The disappointing report cards will continue for a third straight week.
That's what happens when the offense continues to stall out and the defense turns into Swiss cheese. Let's get to it.
Brock Purdy: C-
If this grade was solely based on the first half, Purdy would have easily gotten an A. If his grade was solely based on the second half, he would have easily received an F.
We'll start with the good. Despite terrible blocking by his offensive line, Purdy was moving the ball through the first two quarters. He did an excellent job in this game getting vertical in the pocket and using his legs to scramble for yards when nothing was there. He extended plays that weren't there and found receivers down the field for big gains. Honestly, I thought it was one of the best first halves he's ever played.
Then came the second half.
Purdy turned the ball over three times after halftime, including one inside the Bengals' 10 yard line with a chance to tie the game, and two more times in the fourth quarter. That's back-to-back weeks with multiple turnovers in the fourth for Brock. Simply unacceptable.
The interception going in for the score at the end of the third quarter was particularly frustrating because the ball never should have been thrown in the first place. The 49ers ran an RPO looking for a shovel pass to George Kittle. Once Brock keeps the ball and Kittle is covered, it's illegal to pass because the lineman are run blocking down the field. Unfortunately as he's done during this losing streak, Purdy refuses to just accept that the play is over and instead puts the ball in harm's way.
Ups and downs with a 23 year old quarterback are inevitable, but that doesn't mean these mistakes are acceptable by any means. If the run blocking and the defense had been playing up to their normal standard, the 49ers may have been able to overcome the growing pains. They haven't been anywhere close to that standard, however, and the team is losing as a result.
Rushing Attack: C
There is no universe where a team with Christian McCaffrey should be led in rushing yards by Brock Purdy. Before yesterday, there had only been one other game where Purdy had even hit double digits on the ground. Yesterday Brock paced the Niners with 57 rushing yards.
McCaffrey chipped in with 54 of his own, but that's a very deceptive total. CMC gained 8 yards on the game's first play, and 16 yards at the end of the first half when the Bengals welcomed the run because San Francisco was out of timeouts. Essentially, 44% of his total for the game came on two plays that had no real impact beyond the box score.
To be fair, the 49ers' offensive line has been getting dominated up front - particularly once Trent Williams got hurt. If you remove Brock Purdy's scrambling yardage, the 49ers ran the ball 17 times for 56 yards - just 3.29 yards per carry. Yuck and poo.
Brandon Aiyuk and George Kittle carried the passing attack in this game, combining for 14 catches for 258 yards. Some of that total came when the game was already out of reach, but most occurred while the 49ers were still competitive.
Kittle in particular had one of his best games of the season, making huge catches over the middle to jump start the offense. Once again, Kyle Shanahan has proven that he can get the ball to 85 when he wants to, and 85 is really good when given those opportunities. I hope that continues even after Deebo Samuel returns from injury (whenever that may be).
Brandon Aiyuk continues to frustrate me. We saw both Aiyuks in this game. We saw the guy that cannot be covered one-on-one and makes chunk plays down the field, and we saw the guy that drops big passes in critical situations. In this case, Aiyuk "dropped" a pass just before halftime that would have put the 49ers on Cincinnati's 40 yard line with a chance to try and steal points before intermission. I put the word dropped in quotes because the ball hit Aiyuk directly in the facemask before falling to the turf. It's possible the sun got in his eyes, but that's irrelevant. The ball was incomplete. Too many times in Brandon Aiyuk's career he has failed to come up with critical catches to help the offense. On a very expensive roster, that's not a guy I pay after the year.
Steve Wilks' unit played a little better in the second half, but their first two quarters were horrendous. Joe Burrow completed 19 consecutive passes at one point. On the day, he was 28 of 32 for 283 yards and 3 touchdown passes. One of those incompletions was a drop, by the way.
It was clear from the jump that the Bengals knew exactly what looks they were going to get from Steve Wilks, and how to counter them. Perfect example: Cincinnati was facing 3rd and 9 at midfield in the second quarter. The 49ers come out of a wasted timeout and Burrow immediately audibled at the line of scrimmage. He snapped the ball and ran a quarterback draw up the middle, going untouched for 10 yards and a first down. Quarterbacks don't check to a keeper on 3rd and long unless they are damn sure they're going to be able to move the chains.
The defensive line was slightly better in this game, but only just so. Arik Armstead benefitted from some Nick Bosa pressures and was in the right place at the right time for two sacks. Bosa himself eeked out a half-sack as well in this one. So, better, I guess, but still nowhere near good enough.
The run defense, on the other hand, was pitiful. Joe Mixon ran for a season-high 87 yards and a touchdown. He had only rushed for more than 70 yards one other time this entire season. Many of Mixon's carries saw him untouched until getting to the second or third level of the defense.
In fairness, there was a stretch in this game where Wilks' defense did rise up and give the 49ers a chance to get back into it, but Purdy threw interceptions on back to back passes and everything crumbled after that.
Special Teams: B+
If you want a silver lining, Jake Moody made all three of his kicks in the game. Kyle Shanahan should never have attempted a 36 yard kick on 4th and 4 from the Bengals' 18 yard line, but that's not Moody's call. He still seems to be pushing the ball to the right, but at they all count the same once they go through the uprights.
Mitch Wishnowsky continued his strong season with two more 60 yard punts to flip field position - something that has become increasingly important after the struggles of the other two units on the football team.
Kickoff coverage continues to be a bugaboo for this team, however, as they allowed a 41 yard return immediately after tying the game at seven in the first quarter.