The Cleveland Browns entered this game with a 2-2-0 record. A lot of Browns fans were already talking doom and gloom. Not because of their win-loss record, but because of how they were manhandled in their previous game against the Baltimore Ravens in a game where the defense played well whereas the offense was hardly a factor throughout the contest.
Despite losing badly, the defense played great. The offense failed to get many yards and in the fourth quarter, they were completely gassed.
Now, the mighty San Francisco 49ers rolled into town with their sterling 5-0-0 record, perhaps the league’s best overall roster. Most media outlets were predicting a lopsided affair. Cleveland was starting practice squad player P.J. Walker at quarterback while Deshaun Watson was resting his shoulder. Walker is the 36th starting QB since the New
Browns began in 1999. In the end, the Browns pulled out a two-point victory 19-17.
So who played well for the Browns? Who didn’t?
Play of the game - With Cleveland behind 17-16 and the clock winding down in the game, the Browns offense finally found a rhythm and drove the field with help from two penalties against 49er defensive backs. On a second-and-eight, Walker was flushed from the pocket and then rolled out to his right. With LB Fred Warner coming up fast, Walker ditched scrambling and tossed the ball into the end zone into double coverage - right into MLB Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles’ hands, who thankfully dropped the errant pass. The missed interception saved the possession to which K Dustin Hopkins added the winning points. Thank you DFF for not doing your job.
Brock Purdy passing so far today: seven for 14, 72 yards, one touchdown, one interception, passer rating of 59.2.— MarkMaske (@MarkMaske) October 15, 2023
Defense - This one unit has kept Cleveland in just about every game. Even against
Baltimore they kept the Ravens to three punts and one three-and-out to begin the game. Against San Fran, their offense just struggled. Yes, they had their two best weapons out in Deebo Samuel and Christian McCaffrey. But they were still the 5-0 49ers who had demolished everyone on their schedule and were penciled into the NFC Championship Game already. The most important stop was the second-to-last 49er possession. They got the ball with 3:16 left in the game and wanted to go up by two scores or run the clock out. After a JOK almost sack then a Myles Garrett hurry, suddenly it was 2-21 and third-and-11 for the visitors who then had to punt. All game long, the defense was in QB Brock Purdy’s face. The 49ers quarterback threw his first interception of the year in this game and was 7-12 with 72 yards in the first half.
JOK - Was a demon today. Made a key third-down tackle in the second quarter that resulted in a punt and in the third quarter he was able to tip the pass intended for WR Brandon Aiyuk which would have resulted in a first down. With 8:06 left in this same quarter, he almost sacked Purdy who then had to throw the ball away with the pressure. Sacked Purdy in the second quarter for a loss of 10. Had five total tackles including two tackles for loss.
Fourth down play - This ultimately was the difference in the game but did not feel like it at the time. Without this pass completion, Hopkins doesn’t kick the game-winner.
S Rodney McLeod - The fact that nobody from this potent 49er offense gained over 100 yards receiving is partly due to McLeod’s defense and tackling skills. Early in the second quarter, he fought off the block of WR Jauan Jennings and then decked RB Christian McCaffrey for a three-yard loss. With 2:43 left before halftime, Jennings caught a pass and then beat all Browns defenders except McLeod. Without this tackle, there was nothing but Kentucky Bluegrass in front of Jennings. On the final play of the third quarter, McLeod leveled RB Jordan Mason after a 10-yard gain on a third-and-20 play which resulted in a punt. With 1:26 left in the game and San Fran needing yards, it was McLeod who brought down Jennings after most of the Browns defenders either whiffed or were juked out of making the tackle. Led all Cleveland defenders with eight tackles.
K Dustin Hopkins - The veteran missed his first kick just barely from 47 yards. Then he went 4-of-4 for the remainder of the game including the game winner. Converted field goals of 42, 49, 50, and 29 yards and also made his only PAT. His kicks were the only points Cleveland scored in the second half. But his greatest play was just after he converted his first FG early in the third quarter.
After his kickoff, San Fran kick returner Ray-Ray McCloud gathered the ball at his own six-yard line then scooted to this rightside only to find a crease and was headed upfield as Hopkins planted him after a 28-yard gain and a chance at daylight. Hopkins is known for being a very good tackler which goes back to his high school days as a starting cornerback.
RB Jerome Ford - Had a very quiet first half, but broke several big runs and short passes into decent gains on the Browns’ final two possessions including the one that set up the winning field goal. With 2:41 left in the game, Ford showed his speed on a 12-yard carry up the left sideline for a first down. 17 carries for 84 yards which included the 22-yarder just before the two-minute warning.
WR Amari Cooper - Another quiet first-half participant, but he is clutch. Yes, it is documented that the dropped interception in the end zone was the play of the game, but Coop’s timed jump early in the third quarter was a thing of beauty and will be part of the season’s highlight reel while two defenders looked dumbfounded. In the fourth quarter, he grabbed a 13-yard completion to the 49ers’ 34-yard line in the drive that produced the 50-yard field goal. Then the holding call on his defender Charvarius Ward with less than three minutes left in the game jumpstarted their drive.
