The Cincinnati Bengals are entering week 2 as they prepare to take on the 49ers. With every game of the season, there will be things to watch and focus on. Here are 5 things to watch for in week 2.
1. Will the Running Game get Going?
Against the Seahawks the Bengals seemingly abandoned the running game, as they only had 14 rushing attempts. On those 14 attempts, they had just 34 yards. Things were only harder for Cincinnati after Mixon left the game with an ankle injury, but they could be without him again this weekend too.
For any team to have sustained success, they have to be able to run the football. It is hard with a banged-up offensive line and will be harder again to do so if Mixon can’t go. While the 49ers have a solid defensive line and linebacker Kwon Alexander, they did allow 121 rushing yards to the Bucs in week 1, who aren’t exactly known for running the ball well. The opportunity will be there for the Bengals to improve the run game in week 2.
2. Can Andy Dalton Keep it up?
Zac Taylor had a very good offensive gameplan and Andy Dalton executed it well in Seattle, even if it didn’t result in a win. He threw for 418 yards and two touchdowns in one of his best performances as a pro. Now, fans will get a chance to see if a game like that is something to expect regularly out of Dalton in Taylor’s system.
The 49ers had a successful day defending the pass against Tampa Bay. They allowed just 174 passing yards and were able to force Jameis Winston into throwing three picks. That may be more on Winston than anything, but this game will still provide a good indication of whether Dalton’s play can continue.
3. Secondary Adjustments
The defense was impressive in week 1, especially after playing so poorly last season. Only allowing 21 points to an offense led by Russell Wilson is a good start to the season. The front seven mostly played well, but one area that needs to show improvement is the secondary.
Cincinnati’s run defense was solid and so was the pass defense, but they gave up a few big plays which cost them the game. Tyler Lockett had a long touchdown catch and the rookie DK Metcalf beat coverages a few times. The game against the 49ers provides a good chance at getting back on track as Jimmy Garropolo is struggling and San Francisco doesn’t have many threats at wide receiver. The Bengals will need to keep an eye on star tight end, George Kittle, though.
4. Sam Hubbard’s Follow-Up Performance
One of the major standouts in the first week of the season was defensive end and Cincinnati-native, Sam Hubbard. He finished the game with 1.5 sacks, 2.5 tackles for loss and even almost blocked a punt, which could have really turned the tide of the game. Can he follow up his impressive week one performance with a solid one in week 2?
The 49ers could provide a tougher test for Hubbard, as they allowed just one sack against Tampa Bay. If Hubbard can create pressure, the whole team’s play can be elevated, much like it was in the third quarter against Seattle. If he can even get close to the four QB hits he had in week 1, the Bengals will have an opportunity to win the game.
5. Can the Bengals Hang onto the Ball?
The Bengals displayed some good fundamentals in week 1, but one area they didn’t do well in was ball security. With four fumbles and three fumbles lost, it could have been a different game if they had just protected the football. It was raining in Seattle, but that’s no excuse.
Dalton didn’t throw an interception, which is good news. If the Bengals can cut down the turnovers, even if it is just by one or two this week, they can win. This seems very basic, but they were unable to do so in week 1, which makes it worth mentioning.