San Francisco 49ers: Previewing The Cleveland Browns


The San Francisco 49ers are a team that fluctuates weekly, and they will hope another high point comes this Sunday against the lowly Cleveland Browns.

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The San Francisco 49ers‘ suddenly energetic offense came to life last week, showing flashes of brilliance in a thrilling overtime victory in Chicago. Blaine Gabbert looked confident, Torrey Smith was used to literally win the game on a 70 yard deep ball, and Shaun Draughn continued to rack up the all-purpose yards.

On defense, the 49ers were far from perfect, but were still able to hold the Bears’ passing game in check, giving up just two total touchdowns on the day, both via the ground game. Jimmie Ward nabbed his first interception of his career and took it to the house early. NaVorro Bowman of course came to play as well, leading the way with 14 tackles on the chilly Midwestern afternoon.

Lady Luck also sided with San Francisco most of the day, given that the 49ers were spared being called for too many penalties — though admittedly, some may have been missed.

Of course, they were also saved by Chicago kicker Robbie Gould hooking a potential game winning field goal with seconds to spare. That led to the 49ers getting the chance to win the game in overtime. It was a chance they seized as Torrey Smith streaked down the middle of the field, beat Chicago’s coverage and snared and absolute rocket from Gabbert that sealed the victory for the 49ers.

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Gabbert is not a quarterback who is going to frequently put up Tom Brady or Drew Brees style video game numbers. But with the 49ers playing a more physical, intelligent game, he doesn’t need to be anything other than a good decision-maker.

Gabbert in a some regard, can be looked at as a game manager. He won’t be counted on to carry the load and the playmakers on offense will need to step up. And that’s how the 49ers should be playing right now. They need a combined effort by everyone on both sides of the ball. And as of late, they have been getting just that.

They will need this same effort as they continue their road trip through Midwest, rolling into Cleveland for a battle of two teams with mediocre records. At this point in the season, both teams are playing for nothing other than pride and draft order.

On one hand, San Francisco winning again and going on a streak would be great for their self esteem and confidence to close out the season. On the other hand, every win they add to their record inevitably leads to a worse draft pick by putting them out of range of the top five and the best prospects. It’s a tough dilemma for fans and team personnel alike, as neither outcome will make all parties happy.

The Browns are limping to the finish line, as they tend to be just about every season. In fact, the last time they went to the playoffs, Kelly Holcomb was at the helm for them. If you don’t know him, don’t be dismayed, he started just 24 games in his NFL career — one of which happened to be a playoff game in 2002 against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Long story short, the Browns are used to being — less than good. This season has been injury after injury for them, and the only national spotlight they get is when new photos of Johnny Manziel at a club or a party surface.

After seeming committed to Manziel by drafting him when no other team would, the Browns have had a hard time getting him good looks on offense. In very little playing time, he has shown his young age and inexperience overall. While he appears immature off the field, on the field he is athletic and confident. There’s no telling what he will do, and the 49ers had better seal the edge to prevent him from getting antsy and taking off where he can make plays in open space. They will also need to defend the deep ball, as Manziel loves showing off his Texas-sized arm with deep passes to his favorite long range target Travis Benjamin.

Next: Is Blaine Gabbert the Long Term Solution in San Francisco?

On defense, the Browns are anything but confident. They rank in the bottom four in the league in nearly all team defense categories. They’ve given up an average of nearly 400 yards and 30 points a game in 2015, putting them behind even the 49ers, who have struggled mightily at times this season.

42. Final. 13. 53. 19

When it comes down to it, both of these teams disappointed their fans in 2015. All that they can do now is go out, play hard, and hope for some lucky breaks. These last few games will prove who is in it for the long haul, and who is just there for a paycheck. The 49ers and Browns will need to come out in full force on Sunday in order to prove to the fans that they are still trying.