The 49ers made mistakes, overcame injuries, put themselves in a position to win a game, before ultimately coming up short. There’s a reason there’s been only one undefeated team throughout the history of the NFL.
The schedule is a grind. The Niners entered the game without Dre Greenlaw, and played two quarters without Deebo Samuel and about a quarter and a half without Christian McCaffrey.
Despite a couple of horrific calls by the referees on the final defensive possession, the 49ers found themselves within field goal range to win the game.
Reason and ration aren’t allowed on the internet. The sky is falling the second one thing goes against the perceived plan. With that in mind, let’s go over a few overreactions from Week 6.
The 49ers made a mistake by selecting a kicker in the third round
Jake Moody’s first two misses of the season ended up being the difference on the scoreboard. Based on where he was drafted, the 49ers have made it to where Mood must be perfect in game-winning situations.
Winds were blowing around 18 miles per hour in Cleveland on Sunday. There was enough rain to make it noticeable. Still, part of the reason the team drafted Moody was because he was “battle-tested” after having kicked through the worst kinds of weather at the University of Michigan.
Moody missed a 54-yard field goal in the first quarter that had plenty of leg, but pushed wide left. This came after a Fred Warner interception and with a chance to give the Niners a two-possession lead.
There was some second-guessing about Kyle Shanahan’s end-of-game management, but he put the ball in the middle of the field for a chip-shot field goal. But Moody’s kick from 41 sailed wide right and the Browns escaped victorious.
These were the first two kicks, maybe outside his first attempt, where Moody was under pressure. The sole reason of drafting him was to nail 50+ yarders and game-winners. Fair or not, that’s true in rain, sleet, snow, or sunshine.
Saying the 49ers made a mistake by selecting Moody in the third round feels like a prisoner of the moment stance — unless you already felt that way. Before Sunday, Moody made all 20 of his extra points, all nine field goals, including two over 40 yards and his lone attempt beyond 50 yards.
That doesn’t absolve Moody from missing. In a game where it felt like a dozen different things went wrong for the 49ers, nobody would have cared had Moody made the final kick.
I’ve always been in the mindset that Moody was overdrafted. That’s not his fault, either. The 49ers had proven through five games that they don’t need a kicker to be a difference-maker.
If you look at where each of the top kickers were drafted, the majority of them are either seventh rounders or undrafted free agents. San Francisco could have invested in depth along the offensive line or in the secondary. But it’s easy to pick on a player after he messes up.
Let’s see how Moody plays under pressure for the duration of the regular season. It’s Week 6 of his rookie year.
Super Bowl contenders don’t lose to third-string QBs
The Bills were at home against Tyrod Taylor and the Giants and were fortunate to escape with a victory. The two undefeated teams, the 49ers and Eagles, did not have the same luck against a backup quarterback.
Still, acting like the 49ers aren’t a contender anymore after a loss ignores the consistent parity that makes the NFL, as well as history. Let’s rewind about 30 years. One of the most dominant teams in NFL history, the 1994 49ers, got their butts kicked at home by the Philadelphia Eagles so bad that Steve Young got benched. Could you imagine this site if the team lost 40-8?
Letdown spots happen every week in the NFL to every team. It was evident that the 49ers poured a lot of emotion into beating the Cowboys last week. To a lesser extent, this Browns loss reminds me of the Week 15 Falcons loss in 2019.
The Niners had just beaten New Orleans after scoring 48 points in a matchup that everyone was excited about. They go into the next week a little banged up, and can’t overcome various mistakes against Atlanta.
Super Bowl contenders lose. Everybody does. The Chiefs lost to the ghost of Matt Ryan last season in Week 3, before winning the Super Bowl.
The year before, Tampa Bay got embarrassed on Monday Night Football against Taylor Heinicke before hoisting a Lombardi Trophy. I could go on and on, but these types of games frequently happen in this league.
Does that make it any less frustrating? Probably not, but context is necessary. Sunday was a fantastic situation for the 49ers to be in from a situational spot. You need to experience adversity. Every game can’t be 42-10. The result wasn’t what the 49ers wanted. That happens.
We’ll know more about who the 49ers are over the next couple of weeks before their bye week more than what we saw today. The NFL is about answering adversity and resiliency. The Niners will show their true colors during the upcoming weeks.
Speaking of true colors...
Brock Purdy showed his true colors against the Browns
Is the honeymoon period over for Brock Purdy? Just like that? Quarterbacks have bad games in the NFL. Against Jim Schwartz and the Browns, everybody struggles. Purdy went 12-for-27, for 125 yards. He was sacked three times, and had a passer rating of 55.3 with a yards per attempt of 4.6. Each of these were significantly worse numbers from the 49ers signal-caller than we’ve seen all season.
