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The Bengals have secured a playoff spot for the fifth consecutive season. This moment seemed inevitable after the Bengals started the season red hot, going 8-0. As fans, we weren't concerned with IF the Bengals make the postseason, but what the seed would be that they earn. Now, Andy Dalton is hurt and questions are flying about how the Bengals are performing and how they can continue on without him.
Take yesterday for example. The Bengals beat the San Francisco 49ers on the road with a final score of 24-14. People are now pointing at the run game and the offense struggling to put up points on such a "terrible" team. Why couldn't the Bengals establish a better running game?
Perception is not always reality. The 49ers are a bit of an enigma this season. Sure, they are a bad team, but they do have a pretty good defense when they play at home. How good? They have a top three scoring defense when they are in their own stadium. In fact, they give up a difference of two touchdowns when playing in Santa Clara. 17 points per game at home and 31+ points per game on the road.
Was the Niners' schedule was set up so they faced only good teams on the road and at home they had cupcakes. Nope, the Bengals scored more points against San Francisco yesterday than any other team has this season in their home stadium. Even a highly toted offense like the Arizona Cardinals didn't touch what the Bengals did against the 49ers at home. Arizona managed only 19 points when they traveled to San Francisco, with Carson Palmer leading the team.
I'm not picking on the Cardinals either. Seattle and Green Bay also fell victim to the "good at home" defense of the 2015 49ers.
This doesn't serve as a notice that there is nothing to fret about with the Bengals this season. There are still far more questions than answers with this team that may or may not be answered in the next two weeks. What purpose we hope this serves is to not look too much into one phase of offensive stats and draw conclusions to the effectiveness of that unit. In other words, cut the running game a break for this one.
Still not convinced? In the other home games for the 49ers, the opponents final rushing stats looked like this:
- Cardinals - 62 yards rushing
- Vikings - 51 yards rushing
- Packers - 118 yards rushing
- Ravens - 77 yards rushing
- Falcons - 15 yards rushing
The only game where the 49ers got hammered would be in their divisional game against Seattle where the Seahawks topped 150 yards rushing as a team. In other words, the Bengals were right in line with what San Francisco did at home to many other NFL teams. Some with outstanding running games. The Bengals had 68 total rushing yards on Sunday.
The Niners also had the luxury of focusing on the run game. The world knew that the Bengals were not going to be gun slinging with a first time NFL quarterback fresh off of backup duties. San Francisco was aware the Bengals were going to run and they had the luxury of stacking the box.
Next week the Bengals face an even better defense in Denver. Being one dimensional in that game could spell disaster. Cincinnati needs to stay balanced even if the final stats don't look incredible.