CINCINNATI (AP) - Looking the place over, the San Francisco 49ers were reminded in a lot of ways that they weren't on the West Coast anymore.
``It's a lot different over here,' rookie running back Kendall Hunter said.
Different, yes - but not so bad for the team that's putting down roots for a week.
Hunter ran 7 yards for the game's only touchdown with 3:59 to go Sunday, rallying the 49ers to a 13-8 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals that began their extended stay in the Buckeye State.
The 49ers (2-1) haven't had many wins on East Coast time lately, and it looked as if they'd forgotten to pack their West Coast offense. San Francisco didn't even cross midfield for the first time until midway through the third quarter.
Trailing 6-3, the 49ers put together their only drive of the game for the winning score, stunning the smallest crowd for a Bengals home opener in 30 years.
Now, that's something to write home about.
``To become that type of team that wins on the road and take that next step, you have to win like this,' said Alex Smith, who was 4 of 5 for 48 yards on the winning drive. ``I think guys were frustrated, but in a good way. They were frustrated and fired up. They wanted the ball back.
``That was different. A lot of times, I've been on teams where it's kind of, 'Here we go again,' and this is a lot different.'
It was a satisfying start to the 49ers' visit to Ohio. They'll practice at Youngstown State the next few days, then head to Philadelphia for their next game.
So far, they're enjoying living out of their suitcases.
``It hasn't been like this in here for a long time,' cornerback Shawntae Spencer said. ``On the road, you want to keep it close and try to steal it late.'
In Cincinnati, it'll go down as the home opener that most fans didn't care to see. Those that did show up found it hard to watch.
There were only 43,363 fans at 65,500-seat Paul Brown Stadium, the Bengals' smallest crowd for a home opener since they played at Riverfront Stadium in 1981.
``They were pretty loud, even though there weren't as many people here,' defensive tackle Domata Peko said. ``That's who you play for, your fans and your family. The only way we're going to get more people here is to win games.'
Chalk this one up to the young offense.
Cincinnati (1-2) was limited to a pair of field goals by Mike Nugent. Rookie quarterback Andy Dalton had his first dismal performance, throwing two interceptions in the fourth quarter - the first of his career.
He went 6 of 7 for 61 yards on an opening drive to a field goal. The rest of the way, Dalton was 12 of 26 for 96 yards with two interceptions and a sack.
``We started fast, which is what you come out to do,' Dalton said. ``We were flat after that. We couldn't do the things we wanted to do.'
Neither could the 49ers, but after Frank Gore's fumble - the 49ers' first of the season - set up Nugent's second field goal for a 6-3 Cincinnati lead early in the fourth quarter, San Francisco got its act together.
Smith, who was under constant pressure most of the game, set up the touchdown run with an across-the-field throw to tight end Vernon Davis off a misdirection play. Davis went 20 yards to the 7, and Hunter took it the rest of the way.
Then, the defense picked off Dalton twice. The first interception set up David Akers' 53-yard field goal for a 13-6 lead. The 49ers ran out the clock, taking a safety in the closing seconds, after the other interception.
``It was a great day and a beautiful road win,' defensive tackle Isaac Sopoaga said. ``This game meant a lot, especially since we are on a big road trip right now.'
The Associated Press News Service
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