49ers @ Bengals
Final Score: 49ers 26, Bengals 23
A barnburner of an OT game between two evenly matched teams saw the 49ers come out on top, scoring a TD to best the Bengals’ OT field goal. This game was a true defensive battle that was swung by multiple huge errors by the Bengals, a growing trend. The 49ers stormed out to an early lead, capitalizing on two muffed punt returns by Darius Phillips to make it a 20-6 ballgame. Neither offense had much success until their backs were against the wall, with Joe Burrow rallying from down 14 in the 4th quarter and Jimmy Garoppolo leading the potential game-winning drive if not for a missed kick by Robbie Gould with time expiring. This trend continued in OT as Joe Burrow moved down the field with ease until Zach Taylor called two run plays forcing a 3rd down pass disrupted by Nick Bosa. Then, Jimmy G drove down the field with the help of George Kittle and Brandon Aiyuk until they sealed it on a play-action pass that saw Aiyuk sneak in upon review.
San Francisco 49ers
Jimmy Garoppolo: 27/41, 296 ards, 2 TD | 1 rush, 3 yards
The 49ers have built an offense to their QB’s strengths behind a power running game and downfield options with serious YAC ability. Despite a nearly non-existent running game, Garoppolo was able to execute the conservative game plan and avoided the big mistakes in this game. Further, he stepped up big on two huge drives, with one closing out the 4th quarter including this key third-down target to his favorite target George Kittle.
GEORGE KITTLE. WOW.
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) December 13, 2021
He continued this momentum in OT, hitting Kittle all over the field and delivering a short throw to Brandon Aiyuk that he drove toward the left pylon for the win.
Garappolo didn’t throw downfield in this game much at all, with a long of 25 yards which came in the OT session to Jajuan Jennings. He frequently found his favorite target George Kittle both underneath and over the top on a key corner route on a 3rd down that set up the potential game-winning FG that was missed. Garappolo is still a limited asset in this offense but can put up respectable stat lines when his downfield options break some of these shorter throws for a touchdown like they did today.
Jeff Wilson Jr.: 13 carries, 56 yards
JaMycal Hasty: 3 targets, 3 receptions, 10 yards
With Elijah Mitchell out for this game due to a concussion and knee injury, Jeff Wilson Jr. got the start and didn’t do much with it. Wilson struggled to find space throughout the game and was mostly used as an inside running plodder/decoy to supplement play-action rollouts and end-around runs by Deebo Samuel. Wilson notably got no work in the passing game, all of which went to backup JaMycal Hasty who also wasn’t able to find much room against an aggressive Bengals defense.
Obviously given these results it’s hard to find much optimism in this backfield outside of Elijah Mitchell.
Wide Receiver/Tight End
George Kittle: 15 targets, 13 receptions, 151 yards, TD
Brandon Aiyuk: 11 targets, 6 receptions, 62 yards, TD
Deebo Samuel: 1 target, 1 reception, 22 yards | 8 carries, 37 yards, TD
Jauan Jennings: 5 targets, 3 receptions, 46 yards
Kyle Juszczyk: 2 targets, 1 reception, 5 yards
George Kittle was absolutely spectacular in this game. He led the 49ers in targets, receptions, and yardage. Kittle showed what a matchup nightmare he can be for defenses, being too strong for DB’s to cover while also being too athletic for LB’s to shadow. The Bengals could not seem to find an answer for Kittle throughout the game as he drove this 49ers offense downfield every opportunity he was called upon. He secured tough contested catches downfield, served as an underneath outlet while moving the sticks on key situations (see GIF in Garoppolo section), and scored a TD on a simple in cutting route diving toward the left pylon:
— San Francisco 49ers (@49ers) December 12, 2021
Brandon Aiyuk continued his resurgence this week as he looks to regain the form we saw Aiyuk finish with last year. Jimmy G peppered Aiyuk with targets throughout this game as he ran as a clear #2 option to Kittle. This all culminated in his game-winning TD catch on a pass where Aiyuk showed off his athletic ability, tight roping the sidelines running through arm tackles to secure the W.
BRANDON AIYUK WALKS IT OFF IN OVERTIME
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) December 13, 2021
Deebo Samuel is a true swiss army knife for this offense and has been used more creatively as the season has gone on. He was the 49ers’ most successful runner today, lining up both in the slot and in the backfield. Deebo is morphing into more of a running back than a receiver of late but this could change any week. His most impressive play of the night saw him turning a simple end around into a jaw-dropping 27 yard TD finding a lane on the outside that few could slip through with the ease he did.
