Joe Burrow, Bengals rally to drop 49ers to 5-3, second in NFC West

Oct 29, 2023, 6:30 PM | Updated: 6:37 pm

Joe Burrow #9 of the Cincinnati Bengals celebrates after a scramble during the fourth quarter of th...

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Trailing by a score midway through the fourth quarter, the 49ers needed a stop to attempt the comeback. And just like the last two weeks, they whiffed when it mattered most.

The San Francisco 49ers were handed their third-straight loss of the regular season Sunday, losing to Cincinnati Bengals, 31-17. The Red & Gold drop to 5-3 on the season, and second place in the NFC West after the Seattle Seahawks won their matchup in Week 8.

Only three weeks removed from dominating the Dallas Cowboys on primetime, the 49ers look a shell of themselves entering their bye week.

Here’s how Week 8 played out.

The 49ers’ offensive struggles continued to open the game, going three and out on the first possession. After a good run of eight yards on first down, San Francisco couldn’t convert, getting stuffed at the line of scrimmage on third down. They were forced to punt thereafter.

Cincinnati, on the other hand, had their offense clicking form the jump.

The Bengals launched a 10-play drive on the next possession, marching 85 yards downfield in four and a half minutes. Despite almost coughing up the football one the opening play, the visitors rebounded, with quarterback Joe Burrow hitting his targets for first downs. His best play of the drive came on a would-be sack, but, the savvy QB evaded the areas of defensive linemen Nick Bosa and Arik Armstead, scrambling to his right before hitting wideout Tee Higgins for a first down.

The drive continued with chunk plays to WR Ja’Marr Chase and RB Joe Mixon, getting them inside the redzone. Tow plays later, Burrow hit WR Tyler Boyd on a fade route for the seven-yard score.

7-0 to Cincinnati in the matter of minutes.

The visitors’ opening drive woke the 49ers up momentarily, countering with their own eight-play drive next. QB Brock Purdy made some magic this time, using his legs to pick up a crucial third down conversion for 16 yards. Then he hit WR Brandon Aiyuk while scrambling to his right, a big pickup of 31 yards, getting them in the redzone.

A few plays later, RB Christian McCaffrey converted the two-yard run for six to tie the game at seven all near the end of the first quarter.

That score marked the 16th-straight game that CMC has scored a rushing touchdown, now tied for the NFL record with hall-of-famer Lenny Moore.

Sadly, the 49ers defense didn’t get a spark from the offense on the next series, giving another another TD drive to Cincinnati.

Burrow and Co. moved methodically downfield, scorching the 49ers defense via pass and run. And after six plays, they found paydirt once more. Burrow surveyed the endzone before finding WR Andrei Iosivas from two yards out to put the Bengals back on top, 14-7, to close the first quarter.

The 49ers couldn’t respond on the next series, going three and out to start the second period of play.

Giving the ball back to the visitors, they found a way to go on a long drive again, going 11 plays before getting stopped. But not before Burrow filled the 49ers, taking a QB draw on third and long for a first down. Eventually, SF’s pass rush got home, with Armstead taking Burrow down to force a fourth down.

Sending on kicker Evan McPherson for the 50-yard field goal, the specialist missed it wide right, leaving the score, 14-7.

This time San Francisco responded with a decent drive, going seven plays for 52 yards. The drive started with a beautiful layer pass to Aiyuk for 23 yards on play-action. Then, Purdy used his legs to get another first down on a designed read option.

Unfortunately, that where the drive stalled, after a hold by WR Jauan Jennings back up the 49ers on second down. Unable to get all the yards back with his legs, Purdy and the offense settled for three points.

Rookie K Jake Moody stepped up, lacing one through the uprights from 36 yards away. 14-10 is the score with 2:44 remaining in the half.

The 49ers’ defense struggled to stop the bleeding before the half however, allowing the Bengals to march down the field again. At one point, Cincinnati had 20 first downs in the first half, while the 49ers had 20 offensive plays total.

But backed up to their own redzone, the 49ers’ defense was able to force a turnover. Reading a screen pass to tight end Irv Smith Jr., DL Clelin Ferrell popped the ball out with his fists, allowing cornerback Isaiah Oliver to recover the football.

The 49ers get a crucial turnover to close out the first half.

San Francisco’s offense attempts to get into field-goal range with 30 seconds remaining, starting with a dart to tight end George Kittle for 34 yards. Sadly, time ran out in the half, as Christian McCaffrey soundly get out of bounds to stop the clock.

14-10 to the visitors at the intermission.

