Can the 49ers continue their impressive defensive performance against the Bengals?
Jose Luis Sanchez III
If the San Francisco 49ers were going to defeat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, it was going to be through their offense. Or at least, that is what most people initially believed since the bread and butter of the 49ers is supposed to be their offense. The 49ers won their week one matchup due to their defense. Jameis Winston had a nightmare of a game throwing for three interceptions with two of them returned for touchdowns.
The 49ers defense was so impressive that they were only three points shy of what the offense managed to score (17 to 14). It cannot be overstated how stellar Ahkello Witherspoon was with his coverage against Mike Evans throughout the game. Witherspoon earned the top rated honors for Pro Football Focus on the defense and rightfully so. It wasn't just Witherspoon who had an elite showing. The entire defense acted as a cohesive unit.
It was a great sight to see considering how the defense fared last season. It just goes to show why an impactful pass rush is so crucial. Albeit, the defense looked great against a poor Buccaneers offense led by Jameis Winston. The real test will be on Sunday morning against the Cincinnati Bengals who almost emerged victorious in Seattle versus the Seahawks. With an early start time for the 49ers on Sunday, will their defense be able to continue their impressive performance against the Bengals?
They most certainly can. The Bengals only lost by one point against the Seahawks (21-20), so that shows how neck and neck they were with them. It's definitely not an easy thing to do to win against the Seahawks on the road. I have no doubt that the Bengals will prove a much better opponent than the Buccaneers because Andy Dalton is a significantly better quarterback than Jameis Winston. However, that does not mean the 49ers cannot replicate last Sunday's performance.
I was able to watch a good portion of the Bengals versus Seahawks game today and the close score makes the Bengals look better than they are. Two of their scores that John Ross III was the recipient of were both big plays that should have stopped. One of them was flea flicker in which Ross was double covered. He somehow evades both defenders easily because of their horrific angles. That is a mistake from the defense. If they have proper technique, then Ross does not score and can give the Seahawks defense a chance to limit the damage.
The next big play to Ross was the easiest touchdown he will ever get as a pro. The safety of the Seahawks made the most horrific play on the ball. Never has poor safety play been seen since the 2012 AFC division game between the Denver Broncos and Baltimore Ravens. If the safety does literally anything different he can intercept that pass. Ross was almost waiting on it like a punt returner. That is now two touchdowns allowed that were strictly mistakes on the Seahawks defense.
So the Cincinnati Bengals aren't really as good as the score indicates. The Seahawks kept them alive in that game and were lucky to close out a victory. Judging from their performance against the Buccaneers, the 49ers hardly made any mistakes. Especially nothing of the degree that Seattle did versus John Ross III. San Francisco's defense can make a lot of plays against the Bengals. The early start time is really the only factor that would hinder this defense, but that is why the 49ers have stayed on the east coast to keep their bodies adjusted.
Star running back Joe Mixon will probably not even play due to injury. That is another player that they don't have to worry about, so the focus will be on Tyler Boyd and Ross. Richard Sherman and Ahekllo Witherspoon should be able to handle them, aside from the fact that those two receivers are fast. It's really the main weakness of these two corners. Regardless, if the pass rush can get Dalton shaky like Winston, then their speed will be negated. I fully expect the San Francisco 49ers defense to continue their impressive performance in week two.