End 1Q: 49ers 10, Browns 0 -- Browns quarterback Colt McCoy lost a fumble during the second play from scrimmage when 49ers linebacker Ahmad Brooks beat right tackle Tony Pashos with a pass rush and recorded a strip-sack. Defensive tackle Isaac Sopoaga recovered the fumble at the Browns’ 20 with 14:19 left in the first quarter. Five plays later, the 49ers capitalized on their early takeaway. Frank Gore rushed for a 4-yard touchdown, David Akers made the subsequent extra-point kick and the 49ers captured a 7-0 lead with 12:44 left in the first quarter. The Browns’ mixed some no-huddle offense into their next drive, but they stalled after gaining one first down. Strong safety T.J. Ward downed Brad Maynard’s 50-yard punt at the 49ers’ 1-yard line. The poor field position, though, didn’t deter the 49ers. Aided by consecutive runs of 24 and 26 yards off the left side, they produced an 11-play, 88-yard scoring drive that was capped by Akers’ 29-yard field goal with 2:55 left in the opening quarter.
End 2Q: 49ers 17, Browns 3 -- The 49ers threatened to extend their lead early in the second quarter, but the Browns made a goal-line stand. Middle linebacker D’Qwell Jackson helped stop Gore on three consecutive runs from the 1. The 49ers went for it on fourth-and-goal and challenged the call after Gore was stuffed, but the play stood after a review. The Browns gained possession on their 1 with 9:47 left in the second quarter. However, the Browns’ offense couldn’t take advantage of the momentum created by the defense’s stand. McCoy recovered his own fumble after loosing the ball while trying to make a handoff near the goal line. Running back Chris Ogbonnaya fumbled three plays later, and left tackle Joe Thomas recovered. After those fumbles contributed to another stalled drive for the Browns, the 49ers produced a 12-play, 64-yard scoring drive. Quarterback Alex Smith capped it with a 2-yard pass to wide receiver Michael Crabtree, who was wide open during a play-action fake. Akers’ extra point gave the 49ers a 17-0 lead with 1:31 left in the second quarter. Following the ensuing kickoff, the Browns took possession at their own 17 with 1:26 left in the first half. McCoy and Co. marched 50 yards in eight plays to set up Phil Dawson’s successful 52-yard field goal that trimmed the Browns’ deficit to 17-3 as time expired. On third-and-5 from the 49ers’ 44, McCoy completed an 11-yard pass along the sideline to wide receiver Josh Cribbs, who got out of bounds at the 33 with four seconds remaining in the second quarter. Dawson then cut the 49ers’ lead to two touchdowns. The Browns could play the second half with only one running back. Montario Hardesty suffered a calf injury during the first quarter. His return has been listed as “possible,” meaning Ogbonnaya might be the only running back available to the Browns in the final two quarters.
End 3Q: 49ers 17, Browns 3 -- Defensive coordinator Dick Jauron must have made the proper adjustments at halftime because the Browns held the 49ers scoreless in the third quarter. The Browns' defense forced the 49ers to go three-and-out on two of their three third-quarter drives. The Browns’ offense still couldn’t find the right answers. McCoy took a shot at the end zone, but his pass intended for rookie wide receiver Greg Little was thrown into double coverage. 49ers safety Dashon Goldson intercepted it in the end zone with about four minutes left in the third quarter.
End 4Q: 49ers 20, Browns 10 -- The Browns cut the 49ers’ lead to 17-10 with 6:17 left in the final quarter when McCoy connected with wide receiver Josh Cribbs for a 45-yard touchdown pass. McCoy’s throw was a bit short, but Cribbs turned and caught it over the coverage of cornerback Tarell Brown near the 49ers’ 22-yard line. Cribbs then ran along the sideline and into the end zone. Phil Dawson made the extra-point kick. But the 49ers fired back with an 11-play, 67-yard scoring drive that took lasted four minutes, 21 seconds. With 1:57 left in the fourth quarter, kicker Akers capped the march with a 26-yard field goal to give the 49ers a 10-point advantage. The Browns marched to the 19-yard line of the 49ers in the final moments, but time ran out before they could threaten to make things more interesting.
