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Browns stun 49ers with tenacious defense, as P.J. Walker gets a 19-17 win for Cleveland

The Browns came in as heavy underdogs, but handed San Francisco their first loss.

San Francisco 49ers v Cleveland Browns Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

The Cleveland Browns weren’t given much hope against the San Francisco 49ers, but they pulled off a stunner, handing them their first loss, with the Browns winning 19-17, including the 49ers missing a game-winning field goal. Let’s get to the full game recap.

1st Quarter

The Browns’ defense got to go to work to begin the game, but instead of setting the tone right out of the gate in a good way, they were walked all over: an 8-yard run by WR Deebo Samuel, a 25-yard run by RB Christian McCaffrey (tack on 15 yards for a late shove by CB Greg Newsome), another 15-yard penalty from a facemask by DE Za’Darius Smith, and then a 13-yard shuffle pass touchdown to McCaffrey to give them a quick 7-0 lead.

The Browns’ offense started off moving the ball, getting past midfield with a screen pass to RB Kareem Hunt and completion to WR Elijah Moore. On a 2nd-and-4 from the 43 yard line, though, QB P.J. Walker looked left, then threw a short pass to the right that LB Fred Warner jumped and intercepted, returning it to the Browns’ 26 yard line.

The Browns’ defense came alive on the second drive, stuffing a screen pass for a loss of eight yards. A false start pushed San Francisco back five more yards, and then later on 3rd-and-23, they picked up three yards to set up a 54-yard field goal attempt. K Jake Moody hooked it to the left and it was no good! That allowed the offense to take back over at their own 44 yard line.

The Browns started the next drive with a direct snap to RB Jerome Ford for 4 yards, followed by an end around to WR Marquise Goodwin for 20 yards. Then, Walker side-armed a screen pass to TE David Njoku for a 32-yard touchdown pass, but it was called back due to a holding penalty on OG Wyatt Teller. That backed the offense up, and on 3rd-and-18, a completion to WR Amari Cooper was able to get K Dustin Hopkins in range for a 47-yard field goal attempt, but he also pulled it to the left — no good.

The Browns’ defense responded well again, coming up with a three-and-out. On the punt, San Francisco was flagged for a 15-yard facemask penalty after a 10-yard return, starting the Browns’ next drive at the 34 yard line. Runs by Ford went for 6 and 3 yards, and then a quarterback sneak by Walker on 3rd-and-1 needed a measurement. The chain gang came out and even though it looked even, the officials said it was was short. Cleveland challenged and it was a successful, for a fresh set of downs.

2nd Quarter

The Browns faced a 3rd-and-12 to start the second quarter. A dumpoff to Moore set up a punt down to the 17 yard line, where the 49ers went to work again. San Francisco found their offensive rhythm again, getting a 33-yard completion to WR Brandon Aiyuk into Cleveland territory. The defense held the 49ers off in the red zone, so Moody came on and hit a 25-yard field goal to make it a 10-0 game.

The Browns got their biggest play in weeks on the next drive as Walker lofted a pass up the left sideline for Cooper. His defender slipped, so Cooper’s catch-and-run went for 58 yards.

A few plays later, TE Harrison Bryant lined up at quarterback under center. He tossed the ball to Hunt, who took the sweep along the left side for a 15-yard touchdown and making it a 10-7 game.

Then it was time for QB Brock Purdy to respond again. Heading into the two-minute warning, he delivered a 17-yard strike to get the ball to the 32 yard line. The rain picked up, though, and on third down, Purdy had an empty hand that he was able to recover for an 8-yard loss, taking them out of long field goal range. The 49ers punted down to the 9 yard line, where Cleveland would take over with 1:36 remaining and two timeouts.

Cleveland dodged a potential fumble from Walker, and ran the clock down to about 30 seconds before having to punt. The punt got off cleanly, so the 49ers kneeled the ball to end the half.

3rd Quarter

Cleveland got the ball to start the second quarter. On a 3rd-and-7, Walker lofted the ball up the right sideline for Cooper, who made an incredible leaping grap and kept his feet in bounds for 27 yards.

A 4-yard run by Hunt, followed by a 10-yard completion to Njoku, got the Browns into field goal range. A couple plays later, Hopkins came on for a 42-yard field goal — without any rain — and drilled it right down the middle to tie the game at 10-10.

The defense came out on fire against San Francisco. LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah jumped and tipped a pass on first down to break it up, the run game was stuffed for a loss on second down, and then on 3rd-and-11, CB Martin Emerson picked off Purdy’s errant throw up the left seam! Emerson returned it 13 yards to the 49ers’ 38 yard line to give Walker and the offense their best field position of the day, and a chance for the lead.

On first down, the Browns were flagged for a hold, setting them,back to 1st-and-20 — and then a run by Ford went for a loss of 2 yards, making it 2nd-and-18. The 49ers’ defense continued stepping up, nearly picking a pass on second down and then sacking Walker on third down to force a punt, which went into the end zone for a touchback.

