Here’s what stood out to me during the 49ers’ complete annihilation of the Cincinnati Bengals.
- Kyle Shanahan. This was his best game yet as a head coach. He called a tough, blue-collar-style offense and still scored 41 points. And the 49ers could have scored 48 had a penalty not nullified a touchdown. Shanahan was on fire. He recognized how effective his one-wide-receiver-formation run game was against the Bucs and used it extensively against the Bengals. After halftime, Cincinnati lost the taste for tackling and gave up. Shanahan kept attacking anyway. He put the league on notice.
- Robert Saleh. Last week, his defense gave up 10 points. And this week, it gave up 17. When Saleh came to the 49ers, he seemed like a Pete-Carroll disciple who hadn’t yet put his mark on the defensive scheme. Now, he may have the best defense of all the Carroll disciples, and a better defense than Carroll himself. Saleh shut down the Bengals’ run game with his Wide 9 defensive alignment. Remarkable. I predict Saleh will be an NFL head coach one day.
- Jimmy Garoppolo. Played with calmness and poise, and seemed to regain much of the confidence he had in 2017. When Garoppolo is confident, so is the rest of the team.
- Raheem Mostert. Gained 151 yards from scrimmage and scored one two touchdown. Would have scored two if a penalty hadn’t negated a touchdown. As I’ve said since preseason, Mostert is one of the 49ers’ most dangerous weapons, and he deserves at least five touches on offense per game. Today, he led the entire offense with 16 touches, and he deserved every one of them.
- Matt Breida. Averaged a whopping 10.1 yards per carry. Mostert probably is the better all-around running back than Breida, because Mostert is such an effective receiver. But, Breida is the better ball-carrier. He’s as good as almost any ball carrier in the league.
- Deebo Samuel. The rookie had a breakout game: Five catches, 87 yards and one touchdown. He has everything a wide receiver needs: speed, toughness and agility. Now, he needs to become more consistent. He dropped one pass.
- Ronald Blair. Recorded three tackles for loss, one quarterback hit and a sack. Was the 49ers’ best edge rusher against the Bengals.
- Kwon Alexander. Intercepted a pass and knocked down three more. Alexander is such a drastic upgrade over Reuben Foster. I didn’t realize Alexander would be this effective.
- Ahkello Witherspoon. Broke up two passes and gave up zero long catches. Clearly the best cornerback on the team. The Bengals must not have done their homework.
THE NOT SO GOOD
- Garoppolo’s interception. Garoppolo gets himself in trouble when he predetermines throws. On second and 20, he decided to throw a deep pass to Richie James Jr. no matter what. Unfortunately for Garoppolo, the cornerback covering Deebo Samuel stopped covering him and ran upfield, and Garoppolo threw the ball right to that defender. Garoppolo can learn from this mistake.
- Joe Staley’s injury. Fractured his fibula and could miss the next eight weeks. Huge blow. Staley’s backup, Justin Skule, is a rookie sixth-round pick. The 49ers may need to trade for a starting left tackle.
- Dante Pettis. Has become almost a total afterthought. Didn’t return punts or catch any passes against the Bengals. When he played, he ran jet-sweep motions, and even threw a pass. But, it seems Deebo Samuel has taken Pettis’ role in the offense. The NFL is a hard world.
— Grant Cohn (@grantcohn) September 15, 2019