SANTA CLARA, California -- The Browns flew west but were not able to return with a win, falling to the San Francisco 49ers in a lopsided affair, 31-3.
Here are our three big takeaways from the defeat.
1. Back to the drawing board on offense
The Browns started the game creatively and inspired some excitement when Odell Beckham Jr. completed a pass to Jarvis Landry for a first down and for Landry’s 500th career reception. It was a nice touch, but it was one of the few highlight moments for the Browns for the rest of the night.
San Francisco’s lauded defensive front did not disappoint, causing havoc and forcing mistakes all night. Mayfield threw two interceptions and fumbled multiple times, and posted a final stat line of 8-of-22 passing for 100 yards and a passer rating of 13.4. Fifty-five of those yards went to Jarvis Landry, while 27 went to Beckham and 12 went to Nick Chubb.
The Browns committed to Nick Chubb on the ground until the deficit didn’t allow them to, and he had a typically strong Chubb game, rushing 16 times for 87 yards. It was lost in the grander picture, though, because the Browns were fighting uphill for the majority of the night. And when they had a chance to move within four points, a ball deflected off Antonio Callaway’s hands and into those of K’Waun Williams for an interception.
Afterward, head coach Freddie Kitchens pointed to penalties and drops among the mistakes that doomed the Browns’ offense. He also suggested that simplicity might be the best approach moving forward.
“I’ve got to make sure that we’re not asking these guys to do too much,” Kitchens said.
In all, it was a game that this team and staff will need to learn from, because another one awaits them Sunday at home. And that game cannot go as poorly offensively as this one did.
Check out photos of the Browns against the 49ers
2. Defense is humbled for first time in 2019
While the offense has experienced its share of ups and downs through four weeks, the Browns’ defense has been consistently impressive. That ended Monday night.
Matt Breida and Tevin Coleman combined to rush for 211 yards on 27 carries, and Raheem Mostert added another 34 yards on seven carries. The No. 1 objective against the 49ers was not met until late in the fourth quarter when the game was well out of hand.
Because of the defense’s inability to stop the run, they found themselves backpedaling out of desperation when 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan turned to his play action portion of the book. The result was a Browns defense that couldn’t play with aggression because it was too busy attempting to find its balance while on skates, and found itself on the field far too often. Kitchens made note of the latter in his postgame press conference, pointing to his offense’s struggles as a reason for the defense being on the field more than usual.
“I think San Francisco beat us in every facet of the game,” Kitchens said.
It was a humbling of sorts for all associated with the brown and orange, no doubt, but also a very teachable game tape. And credit is due to San Francisco, especially fullback Kyle Juszczyk, who is the unheralded lynchpin to the 49ers’ offense and cleared big lanes for Breida, Coleman and Mostert all night. With blocking like that, most running backs will find success and leave defenses questioning their performance. The Browns happened to be such a defense on Monday night.
3. Jamie Gillan (and special teams) are quite good
There were a few bright spots in an otherwise nightmarish night. Jamie Gillan, reigning AFC Special Teams Player of the Month, was excellent all night, sending seven punts into the Santa Clara night for an average of 56.7 yards and a long of 71 yards. Four of his punts landed inside the 20, and Gillan frequently flipped the field, buying space for his defense even as the offense faltered.
Austin Seibert was good, too, in his lone opportunity to kick. He converted a 30-yarder early in the second quarter, accounting for the Browns’ only points of the night.
Realistically, though, it’s not a good night if your punter is on the field for seven attempts.
What was good: The Browns were inching closer and closer to blocking Robbie Gould’s kicks and finally got home on an attempt late in the third quarter, denying Gould’s 32-yard attempt. That’s something they can build off of in the weeks ahead, which could prove valuable if they find themselves in a close game or two.