DEEBO FOR 6! #FTTB
— FOX Sports: NFL (@NFLonFOX) December 12, 2021
Jajuan Jennings secured some big catches in this game including one for 25 yards, the longest pass of the game for the team. He is simply the third receiver in this offense for now but it’s clear the 49ers like to go to him against smaller DB’s to utilize his 6’3 frame as he did against Mike Hilton on the aforementioned 25 yarder.
Joe Burrow: 25/34, 348 yards, 2 TD | 2 rushes, 3 yards
Joe Burrow played arguably one of the greatest games of his career in this loss today. His numbers do not do his performance justice as he was pressured by the aggressive 49ers front all day, getting intimately familiar with the unblockable Nick Bosa. Burrow maneuvered around the pocket, read blitzes pre-snap, and willed the Bengals back from a 14 point deficit with two huge 4th quarter TD drives punctuated with TDs to Ja’Marr Chase. The first of these saw Burrow pirouette around the pass rush utilizing Madden playmaker to find Chase breaking backward against the grain in the back of the end zone.
Watch on CBS pic.twitter.com/rPxhN58UnC
— Cincinnati Bengals (@Bengals) December 12, 2021
Burrow maintained the momentum in overtime as well, driving the Bengals down to the 49ers’ 26 when Zach Taylor inexplicably took the game out of his hands by calling two simple runs that led to a 3rd and 3 which was stunted by the pass rush of Nick Bosa.
Burrow deserved a better outcome in this game. He is already an above-average quarterback in this league and he is improving at a rate that should make Bengals fans and fantasy managers excited for his future. He will still be limited by his below-average O-Line and conservative gameplan at times but Burrow is a stud and showed it all today.
Joe Mixon: 18 carries, 58 yards | 2 targets, 2 receptions, 10 yards
Samaje Perine: 4 carries, 11 yards | 5 targets, 4 receptions, 22 yards
Joe Mixon struggled for the second week in a row but it is unfair to pin this all on him as the 49ers simply dominated the line of scrimmage in this game. The Bengals O-Line saw its RT Riley Reiff go down with injury yet again, augmenting their issues of getting any push against a dominant front. Further, the Bengals really set up Mixon to fail by continuing to run out of the shotgun in plays that simply weren’t working for the Bengals’ run game.
Mixon did get back in the mix on passing downs this week but was unable to break anything with both of his receptions. Samaje Perine continues to get work on 3rd downs as a dump-off option for Burrow as well as mixing in on some inside runs.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Tee Higgins: 7 targets, 5 receptions, 114 yards
Ja’Marr Chase: 8 targets, 5 receptions, 77 yards, 2 TD | 1 rush, 6 yards
Tyler Boyd: 5 targets, 4 receptions, 44 yards
C.J. Uzomah: 6 targets, 4 receptions, 56 yards
Drew Sample: 1 target, 1 reception, 14 yards
Tee Higgins‘ run as the Bengals top receiving option continued for the third week in a row on yardage at least. Higgins now has at least 114 yards in each of his last three games and is showing no signs of slowing down. Today, Higgins was unable to really get behind the 49ers’ defense and didn’t get any of the big one on one jump ball chances he’s had previous weeks but instead, Higgins was able to find space through the middle on skinny posts which he took for chunk gains:
— Pro Football Culture (@proftblculture) December 13, 2021
Ja’Marr Chase started this game with a drop that likely had a few cynics ready to assume his downtrend may continue this week. But, symbolically, Chase finally got behind the opposing defense as he has all season and secured two consecutive TDs from Joe Burrow. One showed off his well-established chemistry with Burrow (GIF in Burrow section), while the game-tying TD saw him create separation down the sidelines on a slant and go route where he caught the ball over his left shoulder.
— Cincinnati Bengals (@Bengals) December 13, 2021
As we’ve seen over the last couple of weeks, these two supremely talented young WRs will be tough for any defense to corral and each of them could go off on any given week, possibly at the expense of the other. Regardless, there is enough juice in this offense for both of them to eat, like they did today.
Tyler Boyd continued his ho-hum season, producing in a limited role as the inside and underneath security blanket for Burrow. His output has been too sporadic to trust in fantasy leagues.
C.J. Uzomah had a relatively solid game for himself in this one but remains a better real-life option than a fantasy option. It is worth noting that Uzomah is a catalyst for this Bengals offense, always displaying drive and emotion which can wake up a sleeping Bengals team. Regardless, he is nothing more than a TD-dependent TE in fantasy.