That's usually the case when you don't have even 250 yards of total offense and average less than 2.0 yards per rushing attempt while allowing four sacks. Simply put, the Bengals offensive line was whipped Sunday with seemingly every lineman that suited up failing to step up.
As Pro Football Focus' Rick Drummond put it, this was easily one of the worst performances the line has had this season.
Not everything came up roses for Cincinnati—their O-line had some serious troubles in the run game, particularly when dealing with the interior of SF’s defensive line. Highlighting the struggle was the matchup of NT Ian Williams (+5.2) with center Russell Bodine (-5.2), where Bodine picked up eight negatively-graded plays in the run game. SF’s Quinton Dial (+5.7) also proved to be a pain, as he collected wins against each member of the Bengals’ O-line, Andre Smith (-4.5) being his chief victim.
To be fair, the line was facing a tough task blocking against a loaded box for most of this game. With AJ McCarron making his first NFL start, the 49ers made sure that if they lost, it was going to be because the young quarterback beat them.
While McCarron had his moments, he could only do so much with no ground game and the line not doing much better in pass protection.
It didn't help that the Bengals committed several offensive penalties. As head coach Marvin Lewis put it, that put the offense in far too many holes that McCarron thankfully ended up getting them out of on several occasions.
"Offensively, we didn’t create much space in the running game. We did some, but brought ourselves back with penalties," Lewis said Monday. "We have to correct that with our hands. I thought McCarron was able to dig us out of a hole with some throws, which was big."
Offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth didn't seem to make too much of it though, noting how the 49ers made a lot of changes in their defense after getting embarrassed the week prior in a 24-10 loss to the Cleveland Browns.
"I think they adjusted from last week. Cleveland gashed them pretty good," Whitworth said Sunday. "They came out with a little different adjustment this week. Something they haven’t really been doing. That is NFL football. That’s why the guys over there get coordinators and players get paid too. They made a good adjustment that hurt us a bit. They had a lot to prove. The week after you get torched like that on the road, you are going to come home and you are going to fight your butt off. They had that attitude today."
While Lewis agrees the 49ers did some different things that caught the Bengals off guard, it was more breakdowns and missed blocks that really caused the line to struggle.
"They (49ers) did some things a little differently, but we had guys break down across the board," Lewis said. "Sometimes you zig and zag and you hit some runs up in there, which we did, then we jump around and get a holding call and it’s called back. Those are the things you have to do in the run game if you’re playing a group that is doing things differently. Everyone has to see it through the same eyes, get on it, and roll it out of there."
It must also be noted that McCarron rarely called audibles in this game, something Andy Dalton does frequently when making pre-snap reads, which often put the offense in position to have positive plays. McCarron isn't there yet, and not having that puts the line in more situations where they're not as likely to win enough matchups to generate a positive gain.
Thankfully, the defense forced four turnovers that the offense converted into 14 points. They were the heroes of this game, but that was also against one of the NFL's worst offenses. Against better teams with better offenses, the Bengals' offense must step up if they're going to beat teams like the Broncos, this week and whoever they may meet in the playoffs.
While it's not 100-percent on the offensive line to make this happen, they still have to play significantly better than they did on Sunday.