clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

49ers defense struggles in a crucial area vs. Browns

The 49ers' defense had a good day, but struggled in a specific area vs. the Browns on Sunday.

The San Francisco 49ers suffered their first loss of the season in a 19-17 defeat to the Cleveland Browns, going home empty with the game ending on a 41-yard Jake Moody missed field goal.

The offense was the major issue on Sunday, as the 49ers were unable to capitalize on their opportunities against a staunch Cleveland defense, which led to just 17 points on the day.

On the other hand, the 49ers had a good game defending the pass, holding P.J. Walker to a 53 percent completion rate and under 200 passing yards, but the defense struggled in a crucial area: the run game.

The Browns rushed for 160 yards on 4.7 yards per carry on the day, dominating in that aspect despite struggling in the air, with Jerome Ford leading the way with 84 yards on 17 carries.

Cleveland ran the ball 34 times and did it effectively, hence their advantage in the time of possession category, which allowed them to keep the game close and control the pace of the game.

While the Browns' gameplanned well, it was a poor effort from the 49ers in regard to setting the edge and tackling, which led to the extra opportunities for Cleveland.

What did head coach Kyle Shanahan take away from the performance?

“Yeah, I was disappointed in it. I’m not sure the exact stat compared to the others, but if I had to guess it was our most missed tackles on the year,” Shanahan said.

The head coach pointed out the struggles on the edges, which hasn't been a concern thus far this season, despite San Francisco facing run-oriented teams such as Dallas, New York, and Arizona.

“I thought they got our edges way too much, just blocking down on our D-Ends and getting around. We played a lot more two-shell defense and when you play two-shell defense you’re a little bit behind in the run game. But we’ve been able to stop guys pretty good in that way,” Shanahan said.

“When they got our ends and we didn’t get our safeties downhill, they bled us out too much. And when you add on a couple of those missed tackles and everything, it was way too much.”

It was killer for the 49ers, especially given the fact that the Browns came into the game without quarterback Deshaun Watson, running back Nick Chubb, or left guard Joel Bitonio.

In fact, Cleveland had made a change to P.J. Walker from Dorian Thompson-Robinson in Week 6, and San Francisco had the chance to make him uncomfortable, but failed in that regard, which irritated Shanahan.

“Especially when you’ve got a quarterback coming in who hasn’t started yet the best way to make that guy uncomfortable is to take away the run game and with 160 yards in that, we obviously didn’t. That was disappointing, especially on those last two drives,” Shanahan said.

Coming into the week, the 49ers hadn’t really faced a strong rushing attack apart from Cowboys, which now raises questions as to how well they can execute against the high-end run threats, such as the Philadelphia Eagles.

But, for now, the 49ers will face the Minnesota Vikings, who have struggled on the ground with 75 rushing yards a game (30th in NFL), and 4.0 yards per carry, in Week 7.