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Albert Cesare-USA TODAY Sports

Costly turnovers, shaky defense sink 49ers in 31-17 loss to Bengals

Oct 29, 2023 at 4:24 PM--

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1st 2nd 3rd 4th Tot
CIN 14 0 3 14 31
SF 7 3 0 7 17

The San Francisco 49ers opened the 2023 season looking like the team to beat in the NFL. Now, after three consecutive losses, they're searching for answers.

Sunday's game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara had a similar storyline to their 22-17 loss to the Minnesota Vikings in Week 7. The 49ers couldn't stop Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins in that game (378 yards, two touchdowns, one interception) and saw two late interceptions from quarterback Brock Purdy hurt their chances at a come-from-behind win. Against the Bengals, it was quarterback Joe Burrow (283 yards, 28-of-32 passing, three touchdowns, zero interceptions) who had his way with the 49ers defense, while Purdy committed three second half turnovers on route to a 31-17 defeat.

Purdy finished with 365 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions on 22-of-31 passing with six carries for 57 yards. Tight end George Kittle caught nine of Purdy's passes for 149 yards, while wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk caught five passes for 109 yards. Wide receiver Ja'Maar Chase caught 10 passes for 100 yards and one touchdown for the Bengals.

First Half

After a three-and-out to start the game for the 49ers, the Bengals took over and marched 85 yards on 10 plays to take a 7-0 lead on a touchdown pass from Burrow to wide receiver Tyler Boyd. A dazzling third-down escape from Burrow kept the drive alive early, then the Bengals cruised into the red zone where Burrow found Boyd from seven yards out to put the first points on the scoreboard.

The 49ers were able to respond with a touchdown drive of their own, this one spanning 79 yards and eight plays. A 16-yard run from Purdy on a 3rd-and-8 followed by a 31-yard completion from Purdy to Aiyuk put the 49ers in the red zone, then three plays later running back Christian McCaffrey scored from two yards out to tie the game. The touchdown marked the 17th consecutive game in which McCaffrey has found the end zone.

The disappearing act on defense continued for the 49ers on the next possession, which culminated in another Bengals touchdown following a six-play, 58-yard drive. A 41-yard kick return by Trayveon Williams started the Bengals off at their own 42, then Burrow and the Bengals offense made quick work of the 49ers' defense before stretching their lead to 14-7 on a two-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Andrei Iosivas as the first quarter came to a close.

The 49ers were held to a three-and-out after the touchdown, then came up with a stop on the next possession when Bengals kicker Evan McPherson missed a 50-yard field goal after an 11-play, 48-yard drive. The 49ers answered with a field goal attempt of their own from kicker Jake Moody, who was good from 36 yards out to bring the 49ers within 14-10 with 2:44 left in the first half.

Following the field goal, the Bengals moved 70 yards in nine plays to the 49ers 3-yard line. Then the 49ers' defense delivered the biggest stop of the first half, when defensive end Clelin Ferrell knocked the ball out of the arms of tight end Irv Smith. Cornerback Isaiah Oliver recovered the fumble at the 5-yard line, giving the 49ers possession with 30 seconds left in the half.

The 49ers moved to the Bengals' 45-yard line on the final possession of the half but were unable to get a play off from there before time expired. The two teams accounted for over 400 yards of offense in the first half, with the Bengals holding a yardage edge of 242-189. The Bengals had 20 first downs in the first half to nine from the 49ers, while Burrow delivered 170 yards and two touchdowns on 21-of-23 passing with 19 consecutive completions heading into the break.

Second Half

The Bengals opened the second half with possession and moved across midfield before a sack from defensive lineman Arik Armstead set up a 3rd-and-16 from the 49ers' 46-yard line. A completion to Chase for eight yards on the following play set up a 56-yard field goal attempt from McPherson, which split the uprights to extend the Bengals' lead to 17-10.

The teams exchanged punts on the next two possessions, then the 49ers drove down to the Bengals' 8-yard line in nine plays. That's when Purdy made his first costly mistake, throwing a pass that was tipped and intercepted by linebacker Germaine Pratt, killing a scoring opportunity and giving the Bengals the ball at their own 19.

Purdy was bailed out on the ensuing drive by the defense, who forced a Bengals punt at around midfield. But they were unable to do the same after the next mistake. Purdy was picked off on the following possession by linebacker Logan Wilson, who returned the ball to the 17-yard line. On the next play, Burrow found Chase wide open in the end zone for his third touchdown pass of the day and a 24-10 early fourth quarter lead.

The 49ers crawled back into the game on the next drive, which saw them move 75 yards in 10 plays to cut the lead to 24-17 on a pass from Purdy to McCaffrey. A 25-yard completion to Aiyuk moved the 49ers into Bengals' territory, then after a key conversion on a 3rd-and-6 at the 14-yard line, Purdy found McCaffrey from four yards out to bring the 49ers within seven points at the 8:12 mark in the fourth quarter.

