CLEVELAND – The San Francisco 49ers (5-1) were brought down to earth on Sunday, and ultimately, it might be the best thing for them.
The team came into Cleveland undefeated and looking absolutely unstoppable. But Sunday’s, 19-17, loss to the Browns reminded them that on any given Sunday, everyone in the NFL can be stopped.
“We went in thinking it was going to be a grimy game, but we would have felt really good initially if we’d made that last play,” said 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan. “My message to [the team] was, regardless of if we hit that or not, there’s a lot stuff in this game that we need to improve on. I thought we made too many mistakes on offense…It starts with me with too many mistakes. It’s our first time having to come in after a loss in a long time, and it’s time to get back in and go to work and make sure we come back stronger next week.”
The game ended on a 41-yard missed field goal – wide right – by rookie kicker Jake Moody, but it was everything leading up to that that led to the loss.
“It’s always tough to miss that last kick, but it happens in football,” Shanahan said. “They played better than us today. That was the last play, but there was a lot more to it than that.”
San Francisco came into the game averaging over just over 33.4 points and 402.6 yards a game. On Sunday, they had 215 total yards. Brock Purdy was 12-of-27 for 125 yards, one TD, one interception, and a rating of 55.3. It was Purdy’s first interception in his last 185 regular-season passes. It was also the first time his passer rating was below 93.1.
“For me it’s like, ‘Alright. Let’s get into a rhythm. Send it to the guys that are open. Let’s move the chains and put up points,’” Purdy said. “That was my mentality the whole game, every drive. Even though I am missing throws and whatnot, that’s where I was at. At the end of the day, man, I feel like I just didn’t play to the standard that I need to.”
It was not Purdy’s best day, but there was blame to go around.
“It wasn’t just Brock, it was everybody,” Shanahan said. “Everybody had their turn on offense, and it starts with me.”
The 49ers also lost Deebo Samuel to shoulder injury in the first half and Christian McCaffrey to an oblique injury in the second half. The severity of the injuries is not yet known.
“Whether you win or lose, you’ve got to go back to practice next week and figure out where you messed up,” said 49ers wide receiver Jauan Jennings. “There’s no perfect game, and we understand that. This is a pretty good experienced group. So, it’s a challenge that we’re looking forward to accepting.”
Pass rusher Nick Bosa had a similar sentiment, saying, “I think everybody on the defense could improve, including myself. It’s early. We haven’t lost in a long time in the regular season, so it hurts a little more. But yeah, definitely a big learning experience.”
It looked like all was not lost, when, early in the fourth quarter, CB Deommodore Lenoir intercepted Browns’ quarterback P.J. Walker and ran it back for 28 yards. The 49ers promptly scored on a Jordan Mason touchdown.
Then, on San Francisco’s final drive, Purdy went for 3-for-4 to set up the 41-yard game-winning FG that wasn’t.
“It was a hard fought game and I really wish we could have pulled out the W, but on to the next game,” Moody said. “There’s nothing we can do about it now. Nothing I can do about it now. Obviously, I wish I could get another crack at it, but that is not how it works. That is what I signed up for at my position and just on to the next one.”
The next one is next week against the Minnesota Vikings on Monday Night Football.
“We’re all human,” said fullback Kyle Juszczyk. “We all make mistakes, and I think making mistakes at some point is good. Because you learn more from your mistakes than your successes.”
As the 49ers await to see how long they’ll be without McCaffrey and Samuel, LT Trent Williams – who briefly left the game with an ankle injury – walked out of the locker room Sunday in walking boot, while George Odum also left the game with a thigh injury.
The 49ers were brought back to earth, but they have no intention of staying there.