The bye week didn’t do much to slow down the 49ers.
It took exactly two plays for them to establish themselves in their matchup with the Browns. Ahmad Brooks blitzed on Cleveland’s first pass play and forced a fumble while sacking Colt McCoy. Isaac Soporaga fell on the football, setting the 49ers up in the red zone less than a minute into the game. Another Browns mistake — pass interference on Joe Haden — put the 49ers on the doorstep and Frank Gore punched it in for a touchdown.
Gore appeared to have another touchdown in the second quarter, but a booth review ruled he was down on the half-yard line. Gore again looked like he got into the end zone on fourth-and-goal from the one, but the refs ruled him down and a Jim Harbaugh challenge didn’t work as the play was upheld. That was just about the only time in the half that Gore had problems picking up yards. He finished the half with 103 yards on 19 carries and Kendall Hunter added 30 yards on a couple of carries.
Throw in a defense that’s allowed only 93 yards and it feels like a game that the Niners should be winning by a lot more than 17-3. Not that 14 points isn’t a sizable lead, mind you, it just feels like the home team is up by three or four touchdowns based on how big a gap there appears to be between the two teams through this point in the game.
The Browns did plenty to help the 49ers to their lead. The aforementioned mistakes were joined by two other fumbles, both of which the Browns recovered but not before they stalled any offensive momentum that the team was trying to build. In a somewhat interesting development, Chris Ogbonnaya has gotten the majority of the snaps at tailback over Montario Hardesty in Peyton Hillis‘ absence. Neither man has been able to do much against the 49ers defense, but it seems worth noting that Hardesty, the subject of much buzz in the preseason, hasn’t been able to hold onto the job.
The 49ers have now outscored their opposition 65-6 in their last six quarters at Candlestick park. That’s an awful lot for the Browns to overcome.
UPDATE: The Browns have announced that Hardesty has a calf injury. His return is questionable.