Burrow and the Bengals shut the door on the next drive, which spanned 78 yards in 10 plays and took over five minutes off the clock. There were no third downs on the drive, and in the end the Bengals took a 31-17 lead on their first rushing touchdown of the day -- a five-yard run from Joe Mixon with just under three minutes left to play.

The final nail in the 49ers' coffin came on the next possession, when Purdy fumbled the ball back to the Bengals after five plays. The Bengals ran out most of the clock from there, The win improved the Bengals to 4-3 on the season, while the 49ers fell to 5-3 with the loss.

Game Notes: With the loss, the 49ers now trail the Seattle Seahawks (5-2) in the NFC West... The 49ers were four point favorites heading into the game... The 49ers still hold a sizeable advantage over the Bengals in the all-time series, now leading 13 games to five... McCaffrey's second touchdown gave him 14 career games with a rushing and receiving touchdown, which is one shy of an NFL record held by Marshall Faulk...The 49ers will head into a bye before a Sunday afternoon road game against the Jacksonville Jaguars (6-2) on November 12 (1 p.m. ET/10 a.m. PT, FOX). The Bengals will be hosting Sunday Night Football next week when they face the Buffalo Bills at Paycor Stadium in Cincinnati (8:20 p.m. ET, NBC).

CIN Team Stats SF
266 Passing Yards 347
134 Rushing Yards 113
400 Total Yards 460
8.84 Avg Yards per Pass 11.77
4.96 Avg Yards per Run 4.91
1 Fumbles Lost 1
0 Int Thrown 2
3 Sacks Allowed 2
00:31:23 Time of Pos 00:28:37
1 Penalties 5

Bengals Player Stats
Passing Cmp/Att Yds TDs INTs
Joe Burrow 28/32 283 3 0
Rushing Att Yds Avg TDs
Joe Mixon 16 87 5.4 1
Joe Burrow 6 43 7.2 0
Tyler Boyd 1 6 6 0
Trayveon Williams 2 6 3 0
Ja'Marr Chase 2 -8 -4 0
Receiving Rec Tgt Yds TDs
Ja'Marr Chase 10 12 100 1
Tee Higgins 5 6 69 0
Tyler Boyd 3 3 40 1
Irv Smith 4 4 25 0
Trenton Irwin 2 2 24 0
Joe Mixon 3 3 23 0
Andrei Iosivas 1 1 2 1
Drew Sample 0 1 0 0
Fumbles Fum Lost
Ja'Marr Chase 1 0
Irv Smith 1 1
Kicking FG Att Lg XP
Evan McPherson 1 2 56 4
Punting No Avg I20 Lg
Brad Robbins 3 40 0 49
Punt Returns Att Avg TDs Lg
Trenton Irwin 1 8 0 8
Defense T-A Sck INTs FF
Cam Taylor-Britt 6-2 0 0 0
Sam Hubbard 6-2 1 0 0
Germaine Pratt 5-2 0 1 0
Daxton Hill 5-1 0 0 0
Mike Hilton 4-1 0 0 0
Nick Scott 3-1 0 0 0
B.J. Hill 2-1 0 0 0
DJ Turner 2-0 0 0 0
Jordan Battle 2-0 0 0 0
D.J. Reader 2-0 0 0 0
Logan Wilson 11-2 0 1 0
Josh Tupou 1-1 0 0 0
Cameron Sample 1-0 0 0 0
Jay Tufele 1-0 0 0 0
Zachary Carter 1-0 0 0 0
Myles Murphy 1-0 0 0 0
Trey Hendrickson 1-0 1 0 1

49ers Player Stats
Passing Cmp/Att Yds TDs INTs
Brock Purdy 22/31 365 1 2
Rushing Att Yds Avg TDs
Brock Purdy 6 57 9.5 0
Christian McCaffrey 12 54 4.5 1
Elijah Mitchell 3 2 0.7 0
Kyle Juszczyk 2 0 0 0
Receiving Rec Tgt Yds TDs
George Kittle 9 11 149 0
Brandon Aiyuk 5 9 109 0
Christian McCaffrey 6 7 64 1
Ray-Ray McCloud 2 2 43 0
Elijah Mitchell 0 1 0 0
Fumbles Fum Lost
Brock Purdy 1 1
Kicking FG Att Lg XP
Jake Moody 1 1 36 2
Punting No Avg I20 Lg
Mitch Wishnowsky 3 47.7 2 62
Defense T-A Sck INTs FF
Isaiah Oliver 9-3 0 0 0
Tashaun Gipson 8-2 0 0 0
Dre Greenlaw 8-2 0 0 0
Deommodore Lenoir 6-2 0 0 0
Clelin Ferrell 5-5 0.5 0 1
Charvarius Ward 4-2 0 0 0
Arik Armstead 4-2 2 0 0
Nick Bosa 2-1 0.5 0 0
Fred Warner 10-6 0 0 1
Talanoa Hufanga 10-2 0 0 0
Kevin Givens 1-1 0 0 0
Randy Gregory 1-0 0 0 0
Oren Burks 1-0 0 0 0
Javon Kinlaw 1-0 0 0 0

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