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Harbaugh Continues 49ers' Winning Streak With 20-10 Victory Over Browns

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - OCTOBER 30:  Frank Gore #21 breaks away for a twenty nine yard gain against the Cleveland Browns at Candlestick Park on October 30, 2011 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - OCTOBER 30: Frank Gore #21 breaks away for a twenty nine yard gain against the Cleveland Browns at Candlestick Park on October 30, 2011 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
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The reality right now is that the Cleveland Browns do not have an offense that is good enough to beat competent football teams. The offense isn't even good enough to beat some of the league's worst teams, but luckily the defense has played well enough to overcome that problem.

The fact that the Browns once again had a legitimate chance to tie the game in the fourth quarter against a 5-1 team is incredible. The defense made some great second half adjustments, and the offense sort of came to life in the fourth quarter with a more aggressive gameplan in place. Let's get to the full review of the game...




  1. Goat of the Week: QB Colt McCoy - I wouldn't say that McCoy did anything this week that made him the "goat of the game" as opposed to other weeks, where he has been equally as effective. Head coach Pat Shurmur shoulders a lot of the blame for the offense being where it is at right now, and the fact that Peyton Hillis has been out hasn't helped. McCoy has yet to step up his game though and doesn't seem to be grasping the West Coast Offense very well. He threw a costly interception in the third quarter on a second down play (more on that later). He made a couple of good throws to Joshua Cribbs, but something isn't right when you have to "pick and choose" the few good plays.
  2. Awarding Game Balls: LB D'Qwell Jackson - We're almost at the half-way point of the season, and so far Jackson has made it through healthy and more effective than ever. He finished the game against San Francisco with a team-high 10 tackles, 5 of which went for a loss. That included two huge stops (on second and fourth down) from within a yard of the goal line on running back Frank Gore in the second quarter. Full game ball award given here.
  3. Props to Harbaugh: I had only seen one full game from the 49ers prior to this week, so I was a little skeptical of the 49ers' success. I know it's sometimes easy for anyone to look good against Cleveland (i.e. I was impressed with Tennessee after their win), but the formula for success is there for head coach Jim Harbaugh. His team doesn't make mistakes on offense.
    I was surprised we didn't see a tad more of backup running back Kendall Hunter, but overall, both Hunter and Gore dominated the first half. Quarterback Alex Smith was comfortable making the necessary throws, and a lot of the play calls made sense or were unpredictably wise -- throwing the slant to Braylon Edwards, or tossing the ball to a big lineman when our defense was selling out. The 49ers are for real, and not just in the NFC West.
  4. Hardesty's Day Done Early: A week after getting 30+ carries, Montario Hardesty tears a muscle in his calf. Just our luck. That forced Chris Ogbonnaya, in just his second week with the team, to handle the load. Ogbonnaya has looked like a solid backup running back the past two weeks, and you especially have to like how he is catching the ball. In a way, what we've asked him to do is to be the running back Brandon Jackson was intended to be, although Jackson was a superior blocked.
  5. Forcing the Ball in There: Even though Greg Little only had 4 catches for 28 yards, he was still clearly intended to be the team's No. 1 receiver. He was targeted a total of 11 times, which goes to show you how badly McCoy was missing him at times. One throw went into double coverage for an interception, and another throw got Little killed (like Mohamed Massaquoi a week earlier).
  6. Norwood Looks the Part: Even though I was still searching for Carlton Mitchell, I was happy to see Jordan Norwood finally get some regular season action at the receiver position. He responded well, catching 5 passes for 32 yards on 6 targets. With Brian Robiskie officially off the roster and Mohamed Massaquoi's status still up in the air, hopefully we continue seeing more of Norwood over the next few weeks.
  7. Tight Ends Each Contribute: I'm still irked about tight end Evan Moore not being used a lot more often, but whatever. All three tight ends had some key catches during the game. Alex Smith had a nifty little jump move and actually got some good yards after the catch when the team was backed up in their own end zone. Ben Watson had a 29-yard reception on what seemed to be McCoy's first downfield throw of the game in the third quarter. I thought for a second that the defense would not be aware that they didn't touch Watson down, but one of the defenders noticed and ran in to do so.
