CLEVELAND -- Turns out last week’s feel-good overtime victory against the Chicago Bears was mere fool’s gold. How else to describe the Niners getting dominated by a woeful Cleveland Browns team in general, Johnny Manziel in particular, on a strangely warm day in Cleveland?
Cleveland Browns 24, San Francisco 49ers 10.
And it was not even that close.
Manziel and the Browns (3-10), who had lost seven straight, exposed the Niners, who were outgained, 481-221 (with 94 yards coming on a meaningless last drive), surrendered nine sacks and were just 2-of-13 on third-down conversions.
Truly, without a blocked field goal by Quinton Dial, a fumble recovery by Ahmad Brooks and an interception by Jaquiski Tartt, well, let’s not go there. Instead, marinate in this: The Niners fell to 1-6 on the road a week after ending a seven-game road losing streak thanks, in part, to Bears kicker Robbie Gould yanking a chip-shot field goal at the end of regulation.
Veterans Joe Staley and Ahmad Brooks said the Niners may have overlooked the Brown. Staley said there was a sense all the Niners had to do was "show up and play" to get the win while Brooks wondered many things.
"Maybe we took them for granted?" Brooks said. "Maybe we took them light? Maybe with their record and [our] winning last week we got a little big-headed?
"We were on our heels all day. They could have done anything they wanted."
Yes, the heretofore 2-10 Browns, the worst team in the league who welcomed back Manziel as the starting quarterback. He passed for 270 yards with a TD and an INT and had a passer rating of 92.1 against the stunned Niners' defense.
"I don't want to take away from the Cleveland Browns," Niners coach Jim Tomsula said after a seven-second pause when asked how to explain what happened. "They played a good football game and won the football game. The San Francisco 49ers, played a poor football game ... they did a hell of a job; we did not.
"I think we took a step backwards today."
What were they thinking? The 49ers seemingly found some chemistry between Blaine Gabbert and Torrey Smith last week, but the Niners' coaching staff apparently still doesn't trust Gabbert to throw deep. He had but 122 yards passing with three minutes to play in a blowout.
One reason to get excited: Um, I’m thinking. I’m thinking. I’m thinking ...
One reason to panic: The Niners' run defense was absolutely shredded by the worst run offense in the league in the first half as the Browns, who entered the game averaging 73.9 yards per game on the season, ran for 112 before halftime and ended up with 230 yards on the day.
Fantasy watch: If you started any 49ers players, you probably lost.
Ouch: Already without outside linebacker Aaron Lynch (concussion) and inside linebacker Michael Wilhoite (ankle), the Niners lost left guard Alex Boone early in the third quarter with a right knee injury. He will have an MRI exam on it Monday. He was replaced by Marcus Martin, who had been rotating at center with Daniel Kilgore, who was making his first appearance at center since Oct. 19, 2014, when he suffered a broken left leg/ankle at Denver. Backup running back Kendall Gaskins was later evaluated for a head injury. Jimmie Ward left with an elbow injury
And the game ball goes to? Phil Dawson, as the grizzled veteran kicker came back to the stadium he helped christen in 1999 and spent the first 14 years of his thus-far 17-year NFL career with and booted a 44-yard field goal in the second quarter. It was his 19th straight make, the second-longest streak in franchise history.