Same old story. We have seen this script before, and the final outcome ended in another loss for the Cleveland Browns, sending them to 3-4 on the season while the other three teams in the AFC North came away with victories.
Things got off to a bad start for quarterback Colt McCoy was was stripped of the football on the team's opening possession. A few plays later, running back Frank Gore punched it into the end zone, giving the 49ers an early 7-0 lead. On the 49ers' next possession though, they were forced to start at 1-yard line. It looked like Cleveland's defense might be able to force a big play, but it wasn't so. Gore had a run of 24 yards, followed by a Kendall Hunter run of 26 yards. Quarterback Alex Smith then threw a dumpoff pass to offensive lineman Joe Staley, and we got the impression that it was going to be a long day for the defense. Cleveland ended up holding San Francisco to a field goal, making it a 10-0 deficit for Cleveland to try to overcome.
Cleveland's offense faltered again, and the 49ers were in position to score a touchdown again near the start of the second quarter. The Browns' run defense stuffed Gore on three straight plays though, including a fourth-down play, to keep it a two-possession game. On San Francisco's next drive, they were able to march right back down the field. This time, they ran a playaction fake and Smith hit wide receiver Michael Crabtree for a touchdown to give the 49ers a 17-0 lead. The Browns managed to get into field goal range in the two-minute offense, setting kicker Phil Dawson up for a 52-yard field goal. It was 17-3 at the half.
The Browns' defense owned the second half. Whether you think San Francisco was being conservative or not, the fact is that the Browns started to shut down the run game, got some more pressure on Smith, and forced several three-and-outs. Unfortunately, Cleveland's offense failed to capitalize until there was under eight minutes left in the fourth quarter. The Browns decided to go with a more up-tempo offense, and when McCoy looked for Joshua Cribbs on a long pass down the sideline, Cribbs came away with the football, dodged a defender, and went 45 yards for a touchdown. Somehow, the Browns were only down by a touchdown with about six minutes left to play.
It looked like the Browns had forced a three-and-out again, but linebacker D'Qwell Jackson got his hand around Gore's face mask as he tried to bring him down on third down. The penalty gave the 49ers a fresh set of downs, and eventually they moved into field goal range. Kicker David Akers drilled a 26-yard field goal with under two minutes to play, and with no timeouts left, Cleveland had no chance of rally from a two-possession deficit. The 49ers won 20-10.
The only injury of note during the game was a big one: starting tailback Montario Hardesty suffered a calf injury early in the first quarter and did not return. With Peyton Hillis already out, third-stringer Chris Ogbonnaya, a guy who was just signed two weeks ago, was the only true running back left on the roster. The Browns take on Houston next Sunday.