The 49es extended their five game winning streak and a four game lead in the NFC West with a 20-10 victory over the Browns on Sunday. The 49ers leaned on the defense again to keep the lead and hold off the Browns in the second half. The 49ers played well in the first half with a 17-3 lead heading into halftime. In the second half the 49ers offense was almost non-existent and played inconsistent throughout but luckily they have a high quality defense that was able to limit points scored by the Browns. The 49ers were expected to win the game however their performance in the second half against the Browns was terrible and surprising given how they have played the last few games. Against better teams and better quarterbacks than Colt McCoy, the 49ers will not be so lucky with their performance in the future. Sunday’s win matched last season’s win total of six. Let’s hand out some Game Gold Nuggets:
= VERY GOOD
In the first half the offense had 253 yards, 17 points and 15 first downs. In the second half the offense had only 95 yards, three points and four first downs. The time of possession in the first half was 18:58, in the second half 11:02. Even RB Frank Gore, who rushed for his fourth consecutive game with 100 yards rushing and a touchdown, was stymied in the second half by the Browns defense. Gore had 104 rushing yards in the first half and only 30 rushing yards in the second half. Gore moved into second place on the 49ers all-time rushing list with 7,089 yards passing former Niner great Roger Craig.
QB Alex Smith went mistake free again for the offense which was a huge reason why the 49ers held onto their lead in the second half despite having trouble moving the football down the field. Smith completed 15 passes for 177 yards and one touchdown. Two of those completions were to two unanticipated receivers, left tackle Joe Staley who caught a pass for 17 yards and nose tackle Isaac Sopoaga for 18 yards. Smith’s lone TD pass was to Michael Crabtree in the second quarter that extended the lead by 14-points. One of the signs the 49ers were off in the second half was when Smith missed Crabtree with a pass that sailed well over his head early in the fourth quarter. Had Smith thrown the pass on target it would have been a huge gain that would have put them in position to seal the win with over 14 minutes to play. Crabtree led all receivers with five receptions for 54 yards and one touchdown.
The offense did step up after the Browns pulled within one touchdown late in the fourth quarter. The offense was able to run 4:21 off of the game clock on 11 plays that ended with a field goal. The FG gave the 49ers a ten point lead with less than two minutes to play. The 49ers let down in the second half shows the offense may be playing mistake free football and is developing but they still have some problems to fix. Against teams like the Giants, Ravens and Steelers, who the 49ers play down the stretch, a showing like yesterday’s second half performance will not end with a victory. The offense will need to step up and play well in both half’s for the 49ers to be able to win.
The 49ers defense was on full display on the second play from scrimmage. QB Colt McCoy was stripped of the football by Ahmad Brooks and was recovered by Sopoaga at the Cleveland 20. Four plays later the 49ers converted the turnover into touchdown. The Browns offense was without their two top running backs, Peyton Hillis did not play and Montario Hardesty left in the first half because of an injury. They were also missing starting wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi but still managed 290 yards against the 49ers D. Where the defense earned their five game gold nuggets was holding the Browns offense to a field goal and one touchdown which came with 6:00 minutes left in the fourth quarter.
The defense hurried and harassed McCoy all game. The Browns QB was sacked four times and fumbled the football four times with only one recovered. Safety Dashon Goldson notched his first INT of the season in the third quarter. The INT ended the Browns drive who are at the 49ers 34-yardline and down 17-3 at that point. Who knows if the Browns would have scored but Goldson’s INT shifted the momentum the 49ers way. Linebacker NaVorro Bowman led the defense with 11 tackles that upped his season total to 68 which ranks him second in the NFL.
The Browns lone touchdown was scored with 6:17 left to play in the game. The touchdown pass was a 45-yarder that was caught by WR Josh Cribbs but proved too little too late for the Browns.
There were no touchdowns by Ted Ginn Jr. on two punts and kickoff returns. Punter Andy Lee added to his Pro Bowl credentials averaging 53.6 yards on five punts with one traveling 65 yards. Kicker David Akers was perfect on his two field attempts. After Browns linebacker D’Qwell Jackson committed an ill-fated facemask against Gore, Akers put the game away with a 26-yard field goal that extended the 49ers lead to ten points with two minutes left to play in the game. The penalty against Jackson negated the Browns defense stopping Gore two yards short on third down. The 49ers limited Browns return man Cribbs to an average of 11.3 yards on punts and 25.5 yard on kickoff returns.
If not for the 49ers playing bad in the second half the coaching would have received more game gold nuggets. The second half performance was unexpected for a Jim Harbaugh led team who had been the coach that made the right halftime adjustments and did the scoring in the second half during the five game win streak. Although the Browns did not win the game they outplayed the 49ers in the second half. Moving forward the coaches will need to adjust better at halftime even with a lead.
Offensive coordinator Greg Roman calling a pass for Staley and Sopoaga was genius. It was surprising to the Browns defense but Roman had been setting up the play all season by using Sopoaga in running plays and lining up Staley as an eligible receiver to disguise the play as a run. Roman however could not get the same production out of running or passing game in the second half. The Browns adjusted to stop the 49ers run game and Roman could not beat them with the passing game.
Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio was able to keep his D playing well during the whole game. With McCoy struggling this season Fangio knew he could cause havoc for the young QB by blitzing him all game. The pressure caused McCoy to fumble four times and throw one INT. Even though the Browns had 290 yards of offense they only managed one touchdown and a field goal out of the production.
Former Browns special teams coordinator and current 49ers coordinator Brad Seely faced his former returner he made into a return star , Josh Cribbs. Seely was not afraid to kick to Cribbs as he returned three punts and four kickoffs. Seely got his coverage team ready for Cribbs as he only averaged 11.3 yards on punts and 25.5 yards on kickoff returns.
NEXT UP: @Redskins
No longer are the 49ers worried about traveling cross country for an east coast game. With three straight road victories over east coast teams this season the 49ers will not be affected by the time traveling to Washington D.C. The Redskins are on a three game losing streak and were shutout in week eight against the Bills and are licking their wounds with their starting running back and wide receiver hurt to go along with a new quarterback under center. The 49ers must not overlook the Redskins and think this will be an easy game but they have a great chance of extending the winning streak to six games.