CINCINNATI -- The 49ers, a team that did not win away from Levi’s Stadium a year ago, left Santa Clara on Sept. 6 and will return home Sunday night with a 2-0 record.
After finding a way to win their season opener despite a flawed performance, the 49ers dominated in Week 2 from start to finish. The 49ers’ 41-17 thrashing of the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium gives the 49ers their first 2-0 start since 2012.
The last time the 49ers opened with back-to-back wins on the road was 1989. This year was only the third time after 1989 the schedule-makers called for the 49ers to play their first two games away from home.
Now, the 49ers look to keep it going next Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Levi’s Stadium. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger left the Steelers’ game Sunday against Seattle with a right elbow injury. Mason Rudolph replaced him at the start of the second half.
Here are three takeaways from their victory over the Bengals (0-2):
49ers look well-rested, start fast
Did the 49ers’ decision to remain in the Eastern time zone pay off? It might be impossible to tell, but they definitely came out strong in building a 24-10 lead at halftime.
The 49ers spent five days in Youngstown, Ohio, following their Week 1 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. After three practices, the club made the short flight to Cincinnati.
The players and coaches were exhausted during the week, but coach Kyle Shanahan said he was confident that everyone would feel energized by the time the weekend rolled around. And that’s is exactly how it looked Sunday.
The 49ers’ defense came out strong with a three-and-out, including Arik Armstead’s sack of Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton. Then, the 49ers took over and immediately went 51 yards on four plays for a touchdown. Jimmy Garoppolo hit Marquise Goodwin on a 38-yard touchdown pass.
And the 49ers kept the momentum going at the beginning of the second half with a seven-play, 75-yard touchdown drive that Garoppolo capped with a 3-yard touchdown pass to rookie Deebo Samuel.
The 49ers put together a near-perfect offensive showing, rolling up 574 of total offense. Garoppolo completed 17 of 25 passes for 297 yards with three touchdowns and one interception.
Who are these guys?
You might not remember, but the 49ers of 2018 collected just seven takeaways, including two interceptions.
This year’s defense looks nothing like that group. Linebacker Kwon Alexander dropped an interception in Week 1 against the Buccaneers before he got ejected for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Jameis Winston. On Sunday, he got another chance and he made the most of it.
Alexander intercepted a Dalton pass late in the first half. The 49ers drove 52 yards on 10 plays to cap the first half with Robbie Gould’s 33-yard field goal for a 24-10 lead.
The 49ers’ defense made life difficult for Dalton with four sacks. Armstead, Ronald Blair, DeForest Buckner and Solomon Thomas each recorded sacks on the day.
Return of the run game
The 49ers did not get much going on the ground in Week 1 against the Buccaneers. The 49ers gained just 98 yards on 32 carries (3.1-yard average).
They had a lot more success on Sunday, as Matt Breida took over the starting job due to Tevin Coleman’s ankle sprain. Breida got to the outside repeatedly and turned on the speed en route to 121 yards rushing on 12 carries.
In the first half alone, Breida gained 67 yards on six rushing attempts. Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson rotated into the game and combined for three touchdowns.
Mostert showed his speed when he took a screen pass from Garoppolo, split the Bengals defense and scored on a 39-yard pass. Wilson was promoted Saturday from the practice squad. Wilson scored his first two career touchdowns on runs of 2 and 4 yards.
Mostert gained 83 yards on 13 carries, while Wilson added 34 yards on 10 rushes.