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3 things we learned from the Bengals’ loss to the 49ers

This one was just as ugly as the other one-score losses this year.

San Francisco 49ers v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

Four points was the difference between first in the division and out of the playoff picture.

With the Ravens’ loss to the Browns, the Cincinnati Bengals had a chance to get back in first. Now, the Bengals are in third after losing a game that they very well should have won.

The Bengals shot themselves in the foot once again, after giving the 49ers 10 free points.

One consistent gripe about Zac Taylor is his record in one-score games. The Bengals have lost four one-score games this year, and they have all been head-scratchers. Losing to the Bears’ in Justin Fields’ first game of extended action, losing to the Packers when Mason Crosby couldn’t make a kick to save his life, losing to the Jets with Mike White under center, and losing to the 49ers last week were all demoralizing results.

Taylor’s record was so bad the first two years that this season seems like a success. But now, Taylor is on even ground with other coaches from around the NFL.

What would happen if you gave this team to another offensive coach from the NFL? If you gave this roster and playbook to Andy Reid, Bruce Arians, Sean McVay, Sean Payton, Kliff Kingsbury, or their opponent from this week, Kyle Shanahan, would they still be 7-6? Or would they have more wins than that?

Anyways, here’s what we learned from the Bengals’ loss to the 49ers:

Burrow

Joe Mixon has been on fire for the Bengals over the last few weeks, but teams were bound to catch on at some point.

Bengals running back carried the ball 22 times for 69 yards. That’s not getting shut down, but it does make for a long day on offense.

For contrast, Burrow completed nearly three out of every four throws for 348 yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions. Sure, it took him a while before he got settled in the pocket, but he was unstoppable in the third quarter.

Towards the end of the game, Burrow was launching bombs to Tee Higgins and Ja’Marr Chase. Part of this is due to the 49er’s lack of depth at cornerback. Opposite from Josh Norman was their fifth-round pick from this year’s draft.

Instead of going with the hot hand, the Bengals ran the ball three times in the last five plays, and gained a total of five yards. Burrow got the ball to plus territory after two throws of more than 20 yards. Then the Bengals ran the ball twice and set up a third down that led to a sack. This forced them to settle for a field goal, which extended the game for the 49ers.

Mixon is not a bad football player, and the Bengals’ run game is far from what it was last year. That said, the Bengals did a poor job of attacking the weaknesses of the 49ers. Instead of taking advantage of a weakened secondary, they ran the ball through the strength of the San Francisco defense.

D-line

All year, we’ve been saying that someone other than Trey Hendrickson has to get pressure.

Against the 49ers, the Bengals were forced to do so, after Hendrickson left the game with an injury.

The result was four sacks, eight QB hits, and five TFLs that did not come from Hendrickson. Larry Ogunjobi, B.J. Hill, and D.J. Reader all got sacks, in addition to Hendrickson and a fifth that was credited to the team. Three of the four starters got sacks, and the one who didn’t got three QB hits. Even Cam Sample and Joe Bachie made Jimmy Garoppolo get rid of some throws early.

Special teams

It’s easy to see how Darius Philips cost the Bengals at least 10 points due to muffed punts. During regulation, the 49ers scored half of their points with a short field. If Philips had been able to haul those punts in, then it is extremely likely that the game would have been a Bengals’ victory after only four quarters.

Philips is easy to point the finger at, but the special teams unit as a whole was not what we have come to expect from Darrin Simmons’ unit.

On kickoff duty, Stanley Morgan also had the dropsies. Other than the muffed kick, he and Philips each returned one kick for 18 yards. The Bengals averaged only 13 yards every time they ran the ball out.

You know things are bad when Evan McPherson misses a kick. He has been ridiculous this year, but even he missed a kick that could have changed the outcome had it been good.

The special teams unit is never something the Bengals fans have to stress about. Hopefully they can get it turned around when they go to Denver next week.