The Bengals need to bounce back on Sunday following a sloppy loss to the Chargers in Week 13. They’re still in the mix for a playoff spot and a win over the 49ers is crucial in their quest to continue their journey to the postseason promise land.
Here are three keys to victory:
Take Care of the Football
Joe Burrow has thrown 14 interceptions this season and while they aren't all his fault, he’s got to be crisper over the next five games. The 49ers will be on the hunt for takeaways on Sunday knowing that the Bengals are 0-4 when Burrow throws two or more interceptions. Cincinnati is 7-1 when he throws one interception or less.
Turnovers are not just a Burrow problem, they’re a team problem and multiple mistakes in this area almost always lead to a loss.
Getting Trey Hopkins and Riley Reiff back on Sunday should help immensley against Nick Bosa and company.
Stop George Kittle
If George Kittle is as involved Sunday as he was last week against Seattle, it could be a tough game for Cincinnati defensively. Kittle exploded for nine receptions, 181 yards, and two touchdowns with Deebo Samuel out with a groin injury. Even if Samuel plays this week (questionable), he likely won’t be playing at 100% health. Now that Kittle seems to be fully recovered from the calf injury he sustained in Week 1, he will be their featured weapon and Bengals fans will not want to see him flourish like he did a week ago.
Burrow’s dislocated pinkie finger didn’t appear to slow him down in practice this week, which is good for Zac Taylor’s crew. The Bengals' talented receiving corps has an opportunity to make big plays on Sunday. Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd could all have exceptional games against a questionable 49ers’ secondary.
Emmanuel Moseley left the game in Seattle with a high ankle sprain and rookie Deommodore Lenoir was next in line to replace him and struggled last week in coverage in the first half. Kyle Shanahan then went with veteran cornerback Dontae Johnson at the beginning of the second half. Johnson did not travel with the team to Cincinnati due to a personal matter and is listed as questionable on the 49ers injury report.
San Francisco was clearly unimpressed with Lenoir so we could see rookie Ambry Thomas competing for playing time. There’s a good chance they rely on their zone defense with so many question marks at cornerbacl. Taylor and Burrow have an opportunity to be creative offensively and put pressure on the 49ers' injury riddled defense, especially with an explosive playmaker like Chase.
For more on Sunday's matchup, watch the video below.
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