1. San Francisco’s run defense vs. Cleveland’s RB Nick Chubb
Chubb is always a big-play threat with his speed. He finished the game with 87 yards on 16 carries. Two of his carries went for first downs. That’s a win for the 49ers. The 37-yard gain caught the 49ers off-guard, as he lined up at fullback, and the Browns ran a nifty trap play. Other than that, the Niners did an excellent job of stopping the speedy runner before he could get started. When Chubb ran to the left, he had eight carries for 16 yards. The defense stopped the Browns on early downs, which led to Baker Mayfield struggling on third down.
2. San Francisco’s receivers vs. Cleveland’s secondary
This wasn’t counting the tight ends. Marquise Goodwin led the way from an impact standpoint. Goodwin finished with three receptions for 41 yards, and two of those went for first downs. It was a dud from the other wideouts. Deebo Samuel was targeted three times. One of those the pass was broken up, not a drop, but his only catch went for three yards. The rollercoaster season for Dante Pettis continued, as he juggled one catch that eventually was a first down, and he dropped a sure touchdown. Go back to that drop, and watch Jimmy G. He mouths “every f**king time.” The frustration has to be building there.
The frustrating part is that Cleveland’s secondary didn’t do anything to wow you. The receivers made mistakes. I give the nod to the Browns here.
3. San Francisco’s left tackle Justin Skule vs. Cleveland’s pass rusher Myles Garrett
I’m not finished re-watching the game yet, so I’m not sure how much help Skule had. PFF didn’t have Skule down for any sacks, hits, or hurries. He also had a run-blocking grade of 79.6. I thought it was fair to panic when Joe Staley went down with an injury, but Skule is 2/2. Garrett was non-existent. He had a sack, but he only had one other tackle during the game. Skule outplayed one of the best pass rushers in the league.
4. San Francisco’s defensive backs vs. Cleveland’s wideouts
The difference between Kyle Shanahan and Freddie Kitchens is that when Shanahan has something that works, he won’t go away from it. Cleveland found a chink in the 49ers’ armor. That intermediate out route to Richard Sherman’s side. They could complete that whenever they wanted to. For whatever reason, the Browns didn’t take advantage of that.
As far as the individual matchups go, the secondary did what they’ve done all season, not allow big plays. Jarvis Landry caught four passes for 75 yards. Two of those were over 20 yards, but the Browns weren’t able to score touchdowns. Why? Because they couldn’t win vertically outside the numbers.
That was supposed to be Odell Beckham Jr.’s role. Beckham dropped an out route; he also couldn’t run by Emmanuel Moseley, who was every bit as good as his teammates were hyping him up to be. The Browns threw the ball over 20 yards five times and didn’t complete a pass. That’s not true. One of those completions went to the 49ers.