The San Francisco 49ers defense did its best to stand tall before a 21-point second quarter powered the Cincinnati Bengals to a 24-14 win.
That group, led by NaVorro Bowman, stopped the Bengals offense on each of its first five possessions. The hot start cooled off during the second quarter in the final five minutes of the half.
An interception, lost fumble and shanked punt gave the Bengals the ball at San Francisco's 11-, 36-, and 20-yard lines, respectively. Cincinnati turned all three short-field opportunities into touchdowns. Twice Jeremy Hill scored from 1-yard out, and then AJ McCarron hit Tyler Kroft on a 20-yard strike in the end zone.
Despite the scoring barrage to end the first half, San Francisco's defense didn't let up in the final two quarters and held the Bengals to just three points. The group sacked McCarron four times in the process.
Bowman said the defense was hungry to rebound from a disappointing loss to the Cleveland Browns last Sunday.
"Guys really wanted to come in and get this one," the linebacker said postgame.
The 49ers offense couldn't generate any momentum in the first half. Blaine Gabbert and Co. was held to four first downs and 105 yards of total offense. San Francisco didn't convert any of its first 12 third-down opportunities and went 2-14 on third down for the game.
"I just tried to motivate everyone. We're not pointing a finger," Bowman said of the offense's struggles. "We just want to get it right. I'm not in their meetings, so I try to just give them encouragement."
The most disappointing part of the game for Bowman was the inability to keep Cincinnati out of the end zone in the second quarter and hold the Bengals to field goals.
"That's the part where we as a defense, need to get better at," Bowman said. "That will come. It's an attitude. … It's my job on the same page with that attitude."
Tomsula said postgame that "fine focus" was missing on Sunday. Bowman agreed with his head coach.
"When Sundays come, you have to let it loose but still be focused," Bowman said. "I think there's some immaturity there with our team. We have to understand that Sunday is the day where you go out there and make those plays. That perfect practice that you had during the week, Sunday is the day to have another perfect day."
Bowman didn't let his frustration affect his play against the Bengals. The linebacker led the 49ers with 12 tackles and had one crucial tackle for loss in the first quarter to stuff a Bengals fourth-down attempt.
"That's all I can do, just keep leading and doing the things that I know that winning teams have to have," Bowman said.