After the Week 7 bye, the 49ers were rested and back at home with a 5-1 record to start the season. 49ers Ray McDonald was out fighting a hamstring, with Ricky Jean-François in. Braylon Edwards was back in after the knee injury as well. It was 72 degrees and sunny in the Bay Area where the Niners faced off against the visiting Cleveland Browns.
The 49ers won the toss and deferred again - it's almost surprising they win that many tosses to even elect to defer this many times.
A helmet-less Ahmad Brooks sacked Colt McCoy, for the 49ers 15th takeaway, on Cleveland's second offensive play. Brooks put a move on the right tackle Tony Pashos and got inside the blocker to force a fumble that was recovered by Isaac Sopoaga.
San Francisco's offense got the ball already in scoring position. On third down, cornerback Joe Haden was called for pass interference which gave the 49ers a first down following the incompletion to Crabtree. Gore then took a 5-yard gain inside the CLE 5, with help from a Delanie Walker block up the middle.
On a blast, Gore took a second consecutive carry up the right side for a touchdown; with key blocks coming from Bruce Miller and Mike Iupati. The Niners took an early 7-0 over Cleveland.
In this game, it appeared as if the 49ers had settled on their starting secondary: Rogers, Brown, Goldson and Whitner. Montario Hardesty started for an injured Peyton Hillis (Hamstring) - Mohamed Massaquoi was also out.
Colt McCoy was flushed out of the pocket but scrambled for a first down. Chris Ogbonnaya made a short catch in the middle but took a blow from NaVorro Bowman. Aldon Smith checked in on a 3rd and 4; Culliver undercut an inside route and dropped a sure interception that hit him right in the hands.
Cleveland was forced to punt and the 49ers were starting inside their own 1-yard line. On 2nd down, Gore turned it up field on the left side for a 23-yard rip. Walker had taken out two defenders on the play, with the full back Miller running with Gore until the end of the play.
Hunter took the following handoff and was elusive, sidestepping defenders for a 25-yard gain and another big first down. Things got crazier when that was followed by a play-action to Kendall Hunter with Smith rolling back to his left and hitting tackle Joe Staley for a 17-yard gain and a 49ers first down.
Braylon Edwards made a short catch, trying to get involved. Smith then scrambled out of the pocket and put a move on Haden, diving for the first down. However, the drive stalled in the Browns red zone and the 49ers settled for a David Akers field goal.
The Niners took a 10-0 lead.
Smith hit Vernon Davis in stride for a 19-yard gain on a deep crossing route, locating him in an empty area. Gore then tore off for a 26-yarder down the right side; Snyder, Miller and Walker all with key blocks. The 49ers quarterback then hit back up tight end Justin Peele for a 19-yard gain in the middle of the field to get within striking distance.
Smith was heating up, now 6 of 7 for 74 yards. Smith pump faked, which held the linebackers before he delivered a strike to Crabtree over the middle for a first down. Smith was distributing the ball very well and with ease.
Sopoaga checked in at full back on offense - Iupati pulled and opened a lane for Gore who scored on a second effort, extending past the goal line. After review, it was revealed that Gore's elbow hit just before the goal line before the ball crossed. After two more consecutive runs, the 49ers failed to convert. On 4th down, San Francisco went for it and Gore was short again. Jim Harbaugh challenged the call but it was upheld and cost the Niners a timeout.
Cleveland started from inside their own 1-yard line. Colt McCoy hit his tight end Ben Watson to get the offense near the 20-yard line. Ogbonnaya got hit hard by Donte Whitner who put his shoulder right on the ball forcing a fumble, but it was recovered by Browns' tackle Joe Thomas. It was very apparent that Aldon Smith was getting pressure.
On 2nd and 10, Gore took a hand off to the left side for a 14-yard gain and a first down, knocking Browns defenders around - and followed it up with another 5-yard gain. Gore was really flowing this game.
When Hunter checked in, he was looking good with some tough running. On a 3rd and 6, a quick-hitter to Edwards got the 49ers a 13-yard gain and a fresh set of downs. Haden playing off Edwards opened up the slant route and Smith took advantage.
Gore set up a 3rd and short at the CLE 11 after a 6-yard gain. With an empty backfield, Smith received the snap out of the shotgun and sprinted left with Joe Staley as a lead blocker for a first down. On 2nd and goal, Crabtree went in motion to the right and caught the pass from Smith on play action for a touchdown.
San Francisco took a 17-0 lead after a 4:21, 12-play, 64 yard drive. Smith was 10 of 13, for 108 yards and a touchdown in the first half.
McCoy threw to Ogbonnaya out of the backfield that went close to a first down. An underneath pass to Greg Little was jumped by Goldson who ran up and crushed the receiver. Goldson was called for an illegal hit (blow to the head), but only appeared to have only connected with Little's shoulder.
