SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — The San Francisco 49ers showed they could win lopsided games when they raced out to a 5-0 start and were barely challenged in the second half in any of those games.
The Niners (5-2) will look to find that formula for winning even when everything isn't going as planned when they host the Cincinnati Bengals (3-3) on Sunday.
“Every year is its own year and you learn different things about yourselves as a team throughout the year,” linebacker Fred Warner said. “That’s one thing that we’re learning right now as a team is that we know that we can blow people out, but let’s figure out a way to make sure that we focus on that next play, regardless of what mistakes have happened in the game.”
A missed late field goal proved costly against the Browns, while two fourth-quarter interceptions from Brock Purdy were crucial against the Vikings.
That comes after San Francisco didn't have single possession the first five games when trailing in the second half.
“The reality of the NFL kind of has hit us. ... This isn’t just you go out there and beat everyone by two scores like those first five games went,” coach Kyle Shanahan said. “You’re not always going to play perfect. You’re never going to play perfect and the team against you is going to play good sometimes and usually that’s going to come down to one score. And both of these have and we had every chance to win both of those games and we didn’t get it done.”
The Niners got some good news late in the week when Purdy cleared concussion protocol, clearing the way for him to start on Sunday. San Francisco will be without versatile receiver Deebo Samuel, and left tackle Trent Williams is questionable with an ankle injury.
While San Francisco is dealing with injuries on a short week, the Bengals come in well-rested after having their bye last week.
Cincinnati has shown signs of turning things around after a 0-2 start, winning three of its past four games as quarterback Joe Burrow's injured calf has gotten healthier.
“I feel really good, and I’m excited about the upcoming weeks,” Burrow said. “We know it’s going to be a challenge. We relish going on the road and playing in those kinds of environments. It’ll be a big challenge. We’ll find out a lot more about ourselves on Sunday.”
BURROW AT REST
Burrow said he did little more during the off week than sit on the couch, watch football and eat. And no doubt he put some thought into the remainder of the season and whether the Bengals will be able to get back to the form that propelled them down the stretch to AFC North titles the past two years.
Burrow started slowly after missing all of training camp with a calf injury that he tweaked again in Week 2. But he has looked better the past two games, with five TD passes in wins over Arizona and Seattle.
Niners star edge rusher Nick Bosa has been held to just 2 1/2 sacks so far this season after leading the NFL with 18 1/2 a year ago. Bosa has been doing a good job generating pressure but hasn't been able to finish it off. He said he's been generally pleased with his performance outside of the opener against Pittsburgh and two weeks ago at Cleveland.
But he says he isn't at his usual form after missing all of training camp in a contract holdout.
“I think I’m trying to work on stuff on the run this year that I wasn’t able to do in camp," Bosa said. "So, those games that I mentioned, the two, I think I was thinking too much because I was trying to add something to my rush plan, which is not what I want to be doing during season. I want to be locked in on what I do best and just doing it throughout the whole year. But there’s no excuse at this point for that.”
DESPERATELY SEEKING THE RUN
The Bengals have been somewhat confounded by their failure to establish a run game with Joe Mixon behind a good offensive line that added Pro Bowl tackle Orlando Brown Jr. in the offseason. Mixon had 12 carries for 38 yards in the win over Seattle. Cincinnati is last in the NFL in rushing yards with 419 through six games. Only one run was more than 20 yards.
Burrow said he believes the Bengals have the personnel to cure everything that is ailing the offense.
“I’m really confident with all the guys in there,” he said.
Christian McCaffrey has shown a knack for the end zone since joining the 49ers last October, scoring 24 TDs in 21 games in the regular season and playoffs. He has scored at least one in 16 straight games, one shy of Lenny Moore’s NFL record.
“He’s unbelievable at it,” Shanahan said. "I think he’s done it since I heard about it growing up in Denver, to college, to whatever team he’s on. He knows how to get in the end zone.”
AP Sports Writer Mitch Stacy contributed to this report.
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