It hardly can be recommended for presenting at a coaching clinic. It had all the thrills of two sluggish heavyweight boxers standing in the middle of the ring intent on pounding each other into submission. But it was a victory—a road victory at that.
Coach Jim Harbaugh can knock another peg off his to-do list as the coach of the San Francisco 49ers. He won his first game and his first road game. Granted, it was against the Cincinnati Bengals, who showed some promise and plenty of defensive spirit. But they are the Bengals.
Prior to Sunday’s game, the 49ers in the last eight years had gone 14-50 on the road. That’s right—didn’t even average two wins a season on the road. They won on Sunday thanks to a 10-play, five-minute drive engineered by Alex Smith and capped by Kendall Hunter’s seven-yard run with less than four minutes remaining.
It was a drive they had to have, and it was one they performed flawlessly. It’s also another step for a team that, after last week’s 27-24 loss in overtime to the Cowboys, has questions about whether it can “finish the game.”
The Niners did that, controlling Cincinnati’s offense in the second half, forcing rookie quarterback Andy Dalton into mistakes or hurried throws and relying on good special teams to secure the win.
It may not have been artistic, but it does make the 49ers 2-1. Last year at this time, they were 0-3. In that perspective, here are five things we learned from Sunday’s win over the Bengals.