Since the NFL realigned into the current divisions in 2002, no team has blown more than a three-and-a-half game lead in their division after Week Seven.
The 49ers lead the NFC West by four games after Sunday’s 20-10 win over the Browns, which should mean that Jim Harbaugh is hosting a playoff game in his first season as a professional head coach. His team has looked better than it did in this victory, but, at 6-1 and with no real competition in the division, winning is really all the 49ers need to do at this point in the season.
The game was pretty much decided in the first half, as the Niners rode Frank Gore to a 17-3 lead. Gore went over 100 yards in the first half, finished with 134 yards and passed Roger Craig for second on the franchise’s all-time rushing yardage list. He’s 278 yards behind Joe Perry for first place, and, with four straight games of more than 100 yards, it shouldn’t be long before Gore stands alone at the top of the list.
Things didn’t run as smoothly in the second half, as the Browns found more space to run their offense and Alex Smith’s efficiency took a nose dive. Dashon Goldson picked off a pass in the end zone, though, and the 49ers offense ate nearly five minutes before a David Akers field goal after a Josh Cribbs touchdown cut the score to 17-10 in the fourth quarter.
It was a strong day overall for the 49ers defense, which finished with four sacks and forced five fumbles. Rookie Aldon Smith had a sack, giving him 6.5 on the season, and the Browns never got anything going in the running game. The team did lose defensive end Ray McDonald to a hamstring injury, something that could hurt them down the road and tight end Vernon Davis also hurt his arm in victory.
The 49ers aren’t a perfect team. The offense needs to be more consistent, for starters. With nine weeks to iron out the problems and a huge cushion over their closest competition, though, it feels like they may only be scratching the surface of what they might be able to do this season.