BY DANIEL GLUSKOTER
The 49ers mid season slide continued as the Cincinnati Bengals capitalized on three Brock Purdy turnovers to score a convincing 31–17 win over San Francisco Sunday afternoon at Levi’s Stadium.
Joe Burrow (28-32, 283) had a near perfect day at quarterback for the Bengals (4-3), throwing three touchdowns and completing 19 consecutive passes at one point.
The Niners (5-3) first home loss since week seven of the 2022 season dropped San Francisco into second place in the NFC West for the first time this season, one half game behind the Seattle Seahawks.
The Bengals never trailed, jumping out to an early 7-0 lead on the strength of a seven yard touchdown pass from Burrow to Tyler Boyd to culminate Cincinnati’s opening 85 yard drive. The 49ers quickly bounced back to pull into a tie for the only time in the game as Brock Purdy led the team down the field with the help of a 31 yard pass play to Brandon Aiyuk before Christian McCaffrey rushed up the middle for a two yard touchdown.
McCaffrey’s touchdown tied Baltimore Colts Hall of Fame running back Lenny Moore’s All-Time NFL record of scoring a touchdown in 17 consecutive games including the postseason. He would add another in the fourth quarter, but San Francisco would be playing catch up throughout the game on the way to their third loss in a row.
On their next drive, Cincinnati wasted no time retaking the lead, mounting a six play drive that concluded with a two yard touchdown pass from Burrow to Andrei Iosivas that put the Bengals up 14-7 with just a second remaining in the first quarter.
A defensive battle ensued over the next two quarters with the teams exchanging field goals, setting up a 17-10 Bengals advantage entering the final quarter after a Purdy interception in the red zone on the next to last play of the third quarter proved costly.
The Bengals picked off Purdy again on the next San Francisco series, with Burrow finding Ja’Marr Chase for a 17 yard touchdown strike on the first play after the Niners quarterback threw his second straight interception into the arms of Logan Wilson with 13 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter to stretch the Cincinnati lead to 24-10.
The Niners were forced to fight an uphill battle the rest of the way, but quickly responded with a 12 play 75 yard drive highlighted by a 25 yard pass play to Aiyuk that culminated with a four yard touchdown pass from Purdy to McCaffrey to close the gap to a single score.
Five minutes later Cincinnati put the game out of reach, with a 78 yard drive that saw Joe Mixon rush five yards for the games final score. Mixon finished with 16 carries for 87 yards while Burrow added 43 yards on the ground. Chase led the Bengals with ten receptions for 100 yards with Tee Higgins hauling in five passes for 69 yards.
Purdy completed 22 of 31 passes for a career high 365 yards with the one touchdown and two interceptions while adding a team high 57 yards with six carries on the ground. McCaffrey rushed 12 times for 54 yards while adding six receptions for 64 yards. Arik Armstead recorded two sacks of Burrow for the 49ers defense while Nick Bosa and Clelin Ferrell shared another.
Asked about Purdy’s struggles after the game, which now include five interceptions in the past three games, 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan responded ““He made some bad picks there at the end. I thought he was one of the reasons we were in the game today. Some of those throws he made out there were unbelievable. The mistake in the red zone, missing the handoff was the biggest part. And then once you do that, you can’t throw it or you’re going to get the penalty, but worse that he got the pick. He was aggressive, thought the Mike was going to pass on that second pick and the Mike fell off right with Jauan. So just got to see it.”
For his part, Purdy stated “Yeah, I mean it’s just finishing drives. We will get the ball moving and we will start rolling, get first downs and then there’s just some third downs that we have to convert and be better at. Especially down in the red zone, there’s points to be put up for us and whether that’s a field goal or converting a third down and continuing the drive to score, it’s as simple as that. We’re just handcuffing ourselves with certain plays and that’s really what it is. But, we’ll move the ball and feel good about it, but we just have to continue to finish those drives. It’s as simple as that.”
The Niners will now head into their bye week looking to regroup while licking their wounds. The team returns to action on November 12th with a game in Jacksonville against the AFC South leading Jaguars.
With both rushing and receiving scores, it marks McCaffrey’s 14th career game with both a rushing and receiving touchdown in the same game, which is the second most in NFL history, trailing only Marshall Faulk’s 15.
Aiyuk caught five passes for 109 yards while George Kittle caught nine passes for 149 yards, marking the first time the 49ers have had two receivers with over 100 yards since Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis accomplished the feat in 2012.
Fred Warner’s 10 tackles moved him past Ken Norton into second place in franchise history behind only Patrick Willis with 704 tackles.
The Bengals became the first team in NFL history to record their first four wins of the season against non-conference opponents.