This most recent edition of Monday Night Football presented a fascinating match-up between two of the NFL’s most intriguing teams. Both the San Francisco 49ers and the Cleveland Browns kicked off on Monday night following a win and eager to prove to the rest of the NFL that they’re not pretenders.
The mission to put out a statement went a lot better for the surging San Francisco 49ers as they trumped the blundering Browns 31-3, leaving 9 points off the board due to 3 kicking blunders and banishing any talk of them being ‘pretenders’ to the shadow realm.
Right from the get go the 49ers were dominant. After a Cleveland punt to open up the game, star underrated running back Matt Breida scored a 83 yard touchdown on the first play of the game for the Niner offence. That play set the tone for the rest of the game and the slumbering Browns failed to stop the San Francisco running game for the rest of the evening, resulting in 211 rushing yards combined for Matt Breida and free-agent acquisition Tevin Coleman.
Coming into this game there were serious question marks surrounding 49ers rookie left-tackle Justin Skule, who is starting in the place of veteran and pro bowler Joe Staley. Skule had the tough duty of stopping DPOY candidate Myles Garrett. Garrett did register a sack, however that was on the right side against RT Mike McGlinchey. Whereas Skule did a great job against Garrett, Kyle Shanahan did a great job neutralising Garrett via a counter based run game and a quick passing game. It was an absolute masterclass in play calling on the world stage for Shanahan who has now cemented his place as one of the elite play-callers in the public eye.
Freddie Kitchens did not have such an enjoyable night compared to his 49er counterpart. Kitchens did manage to cool the heat on him after a resounding win against the Ravens in Week 4, however, this San Francisco defence is a lot better than the Ravens.
It was the same old story for the Browns on Monday night as the offensive line struggled mightily under the pressure of the ‘Sack Francisco’ front 7. Nick Chubb was nowhere to be seen due to being swallowed up by Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner. Baker Mayfield finished the game 8 of 22 with 100 yards passing, 0 TD’s and 2 INT’s. There were chances for star wide-out Odell Beckham Jr. to make his mark on the game but it never materialised, mostly due to Baker Mayfield’s skittishness and inaccuracy from the pocket.
The Browns’ night was best summed up on a play in the 4th quarter. With 7 minutes remaining in the ballgame and down multiple scores, Freddie Kitchens sends out Odell Beckham to return the punt and maybe spark an improbable Browns comeback. Beckham receives the ball, tries to make some magic happen, reverses field, fumbles. All that promise resulting in a turnover.
Post game Nick Bosa joked that Mayfield struggled to see over the line of scrimmage. On a night where San Francisco announced their presence to the rest of their league, Bosa seemed to embody that and go on to have his best game yet in the red and gold. Bosa finished with 2 sacks, 2 tackles for loss, 5 quarterback hits and one forced fumble.
Even though the Browns did lose by a wide margin, there is no shame in losing to the most improved defence of 2019. The Browns are also in a drab AFC North, four wins are more or less secured against the Bengals and Steelers and the Browns schedule does get much easier in the second half of the season. But that won’t fly to those Browns fans who got drunk on the off-season hype and have now woken up with a killer hangover. Freddie Kitchens could soon be on the hot seat.
For the 49ers, the Bay Area is finally relishing in all the promise Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch brought with them in 2017. The 49ers are 4-0 with a tantalising game against the LA Rams on the horizon, the 49ers will be eager to go prove themselves some more.