The Cincinnati Bengals entered Sunday coming off a bye week where they are historically pretty good; however, the San Francisco 49ers had won their last 11 home games. The odds were stacked against the Bengals, but from start to finish, they played their best game all season, and more importantly, Joe Burrow looked like himself for the first time in eight weeks.
Some first-half blemishes held the Bengals back. A missed 50-yard attempt by Evan McPherson and then a fumble inside the five-yard line by Irv Smith Jr. with just under a minute to go in the half were the big blunders that prevented Cincinnati from doubling up exiting one half and entering another. Even with all that occurring, however, Cincinnati still held a 14-10 lead at the break and knew they needed to come out faster and execute better if they wanted to escape Levi's Stadium with a much-needed win.
So, when was the key turning point that altered the game and put the Bengals in prime position to win the football game?
What was the turning point in the Bengals' Week 8 win?
Coming out of the second half, Cincinnati had a solid first drive into 49ers territory, but after taking a sack on third down, it set up a long 56-yard field goal. McPherson drilled the kick without a doubt, making up for the previous miss.
Giving Cincinnati a 17-10 lead, the defense now needed to respond to the adjustment that Kyle Shanahan was going to make offensively to give Brock Purdy and company more opportunities to get yards after a catch. That's exactly what they did. Play action after play action finding George Kittle, Brandon Aiyuk, and Christian McCaffrey out in space.
However, the game remained knotted at 17-10 near the end of the third quarter. After a long 49ers drive looking to tie the game up, on the Bengals' 8-yard line, Purdy dropped back, moved right, and looked downfield into the end zone. Germaine Pratt tipped the ball in the air and came down with a massive interception, and that is exactly when the game turned in the Bengals' favor.
The momentum in that stadium went from a hundred to zero quickly. That interception also started a downward spiral for Purdy outside of one solid fourth-quarter drive. His next pass attempt was also an interception by Logan Wilson, which happened in their territory. On the first play of the Wilson interception, Joe Burrow found Ja'Marr Chase in the end zone for a Bengals score, putting them up 24-10.
San Francisco went on to put points on the board after a McCaffrey touchdown for the second time, but Cincinnati was in too much of a rhythm, and the 49ers defense had no answer. Mixon put the icing on the cake in his homecoming game, and the Bengals went on to win the game 31-17. They improved to 4-3 and earned their third straight victory.
Pratt had the play of the game at the perfect time when the Bengals needed it the most, which is why his impact was the turning point of the game late in the second half. Now, Cincinnati heads back home in the jungle and gets a primetime Sunday night battle with the Buffalo Bills in what should be an epic matchup stemming from last season's AFC playoff game.