That’s the only word to describe Cleveland’s Monday night performance against the San Francisco 49ers. Every single player save special-teamers Austin Seibert, Jamie Gillan, and Tavierre Thomas embarrassed themselves. It was a top-to-bottom dud for the Browns, with really no positives to glean. There was not a 28-point talent difference in the 49ers favor, and that’s incredibly concerning.
With two weeks to prepare for Cleveland, the Niners took advantage and schemed a brilliant game plan on both sides of the ball. SF’s first play from scrimmage was Matt Breida‘s 83-yard touchdown run. It began a long night of running the ball down the Browns throat to the tune of 275 ground yards. The front seven was consistently gashed, regardless of who the running back was.
Cleveland’s front seven, the supposed strength of the team, was completely dominated by an offensive line that was without its strongest link. They generated a total of two sacks, two QB hits, and five hurries. Myles Garrett had one sack in the second quarter and was nonexistent for the rest of the game.
The secondary wasn’t much help in run support and allowed 74.1% of Jimmy Garoppolo‘s passes to be caught. And the tackling effort was atrocious; several times on third down the receiver was stopped short of the first down, but broke tackles to convert. It was a lethargic, sloppy, and undisciplined game from the defense. The final score looks bad enough, but it would’ve been worse than 31-3 had Robbie Gould not missed three field goals and fullback Kyle Juszczyk not been injured.
As bad as the defense was, the offense played even worse. It was certainly not Baker Mayfield‘s best day, but he got zero help from his teammates. The offensive line was absolutely horrible.
Baker Mayfield was under pressure on 14 of his 26 dropbacks last night (53.8%). When under pressure he was 1-10, 25 yards, 2 INT, and a passer rating of 0.0. #49ers
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— Jeff Deeney (@PFF_Jeff) October 8, 2019
According to Pro Football Focus, Mayfield was responsible for one hurry and one pressure on the night. The linemen, backs, and tight ends gave up two sacks, one QB hit, 13 hurries, and 16 pressures. The Niners totaled five sacks, three QB hits, 18 pressures, and two forced fumbles. Mayfield has been paranoid in the pocket all season long, but last night he had every reason to be.
He finished with just eight completions to four different receivers, along with two interceptions, one of which wasn’t his fault. Mayfield hit Antonio Callaway for what should have been an easy touchdown (the throw was slightly behind the receiver but entirely catchable). Instead, Callaway tipped the ball into the air, where 49ers (and ex-Browns) cornerback K’Waun Williams was waiting. SF scored another touchdown off of that turnover. What should have been a 14-10 game turned into a 21-3 thrashing that would only get worse.
The coaching also wasn’t stellar. The offensive game plan was highly questionable. Knowing that Mayfield was going to have less time to throw the ball, long-developing deep routes continued to be called. When he did have open receivers in the short game, Mayfield held the ball, as he’s done all season. With ten seconds to go in the first half, Freddie Kitchens called a pass play, which led to Mayfield getting sacked by Nick Bosa.
Despite the game being over early in the third quarter, Odell Beckham Jr. was inserted as the punt returner midway through the fourth. He fumbled and the Niners recovered, but no one cared about the result. It was the decision that was unacceptable; there was absolutely no reason to risk an injury to your best offensive player in a game that had been over for a long time.
The team looked unprepared and uninterested. Once things started to get out of hand, they gave up, and that’s not okay. This team was humbled, and maybe they needed that.
The challenge isn’t any easier this week as the Browns welcome the Seattle Seahawks to Cleveland. 2-4 heading into the bye week with the New England Patriots waiting after that would not be ideal. It’s not time to panic, but it’s time to be very concerned about this team.