This game was reminiscent of the Seahawks-Niners or Seahawks-Browns games, and might be the story of the season: the defense does enough to keep us in, but the offense refuses to do enough to keep up even with these fairly mediocre offenses. And like the Niners game, the end-score really doesn't represent the difference between the two teams on the field, with 14 Bengals points coming near the end on a punt return and a pick six.
The Bengals dink-and-dunk offense was kept in check for most of the game, Andy Dalton producing 5.8 YPA and only had 29 throws. I don't know about the rest of you, but he showed little to me that made me regret passing on him. And while Bernard Scott pulled off a few nice runs where his speed was too much for our defensive lineman, he was kept to 3.5 YPC. The Bengals tried picking on Richard Sherman and that worked well for a while, but they ended up paying for it when Sherman had one interception and then later on punched a ball out of A.J. Green's hands for Kam Chancellor's interception. Our cornerbacks were not nearly as bad as I had feared, though I could do without the costly pass interference penalties. The Bengals offensive line struggled with our defensive line at times, needing to hold several times, but Dalton showed enough escapability to prevent the pass rush from totally crippling their offense, sacked only once.
Andy Dalton's job seemed mostly to not make mistakes, and he failed at that in throwing multiple interceptions. He was unimpressive otherwise, though the 43-yard TD throw to A.J. Green near the end of the second half was a thing of beauty, with Green outrunning Earl Thomas. Just one of those plays where top-tier talents go head-to-head and one comes out on top.
Special teams were a big factor, with long kicks from Nugent and Hauschka. Hauschka delivered on a bad hold, which was excellent. Less excellent was the return game. Washington had some nice returns but didn't take any all the way on numerous opportunities. On the other side, Pacman Jones and Brandon Tate looked pretty damn good all day, and when the Seahawks showed terrible coverage on a punt, Tate took it to the house.
But the main topic should be offense (once again). Charlie Whitehurst started, and started terribly, producing two three-and-outs on three drives. His middle drive was alright, and could have resulted in a touchdown if not for a Sidney Rice drop and flag. That was quite a factor this game, Rice, Miller and others had key drops at exactly the wrong times, helping neither Whitehurst nor Tarvaris Jackson. But they made up for it, particularly Ben Obamanu, Sidney Rice (both 100-yard games) and the continually incredible Doug Baldwin (73 yards). Also not helping was our offensive line, James Carpenter and Robert Gallery once again standing out in a bad way.
Tarvaris Jackson did not start well either, but he was certainly a shot in the arm for the offense, with multiple big plays with the aforementioned receivers. He produced 8.1 YPA, which is a great number from a quarterback, and marched the offense down the field on multiple drives. The running game didn't help until too late into the game, with some bad run-blocking and Marshawn Lynch producing a pathetic 1.5 yards per carry. But the biggest problem was finishing. Tarvaris produced two long drives in the 2nd and 3rd quarter that led us to the redzone, but we fell short of scoring touchdowns. Once on a run at the end of the first half, where the Bengals dubiously batted the ball away and could have been flagged for delay of game, and once in the third quarter that ended with a short Hauschka field goal. Those were costly misses from our up-and-down defense, which never managed to properly grab any momentum in the game.
But despite all that, after our fourth quarter touchdown the score was 17-12. The Seahawks attempted a two point conversion, a good decision in my opinion because it showed the coaches having more faith in the defense than in the offense, which is a hard to argue against. The two pointer failed, and the game escaped our grasp after that: a field goal, a punt returned for a touchdown and a pick six. The field goal was discouraging, but those others plays are the type that just kind of happen, salt in the wound, rather than telling on the quality of our team in any structural way.
And believe it or not, our offense produced 411 yards versus 252 of the Bengals. The yardage was there, but the touchdowns weren't, through a combination of bad decisions and unfortunate plays. This game was very discouraging on first viewing, because it was such a frustrating watch, but my first impression is that - with all said and done - a) our defense once again performed really well against a run-focused dink-and-dunk offense and b) our offense failed to score, and that certainly won't do, but they showed real signs of life under Tarvaris Jackson. He definitely impressed considering his shorter preparation time and the fact that he was still injured, which is promising for the rest of the season assuming he can keep it up. I wouldn't expect our rungame to improve against the top run defense Cowboys next week, though, and while Lynch is certainly a factor, our offensive line is not nearly as good at run blocking as it should be.
The 49ers are now 6-1, and with no other NFC West team having more than two wins, they are all but guaranteed to win the NFC West this season. And that's sort of ok by me, as the other teams duke it out for draft position.