  8. Rubin Shows Some Hustle: We first noticed Ahtyba Rubin a couple of seasons ago due to the incredible hustle he showed for a lineman, and that was evident again against the 49ers. Even though rookies Jabaal Sheard and Phil Taylor got off to great starts to the season and are still doing well, I think Rubin has re-emerged and remains the best of the bunch. In the second quarter, he chased Gore down the field to prevent a 26 yard gain from going any further. There were other times where he made some nice stops at the line too, as he finished the game with 8 tackles.
  9. Quick Spurt of Emotions: In the third quarter, we were hoping our defense would get a big stop on 3rd-and-9 after the Browns had just run a terrible third down play. Instead, Michael Crabtree beat cornerback Sheldon Brown down the sideline and started going for yards after the catch...but wait! There was Brown to poke the ball free from behind. Then, the whistles blew and unfortunately, Crabtree had made the catch but stepped out of bounds prior to the fumble. Then, we were led to believe that Pat Shurmur was challenging the play. This made no sense, because it was 100 percent clear that the ruling on the field was accurate. A commercial break took place, but when the cameras returned, no one knew what the stoppage was for because Shurmur never challenged the play. Weird.
  10. Worst Call of the Season: First drive of the second half. Great starting field position. 3rd-and-2. What does Shurmur decide to call? It is a play where Greg Little motions into the backfield as the tailback (shades of Armond Smith getting a pitch on fourth down), something I don't think I've seen him do all season. Then, McCoy takes a deep drop back and throws it in the flat to Little. When Little catches the ball, I kid you not -- he now has to run 10 yards just to pick up a first down. Considering the right side of our line can't block very well, this wasn't a very good idea. The defense easily read it and stuffed the play. When we need the two-yard dumpoff pass, we don't throw it.
  11. Cribbs a Difference Maker: I'm still disappointed with what we've seen from Joshua Cribbs on kickoffs or punts, and maybe that is a sign that our blocking units just suck. At least Cribbs is doing pretty well as a receiver. He set up both of the Browns' scores against the 49ers. To close out the first half, he made tiptoe sideline catch to put the Browns in range for Phil Dawson's 52-yard field goal. And then, as we all know, he had the big touchdown reception past the mid-way point of the fourth quarter. He also added an assist on a special teams tackle.
  12. Special Teams Tackles: There were four special teams tackles made by the Browns, one each for Mike Adams, Usama Young, Kaluka Maiava, and Ryan Pontbriand. Cribbs and Buster Skrine added assists. Overall, the coverage on kickoffs and punts was excellent. Brad Maynard was in Pro Bowl form on punts, with one of them being downed at the 1-yard line (four total were inside the 20). Ginn averaged 22 yards per return on kickoffs.
  13. Right Tackle: Thankfully the Browns have two first-round picks next season, and I hope "right tackle" is high on Tom Heckert's draft board. While I still think we're better off with Tony Pashos in the lineup than John St. Clair, Artis Hicks, and Oniel Cousins, Pashos hasn't been playing as well the past several weeks as he tries to work through a sore ankle. He was beat badly on the second play of the game, allowing the 49ers to force a fumble on Colt McCoy and quickly take a 7-0 lead. It's bad enough that our offense can't score in the first quarter, but it's even worse when our offense generates turnovers that lead to points.
  14. Brownies: The Browns continue to do well on third down conversions overall, as they finished the game 6-of-14 for 43%...two fourth downs were also converted via quarterback sneaks by McCoy, but it seemed like we got a very generous spot the second time around...the goal line stand against Gore was one of the highlights of the season for the defense...the pull play (rufio can probably describe this better) worked like a gem for the 49ers in the first half, but was stuffed just about every time in the second half...Dawson might be on pace for career highs in 50+ yard field goals...I loved seeing Joe Thomas recover Ogbonnaya's fumble, because you just knew he would be able to when he was in the area.

Up next, the Browns take on the Houston Texans. They'll be facing a team that has had their ups and downs, but until Cleveland shows something offensively, it'll be darn-near impossible to win against this level of competition.