5 reasons 49ers should shine in primetime
SANTA CLARA — Losing to the Browns would hurt.
Sure, losing wouldn’t crush the 49ers. They still would be 3-1, which is an excellent start to the season.
But, losing at home on national television to the 2-2 Browns, who haven’t had a winning season since 2007, could damage the 49ers psychologically. The 49ers haven’t been good for a while, either. Maybe they’re not so hot if they can’t beat Cleveland. Doubt could creep into their minds.
The 49ers need to win this game. And they absolutely should win it. Here are five reasons why:
1. The 49ers are coming off a bye week and the Browns aren’t.
Meaning the 49ers have had seven extra days to game plan and prepare. Head coach Kyle Shanahan and Robert Saleh should have sophisticated game plans, and the players should feel rested and energized.
Only two things could work against the 49ers coming off a bye week: The coaches could make the game plan too sophisticated, and dive too deep into new ideas, because they’ve had an extra week to brainstorm. Or, the players could be rusty and out of practice.
The latter happened to the 49ers last season after their bye week. They flew to Tampa, came out flat, and the Bucs cleaned their clocks 27-9. To prevent a similar sluggish performance this season, Shanahan made his players practice five times this week, from Monday to Friday.
“They weren’t hard practices or anything,” Shanahan said. “Just throwing the ball, coming out of the huddle, things like that. Usually it takes a couple practices to get them going again (after a bye week).”
Sounds like Shanahan has his team prepared for the big game.
2. The 49ers have a good run game and the Browns don’t defend the run well.
The 49ers are a run-first team.
That’s their identity on offense. This season, they’re averaging a whopping 38 rushing attempts per game — tops in the NFL. Opposing defenses know the 49ers want to run the ball, sell out to stop them from running and still can’t stop them. The 49ers are averaging 4.6 yards per carry — tied for 11th best in the league.
“(Shanahan) does a good job of creating misdirections and testing your eyes,” Browns head coach Freddie Kitchens said on a conference call with Bay Area reporters. “He’s always been able to run the ball real well in his system, and that’s some of the reasons. They make sure you’re sound with your eyes and your reads and your keys and your gap integrity.”
Unfortunately for the Browns, they’re not sound with any of those things. They’re undisciplined, particularly linebacker Mack Wilson, a rookie fifth-round pick who frequently runs himself out of position.
The Browns defense has allowed 4.6 yards per carry. Not good. The 49ers should run for more than 150 yards.
3. The Browns banged-up secondary negates their phenomenal pass rush.
The Browns have defensive end Myles Garrett, the first pick of the 2017 draft, and one of the best pass rushers in the NFL. He’ll face Justin Skule, a rookie sixth-round pick.
The Browns also have defensive end Olivier Vernon, who will earn $15.5 million this year. He’s good, too. Under normal circumstances, he and Garrett would wreck the 49ers’ passing game and rough up Jimmy Garoppolo.