SFI's LIVE Game Blog: 49ers vs. Bengals

It's Saturday Night Football, NFL style, with the 49ers possibly looking at their best chance to get another victory this season as they play host to the Cincinnati Bengals, and SFI will keep you up to date on the action with live reports and commentary from Monster Park in San Francisco. Make sure to refresh this page every 15 minutes for running updates throughout the game.

5:00 p.m. Greetings, 49ers fans. The 49ers and Bengals have the NFL world all to themselves tonight with a special Saturday game that can be seen only on the NFL Network, which means a lot of people won't be seeing it at all unless their cable television company happens to be paying the NFL's ransom to include the NFL Network in the package being offered to its customers. Then again, nobody is claiming this is exactly a marquee game between the 3-10 Niners and 5-8 Bengals, two of the bigger disappointments in the league this season …

5:05: Remember when these two teams used to play in Super Bowls? The 49ers beat the Bengals 26-21 in Super Bowl XVI to begin the San Francisco dynasty, which in midstream included a thrilling 20-16 victory over Cincinnati in Super Bowl XXIII. The teams have only met five times since that game, with both of the last two meetings turning into score-athons – a 44-30 victory by the Bengals in 1999 and a 41-38 victory by the Bengals in 2003. Both of those games were played in Cincinnati. This is the first time the two teams have met in San Francisco since 1996 …

5:11: Constantine Maroulis, an American Idol finalist in 2005, just belted out a stirring rendition of the national anthem. Wow, that guy can sing …

5:13: Cincinnati wins the coin toss and will get the ball first on offense. The Bengals will get the first opportunity to turn this one into another one of those score-athons, and they certainly have the firepower to do it.

5:20: The Bengals go to a no-huddle offense early, and the move quickly into San Francisco with a couple of first downs. Receiver Chris Henry gets behind cornerback Walt Harris on a fly pattern on third-and-7, but Harris makes up ground with the ball away and knocks it away just as Carson Palmer's pretty spiral arrives. Cincinnati has to give it up after its first possession …

5:28: The thing about Shaun Hill, making his first NFL start at quarterback for the 49ers, is he can move around in the backfield and improvise. Hill escapes some pressure on the third down, which gives Arnaz Battle enough time to get open and Hill hits him for San Francisco's initial first down. Hill has the 49ers moving now, and he hits Delanie Walker on third-and-4, and Walker takes it 21 yards into Cincinnati territory. But no. Walker is flagged for illegal motion and this time, on third-and-9, Walker comes up two yards short of the first down and the 49ers give it up with an Andy Lee punt. But hey, that's a lot better than a three-and-out. Hill looks pretty comfortable in his new role running the offense …

5:35: An illegal contact penalty by cornerback Donald Strickland nullifies a third-down incompletion and moves the chains for the Bengals, but then the San Francisco defense stiffens. Gee, Patrick Willis just made a great tackle, flashing in from the left side to dump running back DeDe Dorsey near the sideline after a short gain. Wow! Willis looked like he was out on the field by himself as he blew by and weaved between potential blockers to make the play. On third-and-6, it's a jailbreak in the Cincinnati backfield, and Bryant Young has Palmer wrapped up for a sack. But no! Palmer somehow escapes and has open field in front of him. But Willis cleans up the mess, catching Palmer from behind and the Bengals have to punt again. It looks like we're going to be seeing a lot of Willis tonight, just like always …

5:45: And look at this. Hill, looking sure in the pocket, is passing the 49ers right down the field with a few Frank Gore runs mixed in. Hill zips a pass to tight end Vernon Davis for a 15-yard gain. There's a 14-yard completion to Darrell Jackson. Now it's third-and-6, and Hill converts again with a completion to Walker. Wow. Why have the 49ers been keeping this Hill guy under wraps for so long? There's another 9-yard completion to Jackson, and after a pass to Davis loses a yard on the final play of the first quarter, the 49ers will face a second-and-11 at the Cincinnati 17 to begin the second …

5:50: By all appearances so far, the 49ers have themselves a pretty good-looking third-string quarterback. Hill begins the second quarter with a 10-yard completion to Jackson and, on third-and-1, fullback Moran Norris ploughs up the middle and easily picks up the first down. Now it's second-and-goal at the Cincinnati 3. Hill fakes a handoff left, then bootlegs to the right. He's got room in front of him! Safety John Busing is the only Bengal that doesn't bite, and he's the guy Hill has to beat. Hill looks to pass first, then sees the opening, and now he's going for the left pylon. He's going to get there! He'll scoots around right end and goes into the end zone untouched for his first career touchdown. What a play. What a drive. Call it the Shaun Hill drive. Hill is fired up as the crowd goes wild. He high-fives guard Larry Allen as he comes off the field. The 49ers have the lead for the first time since beating Arizona in overtime back on November 25 …
49ers 7, Bengals 0