Missed opportunities - While Cleveland’s offense was giving the ball away to San Fran, this same unit missed so many opportunities on their own. TE David Njoku scored a 32-yard touchdown early only to have it called back on a holding call by RG Wyatt Teller. K Dustin Hopkins missed his first field goal attempt which would have been the 49ers needing to score a touchdown on that final drive instead of a field goal attempt. CB M.J. Emerson had a key interception and then the offense suddenly is facing a fourth-and-29.
The 25 total penalties in the SF-Cleveland game were the most in the NFL since 2021. It was the first time the 49ers have been assessed 100 yard in penalties since 2021 & the first time the Browns have been assessed 100 yards in a game since 2019.— Rick Gosselin (@RickGosselin9) October 15, 2023
Friggin’ penalties - Second play of the game CB Greg Newsome gets an unnecessary roughness call, two plays later DE Za’Darius Smith’s face mask, holding on Teller that took seven points off the board, Walker’s intentional grounding, DPJ holding call, S Grant Delpit pass interference, DE Myles Garrett offsides. That was just the first half. In all, 13 penalties for 113 yards. For the game, 55% of San Fran’s offense was from Cleveland penalties.
This team can be beat….don’t beat yourselves with penalties….let’s go!!— Jen (@jcs0910) October 15, 2023
OG Michael Dunn - A tough team to come out as the new starting left guard. Had difficulty with DT Javon Hargrave for most of the game who would end up with the fourth most tackles for the 49ers defense. In the fourth quarter, a Kareem Hunt sweep to the left resulted in Dunn’s man leaning past him who stuffed the running back for a loss. In the only Wildcat play, Hunt tried to squeeze in between Dunn but Hargrave had beaten him. Ford and Hunt’s best gains on the day were to the right side and away from Dunn.
Third down plays - What is with the Browns not being good at keeping drives going? Cleveland was 0-5 in the first half and finished the game going 2-14. Of these attempts, 11 were for five yards or greater. Some, are much greater like 18, 17, 22, 11, 10, and 10 yards. This is not an example of good offensive play.
QB P.J. Walker - He was the winning quarterback for the Browns today. Yes, he was. His mistakes and poor decision-making were plentiful and was lucky he had a terrific defense to carry him. He began the game completing his first three passes: two to his guys, and one to 49ers LB Warner. San Fran then drove and missed a field goal which was the difference in the game. Several of his throws were tossed downfield with a prayer as a defender was in his face and luckily wasn’t a turnover slugfest. On the very first play of the second half, he tossed it directly at San Fran safety Talanoa Hufanga who dropped it. The second pick in the fourth quarter was thrown into double coverage then set the 49ers up at Cleveland’s eight. It took one play to score this time.
PJ did not beat the 49ers . he blows . the defense bailed him out say it like it is .. PJ is not a good QB— JohnnyG (@ChicagoGUnit) October 15, 2023
Then on the Browns’ last drive, he short-armed two balls into the turf while both receivers were open. Only gained one yard rushing so his legs were never a factor even though he was flushed numerous times. Tossed 34 passes with 18 completions, two interceptions, and zero touchdown passes that counted. Is a fascinating story though from practice squad to beating one of the league’s best clubs with their first loss.
Milk Bones – No great sports story begins with someone eating a salad
WR Marquise Goodwin - Haven’t heard much from the speedster this year, but he had a good run on a reverse in the first quarter with 6:09 to go that gained 20 yards with a great lead block by DPJ. However, in the third quarter needing four yards, Goodwin ran a three-yard route and was tackled immediately which generated a punt. Why run your route a yard shy of the first down marker?
WR David Bell - Not a lot of production today, but his catch with 7:02 left in the game on the fourth-and-four play was exceptional. Why? Bell knows if you need four yards you run a five-yard route.
Punt coverage - The 49ers were only able to field two of four punts, but the coverage swarmed both times with Charley Hughlett, Jordan Akins, Tony Fields, and Pierre Strong doing most of the dirty work. 13 yards means 6.5 yards per return. Excellent grunt work.
CB M.J. Emerson - Great hands on the interception intended for Aiyuk which put the Browns in a position to add to their slim lead only to have the offense flounder the opportunity. On the one-play touchdown run by Mason in the third quarter, Emerson could not shake his defender and then watched Mason go right past him. On the final drive by San Fran and faced with a third-and-10, Emerson was caught grabbing the unie of Jennings which gave the 49ers new life instead of facing a fourth-and-match play. Without the penalty and if San Fran could not make the first down on their impending fourth down play, the game is over. Then on the very next play, it was Emerson’s man Jennings who juked him out twice in one play en route to an important 25-yarder that now had the visitors thinking field goal position.
RB Kareem Hunt - Not many snaps, but made due to his playing time. With his touchdown run, you could feel once he turned upfield there was nothing that was going to stop him. Only 12 carries, but had three receptions for 24 yards and is a very good blocker when he is held in.
Be honest. Do you believe Cleveland can become a playoff team this year?
This poll is closed
Absolutely after beating the 5-0 49ers
Ask me again in four weeks