Owusu-Koramoah came free and got a sack on Purdy for a loss of 10 yards on first down. After a 1-yard gain on second down, Purdy faced a 3rd-and-19. DE Ogbo Okoronkwo stuffed the run for a loss of 3 yards, forcing a quick punt. On the long punt, Cleveland caught a break when San Francisco was flagged 15 yards for running out of bounds. This time, the Browns’ offense would take over at their own 45 yard line.

The Browns moved into field goal range with a pass to Njoku and a couple of runs by Hunt. Walker tried to hit TE Harrison Bryant on 3rd-and-3, but the ball was a tick late and knocked away by a defender. Hopkins came on and drilled a 46-yard field goal to give the Browns a 13-10 lead with 2:59 remaining in the third quarter.

A hold on first down and a false start after that put the 49ers in a 1st-and-25 situation. Purdy had no where to throw on second down, scrambling for no gain. The ground game picked up 5 yards on second down, setting up 3rd-and-20. They picked up ten yards on the ground, which was fine for the defense as it just set up a punt to end the quarter.

4th Quarter

After the punt, Cleveland began the fourth quarter at their own 34 yard line. After a 5-yard run by hunt, a 4-yard completion to Goodwin made it 4th-and-1. Despite being at their own 43-yard line, Cleveland initially lined up to go for it. Then, Kevin Stefanski called a timeout and sent the punt unit on. Bryant motioned and lined up under center to try draw the 49ers offsides, but it didn’t work. They took the delay of game and punted, with the 49ers starting off at the 18 yard line.

The Browns’ decision to punt paid off, as the defense stayed hot and forced another three-and-out. Unfortunately, the offense shot themselves in the foot. The drive started with a loss of 1 yard by Hunt, and then on second down, there was a nice screen pass to Njoku for a first down — by it was called back because LT Jedrick Wills was unnecessarily downfield. Then, on 2nd-and-16, Walker tried to go to Cooper again up the left sideline. This time, the back of tricks didn’t work since the ball was underthrown and read, and intercepted with a return to the 8 yard line. The 49ers punched it in on the ground one play later to take the lead at 17-13 with 10:58 remaining in the game.

Walker and the Browns put together one of the more sustained drives of the game, scarping and clawing their way for every first down. In San Francisco territory, facing a 4th-and-4 from the 40 yard line, Walker hit WR David Bell for six yards and a first down. A couple plays later, Walker hit Cooper on a strike up the seam for 13 yards to the 21 yard line. An incompletion followed by a stuffed screen pass made it 3rd-and-10, though. On third down, DE Nick Bosa darted in for the sack, forcing Cleveland’s hand to try a field goal instead. Hopkins came on for a 50-yard field goal, and he hit it to make it a 17-16 game with 3:21 to go.

Owusu-Koramoah forced an intentional grounding on first down, making it 2nd-and-21 and stopping the clock. On second down, Purdy faced pressure and found Aiyuk for 10 yards, setting up a key 3rd-and-11. Pressure came again and Purdy threw it away, meaning the clock didn’t run on any three plays before having to punt. Cleveland would get the ball at the 26 yard line with 2:56 remaining and 2 timeouts.

On first down, Walker bought time, but couldn’t hit a wide open Moore over the middle. On second down, Walker rolled out and missed Moore again — this time trying to throw across his body. The third time is the charm? Walker tried to hit Moore on third down but sailed it, but S Tashaun Gipson was flagged 15 yards for a defenseless receiver hit. With the ball at the 41 yard line, the Browns pitched the ball to Ford, who sprinted to the left for 13 yards, into San Francisco territory.

Cleveland got another generous call, as the defense was flagged for defensive holding on Cooper. Ford then gained 5 yards on first down, setting up 2nd-and-5, on the border of long field goal range. Before the two-minute warning, Ford got the handoff again, and he got a burst of 22 yards! Cleveland had 1st-and-10 at the 14 yard line at the two-minute warning.

Hunt gained 2 yards on first down. On 2nd-and-8, Walker ran a playfake and not only was almost picked off in the end zone, but he didn’t drain the clock by just sliding. On 3rd-and-8, Hunt picked up 1 more yard. That brought Hopkins on for a 29-yard field goal, which he hit to give Cleveland the 19-17 lead with 1:40 to go.

The Browns’ cornerbacks came up with back-to-back stops on first and second down. On third down, Purdy threw an incomplete pass, but a flag was called on Emerson, drawing a first down at the 32 yard line with 1:27 left. Aiyuk then got a 25-yard catch-and-run into Cleveland territory, only a short distance from field goal range. Aiyuk followed that up with an 8-yard catch to get San Francisco into field goal range on 3rd-and-2. Purdy hit his receiver on the out route for 9 yards and a fresh set of downs. Moody came on for a 41-yard field goal, and...HE MISSED TO THE RIGHT! The Browns pulled off the stunner, and improved to 3-2 on the season.

Up next, the Browns travel to Indianapolis to take on the Colts.

Quick Hitters

  • QB P.J. Walker: 18-of-34 for 192 yards, 2 INT.
  • RB Jerome Ford: 17 carries, 84 yards (4.9 YPC).
  • RB Kareem Hunt: 12 carries, 47 yards (3.9 YPC), 1 TD.
  • WR Amari Cooper: 4 catches, 108 yards.