The 49ers beat down the Bengals, 41-17, giving them their first 2-0 start since 2012. They’ll return to their charged-up fan base for the Levi’s Stadium home opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers next week.
Not all was well coming out of Cincinnati, however. Stalwart left tackle Joe Staley went down in the third quarter with a lower leg injury and had to be carted off the field. Staley’s injury aside, here are our grades.
Passing offense: A-
The 49ers surpassed their yardage total from Week 1 in the first half Sunday, hitting the locker room 291 yards after amassing just 256 in Tampa Bay. Jimmy Garoppolo, along with the play calling from Kyle Shanahan, had the offense working efficiently. The team punted just once on its first 10 possessions. The only significant blemish was Garoppolo’s ill-advised interception, which he threw trying to hit Richie James Jr. in quadruple coverage in the second quarter. Garoppolo finished with 297 yards after throwing for 166 yards in the opener. San Francisco outgained the Bengals, 572-316, including the 66-yard touchdown to John Ross inside of a minute left. Deebo Samuel scored his first career touchdown and led the way with 87 yards. It was the first time with the 49ers Garoppolo threw for three touchdowns, tying his career high he set in 2016 in a start with the Patriots against the Miami Dolphins.
Rushing offense: A+
Matt Breida eclipsed the 100-yard mark for the fourth time in his career, and he did it in the third quarter before finishing with 121 yards on just 12 carries. The 49ers were nearly 50-50 in their play distribution before the game got out of hand in the second half. Even without Tevin Coleman, who could miss multiple games with a left high ankle sprain, San Francisco averaged 6.5 on the ground over 40 carries, and got two short-yardage touchdowns from Jeff Wilson Jr. after being promoted from the practice squad Saturday. Mostert added 83 yards and the 49ers finished with 261 overall, their most since Shanahan was hired.
Passing defense: A-
The 49ers didn’t get two interceptions for touchdowns like they did last week. But the did put together a solid, albeit imperfect performance against the Bengals. Arik Armstead had a sack on the first snap of the game. Ahkello Witherspoon had another strong performance, yielding very little the Bengals pass catchers, finishing with two pass break ups. His only blemishes: dropping a first-half pick-six and then kicking the ball off the field for a delay of game penalty. Andy Dalton finished with 311 yards and was held in check throughout. The Ross touchdown came against backups. San Francisco had sacks from Ronald Blair, Arik Armstead, DeForest Buckner and Solomon Thomas. Notable: they didn’t get any from Nick Bosa or Dee Ford, who left the game midway through with a knee injury.
Rushing defense: A+
The Bengals had just 26 yards on 16 carries (1.6 average) during the first three quarters before things got out of hand. Kwon Alexander, playing his first full game after getting ejected in the first quarter Week 1, had a very good game. He finished with six tackles and an interception late in the second quarter that set up a field goal before halftime. Joe Mixon, who eclipsed 1,000 yards last season, had just 17 yards on 11 carries. He came into the game questionable with an ankle injury.
Special teams: B
The most notable special teams play of this blowout came from Mitch Wishnowsky, who had a punt downed at the 3-yard line by D.J. Reed in the second quarter on a rare possession San Francisco couldn’t get in scoring range. Emmanuel Moseley had a strong tackle at the 20 on a kickoff. Robbie Gould went 1 of 2 and Wishnowsky averaged 37.5 yards on two punts. Gould missed a field goal midway through the fourth quarter. He led the NFL by making 97.1 percent of his kicks last season (33-34).
The big decision before this game was deciding to spend the week practicing in Youngstown, Ohio, rather than make two cross-country trips back from Tampa and back out to Cincinnati. Instead, the 49ers got on a 40-minute flight after their practice Friday, following a week in the heat and humidity. Overall, it was a good plan from Shanahan and Co., giving Garoppolo a slew of easy throws while getting strong production from the running game. San Francisco began the year with back-to-back road wins to start the season for the first time since 1989. Take a breath. They went 14-2 and won the Super Bowl that season.