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The San Francisco 49ers (6-1) improved their record with a 20-10 victory over the visiting Cleveland Browns (3-4) at Candlestick Park. Although the Browns were tipped by many to fall short against the 49ers, Head Coach Pat Shurmur will be disappointed that his side was unable to kick on from their hard-fought win over the Seahawks a week ago, and move beyond the .500 mark.
The Browns were without both first choice running back, Peyton Hillis, and wide receiver, Mohamed Massaquoi, who currently leads the team in receiving yards. With these omissions, it looked as if they may struggle offensively, especially against the in-form defense of the 49ers.
Throw into the mix that Cleveland have only had nine plays of 20 or more yards so far in the season, by far the worst record in the league, and the Browns looked up against it from the off.
With Cleveland’s defense performing so well against the Seahawks last week, allowing just 137 yards, Defensive Coordinator Dick Jauron will have been unhappy that San Francisco managed to put together two drives, culminating in a rushing touchdown and passing touchdown for Fred Gore and Michael Crabtree respectively, without his side being able to offer anything in return.
While Gore was dominating the rushing game for the 49ers, making 134 yards on 31 carries, the Browns, bereft of Hillis, were struggling to make a similar impact, with Chris Ogbonnaya leading for Cleveland with 37 yards from 11 carries.
Despite Colt McCoy putting in a valiant effort — completing 22 of his 34 attempts for 241 yards — the 49ers defense held strong; linebacker Navarro Bowman had an impressive performance with a game-high 11 tackles to his name.
The visitors did put themselves in with a good chance of securing a comeback in the fourth when McCoy found Josh Cribbs for a 45-yard touchdown pass with just over six minutes left in the game. This reduced San Francisco’s lead to just seven points, making it a one possession game and setting up a tense ending.
Unfortunately for the Browns, though, San Francisco worked themselves into decent field position before David Akers kicked a field goal to make it a two possession game, effectively ending any hopes Cleveland had of heading home with the victory.
The Browns remain on the road, travelling to Houston to play the Texans next week in what will be another difficult match for Shurmur’s side, and what could very well be a game that plays a big part in whether Cleveland will regard this season as a success.
The 49ers, who will also be on the road next week, playing the Washington Redskins, are looking like they could make a real impact in the playoffs this season, and are already four games clear of their nearest divisional rivals, the Seahawks.
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