After allowing Burrow and Co. to walk all over them, the 49ers defense stood their ground to open the second half. Despite allowing a few first downs, SF was able to force a field goal. Arik Armstead can be credited for that, getting his second sack of the day on Burrow.

On came McPherson once more, this time hitting it from 56 yards away. 17-10 is the score early in the third quarter.

On the other end, the 49ers’ offense couldn’t counter right away, forced to punt the football after five plays. A drop by George Kittle was the final play of their drive, going through his hands on a fastball from the QB.

The Bengals followed suit of their hosts on the next series, going three and out for the first time all day.

Given the ball with a chance to tie it up, the 49ers had them on the ropes. And for a moment, it looks like they would tie it up, going on a nine-play drive.

But then disaster struck the 49ers’ offense inside the redzone.

Trying to fool the Bengals, the 49ers deployed an option handoff on first and goal. After pulling it from the ballcarrier, Purdy looked to RB Elijah Mitchell in the back of the endzone. The pass was deflected by linebacker Germiane Pratt at the LOS, picking out off simultaneously for the crucial turnover.

A six-minute drive down the toilet for the 49ers.

But the defense had Purdy’s back on the next drive, forcing a punt after four plays by the visitors. San Francisco almost got another turnover to ope the fourth quarter, but a Chase fumble was ruled an incompletion after the fact.

Still, the 49ers forced a punt, giving the offense another chance to even the score.

And then Purdy threw another interception, this time telegraphing the throw to Aiyuk over the middle. Linebacker Logan Wilson saw it and jumped on it immediately. A second pick for Purdy on back-to-back throws, and maybe the clock has struck midnight o the young QB’s cinderella story.

The Bengals made quick work of the gift, using a fake screen pass to launch a TD strike to Chase from 17 yards out.

24-10 to Cincinnati, just like that.

The game wasn’t over just yet though, as Purdy and the offense mustered up a scoring drive right after. After hitting Aiyuk for two big gains, the 49rs were in the redzone again. Then, Purdy had to make some magic, scrambling to avoid pass rushers. Eventually moving to his right, he fired a laser cross-body to McCaffrey, hitting him for there four-yard score.

24-17 with eight minutes remaining in the game.

But just like the last few weeks, the 49ers couldn’t win the grimy game when it mattered most, allowing Burrow to walk down the field for the nail in the coffin.

Going on a 10 play drive that last five minutes, the elite gunslinger made a few big throws to get his team on the other side of the field. Then, he used his legs to pick up another first down. And after milking some clock, he handed it off to RB Joe Mixon, bouncing past Nick Bosa for the score.

31-17 to Cincinnati, and that was all she wrote.

The San Francisco 49ers now enter their bye week on a three-game skid, something the team didn’t expect after Week 5’s dismantlement of the Dallas Cowboys. But while Purdy will get a lot of the blame for his fourth quarter picks (four in two games), the 49ers still feel confident that he can leads the team to great things.

“He made some bad picks there at the end. I thought he was one of the reasons were in the game today. Some of those throws he made were unbelievable,” coach Kyle Shanahan said off his rookie gunslinger postgame.

“Brock is made of the right stuff,” Fred Warner added about Purdy. “He’s the reason why we have a chance to win games.”

But after going for 365 passing yards one TD and two INTs in Week 8,

“I want to be better for this team, for this organization. Just taking care of the ball in some crucial parts of the games, that’s the NFL, man, it comes down to [that]. You’re not going to blow teams out every week. It’s take care of the ball and play good team football, and that’s where I’m at with that,” Brock Purdy stated.

But the blame isn’t all on Purdy, making great throws throughout the afternoon. The loss is equally on the 49ers defense, allowing 400 yards of total offense by Cincinnati. And then on offense, having three weeks of turnovers in the redzone isn’t going to get it done, and they know that.

Now slated for a much-needed reset at the bye, the coaches hope the players take the last three weeks to heart, playing below their standards of 49ers football.

“Our guys need to be pissed off. We need to come back [from the bye] with more focus. Our defense needs to do better. Our offense needs to do better. Our team needs to do better,” Shanahan exclaimed.

Upcoming San Francisco 49ers Schedule

  • Sunday, November 12th @ Jacksonville Jaguars – 10:00 AM PST
  • Sunday, November 19th vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers- 1:05 PM PST
  • Thursday, November 23rd @ Seattle Seahawks – 5:20 PM PST
  • Sunday, December 3rd @ Philadelphia Eagles – 1:25 PM PST
  • Sunday, December 10th vs. Seattle Seahawks – 1:05 PM PST

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