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Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Joe Staley finds silver linings in 49ers’ loss to Seahawks, says Bengals offer ‘a big challenge’

Dec 7, 2021 at 9:03 AM--

A loss like Sunday's to the Seattle Seahawks may have sat with Joe Staley for a while during his playing days. But now, the retired San Francisco 49ers tackle turned NBC Sports Bay Area analyst, like the less-obsessive fans, just gets to go on with his week. There is no doubt that he still loves his former team, but he gets to be more objective about the losses. And it's helpful that he doesn't have to go into the facilities on Monday morning to review the film of his team's mistakes.

While fans lament what went wrong, Staley's objectivity affords him the ability to look at the positives. He saw many. Most were on the defensive side of the football.

"I think the defense, being put in the positions that they were consistently in that game with the three turnovers and only giving up seven points off of those three turnovers [was a positive]," Staley said Monday on KNBR's Papa & Lund show. "Getting that fumble down late to give their team a chance. I thought Azeez [Al-Shaair] played really good in Fred's [Warner] absence. I think D.J. Jones was unbelievable, as he has been for this last half of the season, yesterday, forcing a fumble, big TFLs. The defensive line was unbelievable.

"So, there's things to focus on and take away that are positives. It's not just all about the negatives. It's easy for us to do that after a loss. It's easy as a player to do that after a loss, is just to focus on what went wrong."

Players will have to put Sunday's 30-23 defeat at Lumen Field behind them quickly. A big game against the Cincinnati Bengals approaches. And with the 49ers currently sitting in the final Wild Card spot in the playoff standings, there is no more room for error if the team hopes to continue playing past Week 18.

Staley believes the Bengals will offer a good challenge for the 49ers, and a win could soothe the embarrassment from losing four straight to the Seahawks.

"[The Bengals are] a team that's kind of similar to what the Niners are," Staley explained. "They're very hot and cold. They'll go out there and beat a team by 30 points and look like they can't be stopped, and they're going to be a team that's going to go deep in the playoffs. And then also, they'll lose to the Jets. And they've had games where they can't get anything going on offense, and they'll kind of get gashed defensively deep down the field like they did against the Chargers [on Sunday].

"I think their offense has so much talent, the Bengals, and that's going to be a big challenge for this defense, with all the young talent that they have with [Joe] Burrow and that passing game, with [Ja'Marr] Chase, and Joe Mixon running the ball the way he is this year.

"I think this is a game that the Niners have to get back to that run-first identity, converting on third downs, getting more opportunities, because the wide-zone scheme is set up to have a lot more success in the running game against the 4-3 [defense]. And we had a similar scheme—different players, I know—but similar scheme that we went up there in Cincinnati the last time in '19, and ran the ball all over them that day, and put up a huge offensive output. [They have] better players and a better team, but the scheme is still the same, and Kyle's going to know how to attack it."

You can listen to the entire conversation with Staley below.

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