Bowman blitzed up the middle with tenacity to get after McCoy that forced him to get rid of it. A reception by Jordan Norwood got the Browns another first down but time was running out before the half.
McCoy connected with Norwood again on a good timing route to get closer to FG range. McCoy hit Cribbs for 11-yards and a first down on an out-route. And with 4 seconds left at the 33-yard line, Phil Dawson came in for a 51-yarder that made it a 17-3 game as time ran out.
Smith, though playing well, could not really establish any sort of natural rhythm with Braylon Edwards. On 3rd down, Crabtree couldn't hang on to the ball throughout the catch and the Niners had to punt for the first time on the day.
Bowman made the special teams tackle on Cribbs.
Willis and Bowman were absolutely controlling the run game - keeping it inside and allowing no big gains. On a 3rd and 2, Patrick Willis sniffed out a trick play to Greg Little for a loss of 8 which forced the punt.
Frank Gore was stuffed on first down for a loss of 1. On a 3rd and 9, Smith went down the left sideline to Crabtree for a 41-yard gain. The ball placement by Smith was very nice, putting it right on Crabtree's helmet.
With another short gain, Gore reached 7,066 career yards rushing, surpassing Roger Craig for No. 2 in 49ers franchise history. Defensive tackle Phil Taylor strip sacked Smith, but Smith reacted, stepped up and recovered the football. On a 3rd and 11, the Browns sniffed out a wide receiver screen to Crabtree, forcing SF to punt.
Ahmad Brooks sacked Colt McCoy for a second time, wrapping him up after overpowering Ogbonnaya. McCoy threw to tight end Alex Smith for a 20-yard gain on the catch and run. A ball he caught in the flat went for extra yards as Smith hurdled defenders. McCoy then went deep to Ben Watson for a 29-yard completion and big first down for the Browns. Little followed it up with a quick 4-yard gain.
On 2nd and 6, Patrick Willis blitzed up the middle, delivering a forearm to the blocking running back. McCoy stepped up and threw to the end zone into double coverage and it was picked off by Dashon Goldson, which was the safety's first of the season.
After an unproductive outing by the Niners, McCoy scrambled on a Browns third down past the chains for a conversion, even taking Carlos Rogers with him. Ogbonnaya then took a handoff near the first down marker. But the 49ers defense led by Rogers and Willis blew up a quick pass attempt on 3rd and 2.
Back on offense, Gore was tackled behind the line of scrimmage by linebacker D'Qwell Jackson.
Smith ran the ball out of the shotgun up the right sideline for 9 yards but took a hard hit from Usama Young. Smith missed a wide open Crabtree down the left side who got behind the cornerback and the 49ers had to punt on 4th down.
Jean-Francois was in on the play to stop the run for San Francisco. McCoy then had to recover his own fumble coming away from center, which was his third of the day. After that, Bowman blew up Ogbonnaya in the flat for no gain.
Aldon Smith sacked McCoy on 3rd and 12; Smith displayed his quickness, stunting up the gut coming from the right side.
Ginn then returned a punt into Cleveland territory. D'Qwell Jackson blew up a reverse attempt by the 49ers, bringing down Ginn for an 8-yard loss to make it 3rd and 14.
When Cleveland got the ball back on offense, they went with the hurry-up offense with 8 minutes left in the game and still down 14 points. McCoy delivered a slant to Little just short of a first down. Bowman was all over Ogbonnaya, stopping the attempt on third down.
The Browns decided to go for it on 4th and converted with a quarterback sneak by McCoy. McCoy hits his backup tight end for a first down, who was tackled hard by Patrick Willis. McCoy then connected with Cribbs for 46-yard touchdown on a go-route. The coverage was missed by cornerback Tarell Brown and safety Dashon Goldson.
With less than 6 minutes left it was 17-10 and the 49ers were using Gore to run some clock. A facemask on D'Qwell Jackson bringing down Gore on third down gave SF a fresh set of downs. Smith then hit Edwards in stride on a slant for a first down. The 49ers ran clock and moved the chains with the run game, getting in Cleveland's red zone and down to the two-minute warning.
Isaac Sopoaga even caught one on the left sideline before taking it out of bounds. The 49ers kicked another field goal to make it a two-score game at 20-10 with less than two minutes left to play.
Justin Smith got a roughing the passer call late in the game after McCoy went down hard.
Ben Watson then made a big 19-yard grab up the middle for a first down, but the 49ers played prevent and were only rushing three.
McCoy was then sacked by Patrick Willis for a loss of 3 yards and the clock continued to run. Ogbonnaya made a couple of catches at the end but it was too little too late and the 49ers improved to 6-1 with no rust coming off the bye.
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