and cornerback Nate Clements. Safety Taylor Mays, who may make his first appearance in the regular season, is another former 49er that plays for the Bengals. Both Clements and Lawson agree that the Bengals must stop 49ers running back Frank Gore if they want any chance of winning their home opener on Sunday.
"Frank is the offense," said cornerback Nate Clements, who played the last four seasons with the 49ers before signing with the Bengals. "He's a complete running back."
"Frank Gore is going to be a load," said linebacker Manny Lawson, another ex-49er. "He finds holes, just the smallest holes, and breaks tackles. He's got sped. He's a well-rounded back."
Gore is ranked at No. 21 in the NFL in total yards with 106 in two games against the Seattle Seahawks, who have the No. 15 ranked run defense, and the Dallas Cowboys, who have the No. 2 ranked run defense. In those two games he has averaged 21 carries per game for 53 yards per game, a 2.5 yards per carry average. He has one touchdown on the year, scored last weekend at home against Dallas.
The Bengals have the No. 16 ranked run defense, giving up an average of 107 yards per game. Those yards were given up to Peyton Hillis in week one when the Bengals defeated the Browns and to Willis McGahee when the Bengals lost by two points to the Broncos in Denver last week.
Hopefully we get a situation in which the former 49ers play like crazy in the face of the team that cast them aside, like when Cedric Benson ran for 189 yards and a touchdown against his former team, the Chicago Bears, in Cincinnati in 2009. If Lawson and Clements step up against their former team and help the Bengals keep Gore at bay, forcing Alex Smith to beat them, the Bengals could come out of week 3 with a 2-1 record.