The Cleveland Browns will be returning to Ohio on the back of humiliating 31-3 defeat to the San Francisco 49ers. Optimism had returned to this Cleveland fan, and victory felt like a possibility after our best performance of the season against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 4. However, this was not to be the case, as the up-and-down Browns offense slumped to a new low.
The game started with such hope, with wideout Odell Beckham Jr turning makeshift quarterback and throwing to his former LSU college teammate, Jarvis Landry. The 20-yard completion saw Landry reach a landmark 500 NFL receptions but this would turn out to be one of few highlights in a night with plenty of lows.
Back to basics for the Browns offense
On a night where things definitely did not get rolling for Cleveland, the Browns committed fully to trying to get the run game going – until it simply became no longer feasible. Nick Chubb was able to post a respectable 87 yards from 16 carries but his mediocre numbers were the only signs of any player having had a good game.
It is fair to say that the 49ers’ loaded defensive front did not disappoint, limiting Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield to just 100 yards and three points. This is summed up well in his 13.4 passer rating, two interceptions and two fumbles, one of which was lost.
Mayfield took a beating the entire game, but some of the 49ers’ D seemed to be playing with a chip on their shoulder, none more so than rookie Nick Bosa. The second overall draft pick in 2019 proceeded to chase Mayfield down all night, and after successfully getting to him at the end of the second quarter, then began the process of ‘planting the flag’. This was a delightful tongue-in-cheek reference to Mayfield’s territory marking during Oklahoma’s visit to Ohio State in 2017.
Baker did not have a game to remember but he can look back on lost opportunities, one of which could have brought the Browns to within four points of the Niners. A well-thrown pass down the middle of the field was juggled by second-year wide receiver Antonio Callaway, only for the ball to land in the hands of 49ers cornerback K’Waun Williams.
Head Coach Freddie Kitchens pointed to penalties and dropped catches throughout the game, which caused a powerful offense to stall. The Williams interception and a Beckham Jr overhead catch at midfield are the ones that stick in the mind the most.
All in all, this was not a great performance by this Browns offense and it probably won’t even go down as average. Nevertheless, the loss presents an opportunity to learn by watching the game tape. The learning curve required will be a steep one, as the 4-1 Seattle Seahawks will provide another tough test for Cleveland.
Cleveland defense overwhelmed for first time
It’s clear that the Browns defense has been the main cause of optimism and the reason for our victories. They have continually impressed through the first four weeks of the season, in particular Myles Garrett.
Regardless of the first four weeks, San Francisco presented a different test, and this test may require a resit. Matt Breida and Tevin Coleman burst through Cleveland’s defense all night and racked up a huge 211 yards off 27 carries between them.
With the Browns’ unable to stop the run, the Niners were able to become more expansive in their play calling, and opened up the chapter titled ‘play action’. Cleveland’s defense found themselves backpedalling out of desperation, on the field for far too long and far too often, and unable to play with any aggression. The front four were unable to deal with Kyle Juszczyk, and a huge amount of credit goes to him for blocking well and clearing lanes, with Coleman and Breida more than happy to exploit the holes. Any defense would have struggled to deal with the Niners’ rushing game, and Cleveland will consider themselves unfortunate that they just so happened to be the team tasked with dealing with it.
Jamie Gillan continues to hammer away
One positive light in this crushing defeat is punter Jamie Gillan. The reigning AFC Special Teams Player of the Month continued to exhibit his continued growth in his rookie season in the NFL. Gillan was excellent all night, sending seven punts into the Santa Clara night sky for an average of 56.7 yards, with his longest recorded at 71 yards. Of those seven kicks, four landed inside the 20, and Gillan’s ability to flip the field is something that will stand the Browns in good stead going forward.
Looking forward to Seattle
Looking ahead, the Browns next welcome Pete Carroll and the Seattle Seahawks (4-1), who are coming off the back of a hard-fought Thursday Night prime-time win against the LA Rams. The Browns have an opportunity to improve in all areas of the field, and will be hoping to welcome back key defensive players Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams.
After the humiliating defeat to the 49ers, they will need to pay close attention to the game tape and learn quickly. But knowing this topsy-turvy Cleveland offensive form, who knows what to expect in Week 6.
Feature Image – Credit: Tony Avelar/Associated Press