The San Francisco 49ers were stale in every way on Sunday during their 24-10 loss to the Cleveland Browns.
Their offense couldn’t stay on the field long enough to find a handful of first downs, let alone the end zone. The defense couldn’t account for newly appointed starter Johnny Manziel‘s agility, and were again hampered by poor tackling and blown assignments.
Perhaps the only thing San Francisco did right on the day was help their draft position.
The injury woes on both sides of the ball were as evident as ever. Without Glenn Dorsey and linebacker Michael Wilhoite patrolling the defensive interior, the Brown’s last-ranked rushing attack ran all over the 49ers to the tune of 230 yards and two touchdowns.
With guard Alex Boone being forced from the game with a knee injury-and without the use of tight end Vance McDonald as a blocker — the 49ers surrendered nine sacks of quarterback Blaine Gabbert, who had his worst start since taking over as the lead signal-caller in Week 9.
Gabbert finished the day with an eyesore of a stat-line, completing 18-of-28 passes for 194-yards a touchdown-with a large chunk of that coming in garbage time.
With the passing game hampered, running back Shaun Draughn and the 49ers ground attack were unable to gain momentum, ending the day with just 71-combined yards rushing for San Francisco.
Luckily for Johnny Manziel, a dreary San Francisco defense came to town just in time for him to make a push for starter duties heading into next season.
Manziel looked spry while evading 49ers defenders, using his legs to buy him more time in order to complete 21-of-31 passes for 270-yards and one touchdown.
Isiah Crowell led an unlikely ground assault for Cleveland, finishing as the game’s leading rusher with 145-yards and two touchdowns.
With the way Manziel was able to move the football against the 49ers defense, you would have never of known that he was making just his fourth start of the year, and his first since mid-November.
Manziel and the Browns defense dominated the time of possession, controlling the ball for nearly 38-minutes of play, picking up 28 first downs and 481 yards of total offense.
But the Brown’s impressive offensive totals tallied them just 10-points before heading into the locker room at the half, as three costly turnovers cost them the chance to run away with the game early against a sluggish 49ers team.
Cleveland’s trifecta of turnovers included a fumble, a blocked field goal and an interception, all of which occurred in San Francisco territory, costing them the opportunity to widen their early lead.
But despite the ball control issues, Cleveland’s 26th ranked offense still looked adept at breaking Eric Mangini’s defense.
The Brown’s responded to the blocked field goal with a run-heavy drive that began and ended with the legs of Isiah Crowell, as the half back would plunge one-yard into the end zone for Cleveland’s third rushing touchdown of the year.
Cleveland would respond to a turnover with a scoring drive again, after Manziel would recover from a Duke Johnson Jr. fumble to lead his team on a 56-yard run before kicker Travis Coons would chip through a 26-yard field goal.
Even with the Brown’s turnovers leaving the doors open for the 49ers, Gabbert and a stale 49ers offense failed to move the ball against the Cleveland defense.
San Francisco managed just two first-downs in their nine minutes on the field, while running just 23 plays for 48-yards across the first two-quarters.
The 49ers would avoid the first-half donut with the aid of a 36-yard punt return from wide out Bruce Ellington, whose play would mark the only time San Francisco would move across mid-field in the half.
San Francisco wouldn’t do much with their shortened field position, running just three plays for six yards. The stalled effort would bring out former Browns kicker Phil Dawson, who would split the uprights on a 44-yard try to give the 49ers their first points of the game.
Things continued to skid for San Francisco in the second half, as the Browns cleaned up their mistakes, while the 49ers continued to have no answers for theirs.
Following San Francisco’s sixth punt of the game, Manziel would lead the Browns on a 78-yard attack that saw the 49ers look lost on huge gains down the field, before Manziel would cap the drive off with his first touchdown of the day with a two-yard sling to tight end Gary Barnidge.
The Browns would keep their momentum rolling during their next trip on the field, as Crowell would continue to break through the 49ers defensive backfield-this time with a 54-yard gain — before plunging into the end zone for his second score of the game on a three-yard dive.
Gabbert would lead the 49ers on one final garbage-time run before the clock would expire, finding wide receiver Jerome Simpson for his first touchdown of the season.
But a failed onside kick would allow Cleveland to kill the clock en route to their third win of the season. San Francisco will have a tough time getting back on track, as the formidable Cincinnati Bengals come to Levi’s Stadium next week.