CINCINNATI – When I played sports or coached, I tried to find a silver lining after a loss or a bad performance.
However, I could not find a bright spot with a search warrant after the Bengals 41-17 loss to San Francisco on Sunday.
The week before, Cincinnati looked sharp and almost pulled off the upset at Seattle, but they dropped the game 21-20.
Quarterback Andy Dalton had a career-high 35 completions and 418 yards with two touchdowns last week, and players and fans were excited about the home opener.
But like a smack in the face, reality hit home this weekend at ‘The Jungle’ in front of 50,666 people.
The third quarter told the story. In those 15 minutes of play, the 49ers had 222 total yards while the Bengals posted eight. Yes, eight.
Overall, San Francisco rumbled for 572 total yards compared to 336 from the orange and black.
The contest was lopsided from the opening drive.
“This is a loss we have to own,” first-year coach Zac Taylor said. “It is what it is. We got blown out at home. We were not good in any phase of the game. On offense, we had too many penalties, and we did not tackle well enough on defense and didn’t take advantage of the opportunities they gave us.”
Offensive penalties plagued Cincinnati early, and lackluster efforts from the defense on tackling proved costly in the first quarter as the 49ers took a 14-7 lead.
A one-yard touchdown pass from Dalton to Tyler Eifert with 4:38 to play in the opening period to tie the game 7-7 gave the fans a glimmer of hope.
But it would be all San Francisco from that point on throughout the rest of the game.
“We just didn’t have any rhythm today on offense,” Dalton said. “We had way too many third-and-longs and too many penalties.”
Dalton finished the game 26 of 42 for 311 yards, two touchdowns and one pick. The biggest play was a 66-yard TD pass to John Ross in the final seconds of the game and added to his statistics.
“Yards when it doesn’t matter doesn’t mean anything in a loss,” he added.
The Bengals don’t have it any easier as they travel to Buffalo (2-0) this Sunday and then to Pittsburgh before they return home to host the Cardinals on October 6.
Come to think of it, there was a bright spot during the game and one afterward that gave me an ounce of hope.
It was good to see Eifert catch a touchdown pass in the first quarter after all he’s been through.
The 2013 first-round draft pick missed most of the last two seasons with injuries.
“It’s good to have him back, and he made a good play on that touchdown,” Dalton said.
But that was one play. Cincinnati must get to work this week and fix the problems that took place all over the field.
In the post-game press conference, Taylor owned up to the debacle, and that was the second thing that encouraged me a little.
“We could say it was frustrating, but we will not allow our guys to hang our heads. This is one game,” he said. “We can’t waste one second feeling sorry for ourselves.”
The integrity inside the locker room is what Taylor is counting on to bounce back at Buffalo this weekend.
“I’m not discouraged with the character of our guys,” he said. “There’s no quit in our guys. We just need to rebound and be better. We’ve got to learn from these mistakes and be better. I know that’s a frustrating thing to hear, but I didn’t see anybody quitting.”
Taylor has two games under his young belt as the head coach. He has a daunting task over the next two weeks on the road.
“I’ve learned a lot but still have a long way to go. We’re not pointing the fingers at anybody. I should be pointing the finger at myself as much as anybody else in this locker room,” he added.
His determination is admirable, but when the press conference ended, the Bengals were still 0-2.
Del Duduit is an award-winning writer and author who lives in Lucasville, Ohio with his wife, Angie. They attend Rubyville Community Church. Follow his blog at delduduit.com/blog and his Twitter @delduduit. He is represented by Cyle Young of Hartline Literary Agency.
His latest book, First Down Devotions: Inspirations from NFL’s Best, can be purchased from New Hope Publishers and on Amazon.