Perhaps you’re familiar with the show ‘WKRP in Cincinnati.’ It ran for four seasons beginning in 1978 and covered the ups and downs of a radio station located in the same city the 49ers will visit Sunday.
In honor of the program, which aired its final episode on April 21, 1982, we used the call letters of the fictional radio station to generate keys to a 49ers victory over the Bengals since they just so happen to fit the precise formula San Francisco needs to ride to victory.
Baby, if you’ve ever wondered. Wondered, whatever became of keys … we’ve got them here:
This is as simple as it gets for the 49ers. Their run game is dominant when they can play with a lead, and part of their ability to build leads comes from generating turnovers and not giving the ball away on offense. They’re 2-6 this season when they lose or tie in the turnover margin. The two wins came in the season opener vs. the Lions and the following week against the Eagles. Conversely, when San Francisco generates more turnovers than they issue, they’re 4-0. If they can get a couple against a Bengals team that’s prone to giving the ball away, they’ll be in great shape to swing a road win.
It was clear in Seattle that Kittle needs to remain one of the focal points of the 49ers offense. He was targeted a team-high 12 times, caught nine of those targets and turned them into 181 yards and two touchdowns. Kittle is an explosive play machine and San Francisco needs to ensure they’re getting the ball in his hands – especially with Elijah Mitchell out and Deebo Samuel potentially sidelined.
While quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo needs to be efficient and convert on third downs and in the red zone, the run game is where the 49ers are going to determine a win or loss. With Mitchell out, the onus will largely be put on Jeff Wilson Jr. and JaMycal Hasty to carry the load. They don’t need to generate huge plays in the run game, but they need to churn out positive yards against a Cincinnati front that’ll be stacked to stop them. It’s probably unreasonable to call for 40 runs, but 30-plus is the expectation since it means they’re having success on first down and getting themselves in second or third-and-short where head coach Kyle Shanahan can get most creative.
Garoppolo’s effectiveness is tied directly to whether he operates from a clean pocket. While most quarterbacks see a dip in production when they go from clean to pressured, Garoppolo’s drop is precipitous. In clean pockets he owns a 70.4 percent completion rate, 8.8 yards per attempt, nine touchdowns and four interceptions on 240 attempts per Pro Football Focus. That’s good for a 102.9 passer rating. When he’s under pressure he completes 54.3 percent of his throws, averages 7.6 yards per attempt, and has five touchdowns alongside four picks in 70 attempts. His passer rating dips to 83.8. The 49ers simply have to keep Garoppolo upright if they’re going to get the best game from him.