6:01: The Bengals answer back, going 63 yards in 10 plays, but they can't punch it in the end zone when the get close to the goal line. The big play is a 25-yard completion to tight end Daniel Coats that Palmer threads perfectly down the sideline. Linebacker Derek smith is right with Coats, but he appears to give up on the play and doesn't look back as the ball arrives and Coats catches it right next to him without Smith making a play on the ball. But Smith makes up for it once the Bengals move to a first-and-goal at the 8, knocking down a pass at the goal line intended for tight end Reggie Kelly. It's third-and-goal now from the six, and the 49ers almost force a turnover. Linebacker Tully Banta-Cain, back in coverage at the goal line, tips a Palmer pass intended for T.J. Houshmandzadeh right into the hands of Strickland. The ball is near Strickland's feet, and he can't hold onto it. That was so close. But it's a stop nonetheless that protects San Francisco's lead. The Bengals have to settle for a 24-yard field goal by Shayne Graham …
49ers 7, Bengals 3

6:07: Michael Robinson hits a hole hard and has a nice 30-yard return of the ensuing kickoff, running over Graham at the end of it. But this time, the 49ers can't move as Hill throws incomplete on second and third down and it's a three-and-out. Ball back to the Bengals …

6:12: And this time, the Bengals strike. After an initial first down, Cincinnati faces a third-and-2 at its own 44-yard line, and the Bengals aren't just looking to get the first down. Palmer takes a deep drop, and he's going for it all. Henry blows off the line on the right side and runs right past Harris, who obviously is expecting some deep help from a safety. Michael Lewis arrives a step to late, and Palmer puts the ball right on the money. Henry pulls it just beyond the outstretched arm of a diving Lewis and trots into the end zone to complete a sudden 52-yard scoring bomb. Henry runs out the end zone and throws the ball into the stands with enthusiasm, and just like that, Cincinnati has its first lead of the game …
Bengals 10, 49ers 7

6:17: The 49ers get the ball back at their own 24 with 4:38 remaining in the first half. Hill goes right to work, hitting Jackson for nine yards on second down. It's third-and-1 now, and instead of attempting a dive into the line, Hill drops back and goes down the sideline for a 19-yard completion to Jackson, who turns around Cincinnati rookie cornerback Leon Hall. On the next play, Hill and Jackson collaborate on a shorter version of the previous play, and the 13-yard completion gives San Francisco a first down at the Cincinnati 35 as we hit the two-minute warning …

6:23: Somewhere in the minds of 49ers followers and NFL observers, people are going to wonder why the Niners didn't go to this Hill guy a little sooner. Working with only one timeout because the 49ers had burned two earlier – as they usually do – Hill hands the ball to Gore on three consecutive plays to take the 49ers to a first down at the 24. Time's a factor now, and a seven-yard completion to Davis – who's running over defenders again – Hill has to spike the ball with 14 seconds remaining. But the next play is a beauty. Hill, reading the defense perfectly, spots Davis getting behind linebacker Landon Johnson and threads a pass into his hands at the goal line. Hill hits Davis in stride and Vernon turns and makes the catch with two defenders around him. Touchdown, 49ers! What a great play. Davis is totally stoked, and he runs over to the stands and dives into the front row. The Monster Leap? Well, that was something. Hill just took the 49ers 76 yards in 10 plays, and now the 49ers have their first halftime lead of the season. We repeat, THE 49ERS HAVE THEIR FIRST HALFTIME LEAD OF THE SEASON! ...
49ers 14, Bengals 10

6:37: This is turning into the Shaun Hill Show, all right. The halftime statistics point out the astonishing transformation the San Francisco offense has made under Hill's direction, and the 49ers have a 191-187 edge in total yardage at the break. Several times this season, the 49ers haven't rolled up that many yards in an entire game. More specifically, Hill is a nifty 14 of 18 for 149 yards passing, good for a sparkling 119.7 passer rating. He's practically out-playing the heralded Palmer, who is 9 of 14 for 145 yards, with a third of them coming on the touchdown bomb …

6:45: The 49ers get the ball to begin the second half, and now they are Gore-ing the Cincinnati D from the start. Gore, who had 36 yards rushing at halftime, powers into the second level on several nice runs, and he's punishing Bengal defenders at the end. Now it's back to Hill, who deftly avoids a linebacker blitz on third-and-9, easily getting outside the pocket and finding time to hit Hicks for a 10-yard gain and first down. Hill made that play happen with his feet and quick blitz recognition. The 49ers have a first down at the Cincinnati 29, and the NFL's 32nd-ranked offense is rolling once again …

6:50: Another completion from Hill to Jackson gives the 49ers a first down at Cincinnati 19, and after two runs by Gore, the 49ers are looking at a third-and 2. Hill takes the snap in the shotgun, and he looks left again for Jackson, who has man coverage down the sideline. Hill tries to put a little air under his pass, but he overthrows Jackson in the corner of the end zone. Hill hopes in the air in frustration after misfiring on the play. The 49ers settle for a 29-yard field-goal attempt from Joe Nedney, who drills it, and now San Francisco's lead is back to seven points again after a 12-play, 61-yard drive …
49ers 17, Bengals 10

