By Sam McPherson
The San Francisco 49ers failed in their attempt Sunday to win consecutive games for the first time this season, dropping an ugly 24-10 decision to the Cleveland Browns on the road. The 49ers offense was invisible, totaling barely 100 yards after three quarters thanks to way too many sacks allowed and no running game. San Francisco saw its record sink to 4-9 on the 2015 season with the loss, as the Browns won their third game of the season.
The 49ers had a chance here to build some momentum after beating the Chicago Bears on the road last week in overtime, but San Francisco was unable to capitalize on either side of the ball. This reflects poorly on the coaching staff, which once again didn’t prepare the roster effectively enough at all for a road challenge. The 49ers are now just 1-6 on the road this season.
Quarterback Blaine Gabbert couldn’t get anything going; this just one week after having perhaps his best game as a starter in years. He was sacked nine times on Sunday, and Gabbert managed only 89 yards passing through three quarters. It was a very Kaepernick-like day for the 49ers QB. To be fair, Gabbert got little help from the running game or the defense, though. Running back Shaun Draughn had 43 yards on 11 carries, but S.F. was playing from behind for most of the game. The garbage-time yardage and score in the fourth quarter can’t hide this stinker of an effort.
The veteran wide receivers couldn’t get open either, really, as Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith combined for just three catches and 31 yards through the first 45 minutes of the game. Down to the fourth-string tight end, Gabbert didn’t have a safety outlet to speak of in this game. It was just an ugly performance by the league’s worst offense. Don’t let the final numbers fool you: The 49ers offense was invisible until the meaningless touchdown drive late in the fourth quarter.
The bottom line is the 49ers let Johnny Manziel beat them, and that in itself is bad. Johnny Football threw for 270 yards on 31 attempts against the S.F. defense, while running back Isaiah Crowell ran for almost 150 yards on just 20 carries. It could have been worse, too, if the 49ers hadn’t forced two turnovers.
The Browns averaged 6.5 yards per play, and that’s really all anyone needs to know about the 49ers defense in this game. Injuries or not, that was just the worst defensive performance of the season overall, considering the opponent. Giving up 481 yards to the Browns is just terrible, and Cleveland ran for 230 yards total while holding the ball for almost 38 minutes of game time.
Special Teams: B
While the special teams didn’t make any mistakes, they also didn’t make any plays on a day when the 49ers could have used a big return, or a blocked kick … anything to light a fire under the team’s collective spirit. Phil Dawson made his only field-goal attempt to help San Francisco avoid the shutout.
Head Coach Jim Tomsula and his staff failed once again to prepare the team for a road game, and this one was very winnable against a sad-sack Browns team. Instead, it was Cleveland that took San Francisco behind the woodshed and beat them up in every phase of the game. It’s becoming hard to argue for Tomsula staying on as head coach next season as the 49ers try to rebuild the team once again.
Let’s be honest, too: The S.F. job isn’t a top NFL job. The 49ers have made the postseason now just three times since 2002, and that’s not the record of a successful franchise. The 1980s and 1990s are long in the past, and so is Jim Harbaugh now. If Tomsula is let go, who is the team going to find to take over the mess?
Back To Levi’s For Game 14 Against Cincy
The Cincinnati Bengals come to town next weekend with a chance to clinch a playoff berth. That doesn’t bode well for the 49ers, even if they are playing at home. Of course, San Francisco is just playing for 2016 now, but it still would be nice to be a competitive team sooner rather than later.
Sam McPherson is a freelance writer covering baseball, football, basketball, golf, hockey and fantasy sports for CBS, AXS and Examiner. He also is an Ironman triathlete and certified triathlon coach.