Inactives: Browns -- QB Thaddeus Lewis, WR Mohamed Massaquoi (concussion), RB Peyton Hillis (hamstring), S Ray Ventrone (hamstring), C Steve Vallos, OL Oniel Cousins and DE Auston English (knee). 49ers -- QB Scott Tolzien, WR Brett Swain, CB Tramaine Brock (hand), FB Moran Norris (fibula), G Daniel Kilgore, G Mike Person and NT Ian Williams.
Lineup changes: Browns -- Montario Hardesty will start at running back in place of Hillis; Josh Cribbs will start at wide receiver in place of Mohamed Massaquoi. 49ers -- No announced lineup changes.
Top storylines -- 1. The matchup today at Candlestick Park will feature two first-year NFL coaches: Pat Shurmur of the Browns (3-3) and Jim Harbaugh of the San Francisco 49ers (5-1). Of the eight teams in the league with new head coaches this season, the 49ers have the best record. But can Harbaugh guide his players to victory after giving them six consecutive days off during their recent bye week? The Browns hope not. NFL teams are 3-9 this season when coming off a bye. 2. 49ers special teams coordinator Brad Seely will reunite with the Browns after holding the same job with them during the past two seasons. Special teams ace Blake Costanzo is also with the 49ers after playing for the Browns from 2009-10. The Browns’ special teams are in the midst of a rough transition with Chris Tabor, Seely’s replacement in Cleveland. Seely and 49ers return man Ted Ginn Jr. will look to exploit Tabor and Co. 3. The 49ers’ turnaround has coincided with the strong play of quarterback Alex Smith. In Smith’s past 11 starts, the 49ers have gone 8-3, and Smith has throw 16 touchdown passes and three interceptions. This season, Smith has completed 100-of-158 passes (63.3) percent for eight touchdowns and two interceptions in Harbaugh’s West Coast offense. The Browns have the league’s top-ranked passing defense (171.5 yards per game). 4. For the second consecutive week, the Browns will face one of President Mike Holmgren’s former teams. Holmgren, a native of San Francisco, started his NFL coaching career with the 49ers. He served as their quarterbacks coach (1986-88) and offensive coordinator (1989-91). Last week, the Browns defeated the Seattle Seahawks, whom Holmgren coached for 10 seasons (1999-2008). 5. Other Browns-49ers connections: 49ers wide receiver Braylon Edwards spent four seasons with the Browns after they drafted him third overall in 2005. ... Gil Haskell, Holmgren’s senior advisor, spent 22 years working for the 49ers. His late uncle, Dr. William O’Grady was part owner of the team. ... Browns defensive line coach Dwaine Board played for the 49ers (1979-88) and later coached them (1990-2002). ... Browns senior defensive assistant Ray Rhodes had three stints with the 49ers: assistant secondary coach (1981-82), defensive backs coach (1983-91) and defensive coordinator (1994). ... Browns offensive line coach George Warhop held the same position with the 49ers (2005-08). ... Browns wide receivers coach Mike Wilson played for the 49ers (1981-90). ... Browns linebackers coach Bill Davis served as defensive coordinator of the 49ers (2005-06). Northeast Ohio connections: 49ers President Jed York is from Youngstown. ... 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman played football at John Carroll University. ... 49ers secondary coach Ed Donatell was born and Akron and coached at Kent State (1979-80). ... Ginn and safety Donte Whitner are from Cleveland, and offensive lineman Alex Boone is from Lakewood. All three attended Ohio State.
Preview stories via Ohio.com: 1. Cleveland native Ted Ginn Jr. thriving in return role with 49ers. 2. Matchup of the week: Browns strong safety T.J. Ward relishes opportunity to face elite tight ends like Vernon Davis of the 49ers. 3. Keys to the game. 4. Numbers to watch. 5. Quote of the week. 6. Predictions. 7. Injury report. 8. Storylines.