San Francisco, CA - Coming off their bye week, the forty-niners have plenty to smile about. They continue their winning streak and for the first time this season achieved a goal that hadn’t been done in thirteen years.
The 20-10 victory over the Cleveland Browns gave them a 6-1 record. Steve Mariucci led San Francisco to a 11-1 start in his first season as coach in 1998. The 49ers won their fifth consecutive game and went undefeated in the month of October for the first time since 1997.
“It feels amazing, I’ve never been 6-1 before,” said Vernon Davis. “I’m enjoying it and it’s a blessing to be here. All we can do is keep moving forward and keep getting better in practice.”
The defense dominated as usual setting up San Francisco’s first touchdown. Ahmad Brooks created a turnover when he sacked quarterback Colt McCoy on the game’s second snap. McCoy fumbled the ball and Issac Sopoaga recovered the ball on Cleveland’s 25 and returned on offense as the leading blocker for Frank Gore’s touchdown.
With less than two minutes into the game, Gore rushed 4-yards to give the 49ers a 7-0 lead. This is the first time in his career that he scored a rushing touchdown in four consecutive games. Frank had 103 yards on 19 carries by halftime then got another 7-yards to pass Roger Craig moving him to second place on the franchise rushing list with 7,098.
“It’s a blessing,” Gore said. “Roger Craig and I have gotten to know each other over the years. He got me motivated and it feels good. We’re 6-1 and I have to give it up to our O-line and receivers who do a great job blocking.”
Frank was unstoppable, no one could tackle him. During the second quarter he rushed for a 7-yard touchdown but it was reversed due to a challenge by the Browns. Gore’s left elbow was ruled down after reviewing the replay. This took some energy out of the offense as the leading rusher failed to cross the goal line on three carries including fourth and goal.
But they bounced back, Michael Crabtree got his first touchdown catch of the season. This put San Francisco up 17-0 with 1:31 left in the second quarter. It took 12 plays, 64 yards to score in 4:21.
Cleveland caught a break after a 15-yard penalty from Dashon Goldson put them in field goal range. Phil Dawson kicked a 52-yard field goal to put the Browns on the board and avoid a shutout in the first half as time expired.
“We all know how good this defense is,” said coach Pat Shurmur. “They didn’t do anything abnormal at all. When they bring the guys they’re going to bring we’ve got to block them. I don’t think there was one scenario today where they brought one more than we didn’t have to block. There was nothing schematically they did to attack the protection.”
The second half got a bit sloppy for the 49ers offense. Every drive led to a punt with Cleveland’s defense stopping the soaring offense. A 41-yard pass to Crabtree from Smith led to a punt when the offense was in a good position to score. The Browns began to make progress in their passing game.
They went into a no huddle but Colt threw deep in the end zone where Goldson intercepted the 35-yard pass. By the fourth quarter Cleveland pulled within 17-10 when Joshua Cribbs caught a 45-yard touchdown pass with 6:17 remaining in the game.
Nonetheless, San Francisco followed with a suspenseful drive that included an 18-yard, third-down reception by starting nose tackle Sopoaga. David Akers’ 26-yard field goal was the insurance run and the only points scored in the second half.
“There were a combination of things that didn’t go well in the second half,” coach Jim Harbaugh said. “I didn’t like our call on the reverse, we had a chance to hit Crabtree down on the boundary. We’ll just continue to improve in those areas that didn’t work well for us today.”
Despite the offense falling apart in the second half, there were some positive things that happened. Braylon Edwards returned against his former club after being out since he got hurt when they played Dallas earlier in the season. San Francisco hasn’t lost since that Cowboys game on September 18th.
“My knee was fine,” said Edwards. “That knee allowed me to cut, plant, do things I needed to do to get open, block or catch passes. After awhile I totally forgot about my knee, the training staff here made it a great recovery.”
Written by: Malaika Bobino