A 5-0 start had San Francisco 49ers fans booking Super Bowl plans.
Three losses and five Brocky Purdy interceptions later, the 49ers are scrambling to keep pace atop the NFC playoff race. The Cincinnati Bengals forced two Purdy turnovers on Sunday and moved the ball against the vaunted 49ers defense in a 31-17 win.
The result marked a convergence of two teams moving in different directions. With quarterback Joe Burrow recovered from a preseason calf injury, the Bengals are back, having improved to 4-3 following a 1-3 start. The 49ers, meanwhile, are left to retool on the heels of a three-game losing streak.
Cincinnati struck first on Sunday and took a 14-10 lead into halftime. The game remained in the balance with Cincinnati leading 17-10 late in the third quarter. The 49ers drove deep into Bengals territory to set up first-and-goal from the 8-yard line with a chance to tie the game. There, Bengals linebacker Germaine Pratt made a game-changing play while capitalizing on a Purdy mistake.
Purdy rolled out right and targeted Eli Mitchell down the sideline near the end zone. But Pratt was in pursuit of Purdy, and reached out to bat the ball behind the line of scrimmage. He then corralled it for an interception to end San Francisco’s scoring threat.
The Bengals punted after four plays on their ensuing possession. But Purdy gave the ball right back with an ill-advised throw on his very next pass. He targeted Brandon Aiyuk with a pass over the middle of the field. Instead, he found Bengals linebacker Logan Wilson, who snagged an easy interception to set Cincinnati up deep in San Francisco territory.
One play later, Burrow found Ja’Marr Chase for a 17-yard touchdown, and the Bengals extended their lead to 24-10. Consecutive Purdy interceptions thwarted a 49ers scoring opportunity then set the Bengals up for one of their own. It proved too much for the 49ers to overcome.
The turnovers arrive a day after Purdy was cleared from concussion protocol and raise questions about whether he shoud have been playing in the first place. They also leave the 49ers looking for answers as they head into their bye week.
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