The biggest obstacle for the Bengals' young offense is third downs. Over the past two games, Cincinnati and its rookie quarterback Andy Dalton have converted two of 22 third-down opportunities (9 percent).
Failing to extend drives is the main reason why the Bengals didn't crack the goal line against the 49ers. Cincinnati didn't covert on its first seven third downs before getting a first down on one in the fourth quarter.
Of the Bengals' 10 third-down opportunities, half of them were third-and-long (situations where they had to go at least 10 yards). It didn't help matters that rookie wide receiver A.J. Green was flagged for a false start twice on third downs.
“We don’t want it to happen, but it’s going to happen anyway," Green said. "We’re all [learning] a new offense, [we have] a rookie quarterback, rookie receivers and first-year receivers playing, so we’re going to have some growing pains. We just have to fight through them and not shoot ourselves in the foot.”
OVERHEARD: “The play calling was terrible. We tried to get the running game going, then tried to keep them off balance by throwing on first down. When we threw on first down, it backfired considerably." Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden after his offense failed to score a touchdown and managed 228 yards.