CIN-SF Grades: A.J. McCarron proves he could be more than just a placeholder
Here are the top takeaways and highest graded players from Cincinnati’s 24-14 win over San Francisco:
– If fans have missed the 2012 version of Geno Atkins (+5.1) over the past few seasons, they have to be happy to see him back to his top form in 2015. Outside of a lull surrounding the team’s bye week this year, Atkins has been on a tear, and his +5.1 overall grade in this game further cemented his place among the NFL’s interior defenders, behind only Aaron Donald and J.J. Watt. This was the seventh time this year Atkins has graded in the green (above +1.0) in both run defense and as a pass rusher.
– QB A.J. McCarron not only broke the streak for former Alabama QBs as NFL starters by helping his team to a win; he walked away with a healthy +2.6 grade, as well. Hitting on five-of-six passes targeted over 10 yards downfield, McCarron was also five-of-six when blitzed (for 54 yards and a touchdown). It remains to be seen how long his tenure as the Bengals’ starting QB will be, but there were moments in the game (his far hash throw at 14:20 in the third quarter and the go route he dropped in at 8:28 of the first) that suggest he may be able to do more than keep the seat warm.
– Not everything came up roses for Cincinnati—their O-line had some serious troubles in the run game, particularly when dealing with the interior of SF’s defensive line. Highlighting the struggle was the matchup of NT Ian Williams (+5.2) with center Russell Bodine (-5.2), where Bodine picked up eight negatively-graded plays in the run game. SF’s Quinton Dial (+5.7) also proved to be a pain, as he collected wins against each member of the Bengals’ O-line, Andre Smith (-4.5) being his chief victim.
DT Geno Atkins (+5.1)
LB Vontaze Burfict (+4.7)
QB A.J. McCarron (+2.6)
LT Andrew Whitworth (+2.0)
S Reggie Nelson (+1.9)
San Francisco 49ers
– Building the majority of his grade through his work in run defense, LB NaVorro Bowman (+5.8) flashed what we knew of him in the past. Bowman led all inside linebackers this week with five run stops—a number that matched teammate Ian Williams to top the 49ers’ defense, as they held Cincinnati to 1.9 yards per carry on 36 attempts.
– After kicking off his shot at the helm with a pair of green-graded games, QB Blaine Gabbert (-1.4) has found himself settling back to Earth, and has now landed in the red in three of his last four. This week wasn’t a terrible performance by any stretch—it was really just the forced-throw interception at the goal line late in the game that carried a heavy ding—but there were enough off-target attempts to outweigh his best efforts.
— TE Vance McDonald (-3.5) didn’t help Gabbert’s stat line. Targeted four times, McDonald caught one, but let two bounce of his hands and into the those of Bengals’ defenders for a pair of unearned interceptions for his QB. McDonald wasn’t alone in the drop tally—San Francisco suffered seven on the day—but his had the worst outcomes in a game that otherwise may have been winnable.
LB NaVorro Bowman (+5.8)
DE Quinton Dial (+5.7)
NT Ian Williams (+5.2)
CB Jimmie Ward (+4.7)
LB Ahmad Brooks (+3.2)