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Three Thoughts on the Bengals' 26-23 Loss to the 49ers

Cincinnati let a golden opportunity get away on Sunday.

CINCINNATI — The Bengals lost to the 49ers 26-23 in overtime on Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium. 

Cincinnati had a chance to move into first place in the AFC North with a win. Instead, they're in third place and wouldn't make the playoffs if the season ended today. 

Here are three thoughts on a disappointing day for the home team:

Zac Taylor Drops the Ball

Should head coach Zac Taylor continue to call plays? Is he capable of winning close games? 

The Bengals had no business winning on Sunday after a sloppy 3+ quarters of football, but Joe Burrow put on his Superman cape and nearly saved them. 

The 25-year-old led them on two touchdown drives in the fourth quarter to tie the game at 20 with 1:21 remaining in regulation. 

The Bengals forced overtime and Burrow connected with Tee Higgins for a 26 yard gain. One play later he found C.J. Uzomah for 23 yards. 

Cincinnati had the ball 1st-and-10 on San Francisco's 26 yard-line. 

Burrow didn't throw another pass the rest of the game. 

Taylor called two runs for Joe Mixon and then the 49ers sacked Burrow on third down. 

No, they didn't take a deep shot to Ja'Marr Chase, even though he scored two fourth quarter touchdowns

In the fourth quarter and overtime Burrow completed 11-of-15 passes for 210 yards and two touchdowns. He had a nearly perfect passer rating of 154.8 over that span. 

An offensive minded head coach taking the ball out of his star quarterbacks hands with the game on the line is coaching malpractice. It's even worse when you see the numbers Burrow put up in crunch time.

“That’s one that will keep you up at night," Taylor said after the game. "We have a quarterback that can win us a lot of games, and there’s maybe one more pass instead of a run there. Sure, if we hit that run, I feel great about it. But we didn’t. And so then you go back to hindsight, and I’m sure I’ll feel a lot of that tonight.” 

Even without hindsight, it was ridiculous to take the ball out of Burrow's hands in that situation. 

New Punt Returner

The Darius Phillips era is over. Two muffed punts on Sunday led to 10 points for the 49ers, including a touchdown late in the second quarter that gave them a 17-6 halftime lead

Trent Taylor and Pooka Williams are both on the practice squad. Trenton Irwin was inactive on Sunday, but he's capable of returning punts.

Phillips has been shaky all season. It was surprising to see him out there after the first muffed punt. It's time for Darrin Simmons and company to go in another direction. 

Related: Winners and Losers From the Bengals' Loss to the 49ers

Chase Responds

Ja'Marr Chase responded the right way on Sunday after an ugly start to the game. 

The rookie dropped what would've been a first down on the Bengals' first drive of the game. Then he nearly caught a 37-yard touchdown in the second quarter, but it was overturned by the officials after a replay review.  

The 21-year-old kept his composure and made huge plays with the game on the line. First, he caught a 17-yard touchdown on 4th-and-5 that cut the 49ers' lead to 20-13 midway through the fourth quarter. 

Burrow scrambled away from pressure and threw the ball up hoping Chase would make a play. The rookie tight roped the back of the end zone and got both feet down in bounds for the score. 

“That was such a great play by him," Burrow said after the game. "I started rolling out left and then reversed field and he did a great job of adjusting to the to the ball in the air. That was one of my favorite touchdowns that we’ve thrown together. That’s one you really have to be on the same page almost immediately, and it worked.”

Burrow found Chase for the game tying touchdown eight minutes later. 

The Bengals nearly stole a victory from the jaws of defeat thanks to the Burrow to Chase connection. 

Bonus

If the first thought about Taylor's playcalling wasn't enough, you've come to the right place. 

The Bengals trailed 17-6 at halftime, but received the kickoff at the start of the second half. Instead of putting the ball in Burrow's hands, they ran the ball on 3-straight plays, picked up nine yards and punted. 

That was a chance for the Bengals to grab momentum and they completely whiffed. 

Mixon struggled to find room and the offensive line wasn't getting much push. 

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That was one of the many pivotal sequences that cost the Bengals on Sunday against the 49ers.

For more on the loss, watch the video below.

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