7:01: The San Francisco defense takes the ball right back as a rushed Palmer throws incomplete on third-and-2. It's a three-and-out for the Bengals, and now Hill has the 49ers rolling down the field once again! The Man, the 49ers are playing some good football tonight. There goes Gore bulling up the middle again, and now the 49ers are in Cincinnati territory with another first down …

7:09: With Hill passing and Gore running, the 49ers move into the red zone again, where they face a third-and-6 at the Cincinnati 12. But this time, Hill drops back and the pressure is on him quickly. Robert Geathers dumps him for a sack and a nine-yard loss, and Nedney comes in to split the uprights with a 38-yard field goal. It's more points for the 49ers, and now they have their largest lead of the entire season. We repeat, the 49ERS HAVE THEIR LARGEST LEAD OF THE SEASON ...
49ers 20, Bengals 10

7:17: Down by two scores, the Bengals have to get moving now as they have a first down at their own 32 to begin the fourth quarter. Palmer takes them quickly into San Francisco territory with a 20-yard completion to Chad Johnson, the star wide receiver who has been quiet most of the evening. Palmer goes back to pass again, and he's looking Johnson's way. Nate Clements is reading the play, and he's in position to make the pick! Clements goes for the interception, and there is nothing but open field ahead of him. But the ball goes right through his hands, and Johnson climbs high to make the grab at the sideline for a 25-yard gain. Clements is hopping mad at his missed opportunity, and now the Bengals are on the move …

7:21: But the defense stiffens and forces another third-down incompletion with Cincinnati in the red zone. Graham comes in to make a 35-yard field goal with 11:18 remaining to play to bring the Bengals back within a touchdown …
49ers 20, Bengals 13

7:30: And there it goes again, that suddenly potent San Francisco offense. Hill, facing third-and-8 from his own 39, takes the snap in shotgun formation, waits patiently when nothing is open for some space to clear in front of him, then charges up the middle in open field for a 12-yard gain and first down. After another first down, the 49ers are getting into range for another Nedney field goal. Facing third-and-2 at the Cincinnati 24, Hill throws incomplete to Battle. It will be about a 41-yard attempt for Nedney. What? Nedney's not coming out. The 49ers are going to go for the first down. WHAT??! This is another questionable move by coach Mike Nolan in a season of questionable moves. Kick the field goal, Mike, and push the lead back to 10 points with just over six minutes to play. PLEASE …

7:31: But no. The 49ers are going for it. Hill's in shotgun formation, and he's forced to throw to rookie Jason Hill – rookie Jason Hill! – as the play begins to break down. It's incomplete, and now Cincy gets the ball back, still down by only seven points. Talk about opening the door with a bad coaching decision when the 49ers could have slammed it shut right there …

7:37: And there goes the Cincinnati offense, taking advantage of the opportunity. There's one first down, and then another as Palmer passes the Bengals down the field and into San Francisco territory. Now it's fourth-and-5 from the San Francisco 49 with three minutes remaining. Big, big play here. The Bengals first send out their punt unit, but then reconsider and send the offense back on the field, and Palmer converts with a crucial 18-yard completion to Houshmandzadeh. This is making the decision to go for that fourth down look terrible, and now the Bengals are at the San Francisco 31 …

7:45: Palmer throws incomplete on first down, gets a seven-yard completion on second down, but is pressured and throws incomplete again on third down. Now it's fourth-and-31 from the San Francisco 31, another crucial play. The Bengals are going for it, of course. And now they're going for it all as Palmer's throwing into the end zone for Johnson! Clements is with Johnson in man coverage, but Palmer puts the ball perfectly over his shoulder and into Johnson's hands in the end zone. But Johnson bobbles the ball as he tight-ropes along the sideline. He appears to pull it in momentarily as he goes out of bound, but the ball pops loose as he hits the ground. The official, right on the spot, rules incomplete! Ball back to the 49ers, and now with just 2:20 remaining …

7:47: Or maybe not. After a break in the action, Cincy coach Marvin Lewis throws the red challenge flag. But after review, the call is upheld. It actually looks like the 49ers might win this thing …

7:51: And they will!! San Francisco takes a delay of game penalty on third-and-4, but on third-and-9, Gore takes a delayed handoff and charges up the middle to get the first down, carrying tacklers to pick up the final precious yard that moves the chains as we hit the two-minute warning …

7:54: Having used their remaining timeouts before the two-minute warnings, the Bengals are helpless, and now they're toast. They can't stop the clock, and Hill kneels down three times to burn the remaining time and give the 49ers a very satisfying victory, their fourth of the season but just their second in 12 games. And, without doubt, he was the biggest reason the 49ers got there …
Final score: 49ers 20, Bengals 13

Make sure to check back with sfillustrated.com later this evening for full post-game coverage, analysis and comments from the San Francisco locker room, and then check back throughout the week for daily coverage of the team and NFL as the 49ers conclude their three-game homestand with next week's game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.


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