Sunday was the first time when the moment looked too big for Purdy. It was also the first time he looked like a seventh-rounder.
One trait that the majority of first-round quarterbacks possess is hand size. Everyone talks about having a 6’4, 225-pound quarterback, but how big a quarterbacks hands are matters for numerous reasons, especially when the weather was as sloppy as it was in Cleveland.
Per Mockdraftable, Purdy was in the 24th percentile for hand size, eighth percentile in height, and 19th percentile in weight. He was in the one percentile for both arm length and wing span. Needless to say, Purdy’s structure, comparatively speaking to other NFL quarterbacks, doesn’t do him any favors.
So, in the rain, gripping the ball may be more difficult. When there are bodies around you, scrambling on a wet field won’t be as easy. When defenders get an arm on you, staying upright will be more difficult. We saw each of these play out on Sunday.
Did Purdy miss the services of Christian McCaffrey and Deebo Samuel? Undoubtedly. But you can’t blame their losses, or Kyle Shanahan. There were a handful of plays where Purdy had Brandon Aiyuk open, on throws we’ve seen Purdy connect with all season, where he just missed.
If you remember earlier in the game, when the offense had a free play and McCaffrey got open down the field, Brock airmailed a walk-in touchdown. Purdy remained aggressive in pushing the ball down the field, but he wasn’t anywhere near as accurate as we’ve seen in the five weeks leading up to Sunday.
All the 49ers needed was for the bottom not to fall out at the quarterback position. Instead, Purdy finished with the second-lowest average intended air yards of the week with the lowest-completion percentage of the week. That’s not an ideal combo.
The most predictable part about the 49ers losing was those analysts poo-pooing on what Purdy has done all season using the Browns game as a “gotcha” moment. Purdy did not play well. But brushing aside what he’s accomplished so far this season and how he’s helped elevate this offense to use one data point as a, “see, he sucks!” would explain why the analysis on TV or in general about the NFL isn’t useful or helpful in today’s day and age.
I’m more inclined to give the Browns credit for how they shut down the 49ers offense than point the finger at who was at fault for the Niners. Save the first and final drive, Cleveland was lights out. The 49ers had their lowest success rate (35%) of the season.
The Browns' athleticism gave the Niners offense fits, and the offensive line had no answers for the Browns defensive line as they made Dalvin Tomlinson look like Aaron Donald.
“Starting quarterback in a difficult situational spot struggles against the best defense in the NFL.” That’s it. That’s what happened. Purdy will be OK. Let’s just hope the 49ers can win the battle of attrition in a long season and get healthy.
The 49ers NEED to find a top-flight cornerback
Week 6 proved why explosive plays are the name of the game. Aiyuk dropped what seemed like a sure touchdown. Purdy failed to connect on a couple of other deeper throws. For as much as everyone will discuss Purdy, PJ Walker was worse.
The 49ers defense held him to a 29 percent success rate, a -0.38 EPA per dropback, won the battle on early downs, but two big plays were the difference.
Coming into this game, both Mooney Ward and Deommodore Lenoir were in the top-12 among all defenders at limiting the big play. Was that more about who they have faced? Perhaps. But the one thing you cannot do, against a quarterback just called up from the practice squad, is let his favorite target have a big day.
Amari Cooper caught four of his eight targets for 108 yards. His 58-yarder that left Lenoir on the ground led to Cleveland’s first touchdown.
Another 26-yard moss drill over Mooney happened on 3rd & 6. Instead of getting off the field, the 49ers gave up three points. Cooper converted another first down in the fourth quarter which also ended up in a drive where the Browns scored. Finally, a defensive holding call on Ward gifted the Browns another first which led to points.
Cooper was made an impact on every scoring drive the Browns had. Yes, the zebras were flag happy all afternoon, but that was inevitable once there was a pre-game fight. You can’t let Cooper beat you. Not with Walker under center. Not with Deshaun Watson, Bernie Kosar, or Tim Couch under center.
And this isn’t on Steve Wilks. It’s difficult to double-team a receiver when they are making plays outside the numbers along the sidelines. The front office must take a long look at their cornerback position to determine if this group is good enough to hold up during the stretch run.
These are the upcoming wideouts the secondary faces:
Jordan Addison (Justin Jefferson is out, thankfully)
Ja’Marr Chase/Tee Higgins
Tyler Lockett/D.K. Metcalf
A.J. Brown/Devonta Smith
The Seahawks are in there twice, so the next six games, the secondary will be challenged by some of the best receivers’ in the game.
You’re not going to win many games on the road when you miss countless tackles, drop four passes, commit 12 penalties, fail to hit open receivers, and miss two field goals. The Browns deserve some credit, but the 49ers lost this game. Cleveland tried to give it away, but the Niners wouldn’t take it.