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Other Week 14 Game Recaps

Week 14 Game Recap: San Francisco 49ers 10, Cleveland Browns 24

What you need to know

San Francisco 49ers

San Francisco's offense hit the trifecta of what causes an offensive game this...offensive: bad luck, bad preparation, and bad execution. All three stemmed from injuries, which forced coaches to shuffle their personnel deck at tight end and left guard. That ended up being where most of the failed execution came because that's where unprepared players were thrust into larger roles than anticipated. At tight end, Blake Bell and Brian Leonhardt had to pick up the slack for an inactive Vance McDonald, but the former just started playing and the latter just got promoted from the practice squad this week. At left guard, Alex Boone's season-ending injury at the beginning of the second half meant recently activated Daniel Kilgore had to play a meaningful amount of snaps for the first time this season, while Marcus Martin had to shift away to left guard, and away from the position (center) that he's played all season. The end result was a bevy of sacks and pressures, with nothing working until Cleveland's defense became indifferent in the fourth quarter.

Cleveland Browns

The Browns came to life in all facets of the game against the 49ers. They rushed for a season-high 230 yards and two touchdowns, which kept the San Francisco defense honest and gave Johnny Manziel the time to make several big plays for the offense. The rushing touchdowns were only the third and fourth rushing touchdowns for the team all season. San Francisco's poor defense certainly had a lot to do with Cleveland's success running the ball, but the Browns were able to capitalize nonetheless.

San Francisco 49ers

QB Blaine Gabbert, 56 offensive snaps, Pass: 18 - 28 - 194 - 1 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 3 - 19 - 0
Gabbert's poor performance was portended on San Francisco's first drive of the game. On first down, he threw behind an open Quinton Patton on a quick slant. On second down, he scrambled after play action produced no one open, but inexplicably ran out of bounds behind the line of scrimmage rather than throwing the ball away. And on third down, he overthrew Patton on a 15-yard out route. Midway through the second quarter, Gabbert's Jaguars-era happy feet returned, and it was downfill from there. He took two more sacks of the "leisurely trot out of bounds behind the line" variety, missed Shaun Draughn on a wide-open dumpoff, and prevented Draughn from gaining any yards after the catch on another wide-open dumpoff by throwing it at his knees. The only thing that mitigates Gabbert's awfulness against the Browns was that his teammates did him no favors: 1) His offensive line blew blocks in pass protection with regularity; 2) Bruce Ellington dropped a wide-open deep out in the first quarter that would have resulted in first down inside the Browns' 20-yard line; 3) Jerome Simpson failed to adjust his route on a third-down blitz, thereby ending another drive just outside the red zone; and 4) a 35-yard completion to Patton was nullified due to Patton's own illegal motion penalty.

RB Shaun Draughn, 41 offensive snaps, Rush: 11 - 43 - 0, Rec: 2 - 8 - 0 (3 targets)
Draughn was also a victim of poor blocking. As an example, on San Francisco's first play of the second half, he had to run what seemed like 20 east-west yards just to gain 2 north-south yards in the box score. The play was an outside zone, Draughn's bread and butter, but Bruce Miller missed a block, which eliminated one of the cutback lanes, thereby having a domino effect on all cut back lanes. Draughn reversed field to evade the defender Miller missed, and then evaded two more behind the line of scrimmage before turning upfield. On the very next play, he (and his blockers) made up for it by producing 15 yards when coaches called the same exact play. All of that said, Cleveland defended outside runs well throughout the game, which rendered the rest of Draughn's bread stale and the rest of his butter rancid.

WR Quinton Patton, 32 offensive snaps, Rec: 5 - 46 - 0 (9 targets)
This game was a mixed bag for Patton. On the plus side, San Francisco finally seemed to incorproate him into their game plan, what with being the intended target on three of Gabbert's first five throws. Unfortunately, two of those were incomplete because of inaccurate passes. On Patton's other six targets, he showed he was able to defeat the man-to-man coverage of Cleveland's young cornerbacks, Charles Gaines and K'Waun Williams. He was not, however, able to beat veteran Tramon Williams. , especially against cornerback Charles Gaines. Although he finished the game as the 49ers' most-targeted receiver, he could have finished as their leading yardage gainer if not for nullifying his own 35-yard reception (after beating K'Waun Williams on a corner route) by illegally motioning towards the line of scrimmage at the snap.

WR Anquan Boldin, 50 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 22 - 0 (3 targets)
In perhaps the most surprising stat of the game considering his recent usage, Boldin's first unofficial target didn't come until midway through the third quarter. It resulted in a first down because of defensive pass interference. All three of Boldin's official targets came against soft coverage. On the last play of the third quarter, he beat Tramon Williams' off-man coverage for 14 yards. With about nine minutes left in the game, his next target fell incomplete when safety Donte Whitner jarred the ball loose before Boldin could secure it. Boldin's second reception (and final target) produced 8 yards on 3rd-and-17, this time against off-man coverage by second-year cornerback K'Waun Williams.

WR Torrey Smith, 27 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 17 - 0 (2 targets)
Smith's two targets came on consecutive plays midway through San Francisco's second drive. The first was knocked away by Tramon Williams on a deep out route off a play-action rollout. The second saw Smith lined up on the other side of the field, with Boldin lined up inside of him. The two ran an "indigo" route combination, with Boldin clearing out the inside with his go route, and Smith beating cornerback Charles Gaines on his dig route.

TE Blake Bell, 56 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 49 - 0 (3 targets)
Bell led the 49ers in receiving yardage, but 9 of those 49 yards came during Cleveland's quarter of defensive indifference to end the game. Otherwise, Bell's inability to properly execute his responsibilities in pass protection played a role in (at least) two Browns sacks.

Cleveland Browns

QB Johnny Manziel, 78 offensive snaps, Pass: 21 - 31 - 270 - 1 TD / 1 INT, Rush: 7 - 15 - 0
Manziel played really well against the 49ers, delivering big passes and showing excellent pocket presence. He was poised in the pocket and made good decisions throughout the game. He did a nice job hanging in the pocket with his eyes downfield and he only scrambled out of necessity. He only made a few mistakes on the day, drawing a false start penalty for moving before the snap and throwing a second quarter interception. The interception came on a poor decision where he threw the ball across his body to the middle of the field in the direction of Brian Hartline. Gary Barnidge was wide open down the seam, but Manziel did not see him on the pass. He almost threw a touchdown to Brian Hartline in the first quarter, but the veteran receiver was stripped just before reaching the goal line. In the second quarter, he had another chance at a touchdown pass as he had Gary Barnidge coming across the end zone in the second quarter, but he threw the ball too low. He made a great play on his lone touchdown pass. He faced heavy pressure but was able to backpedal away to buy himself time before making a quick throw off his back foot for a two-yard score to Gary Barnidge.

RB Isaiah Crowell, 36 offensive snaps, Rush: 20 - 145 - 2, Rec: 1 - 9 - 0 (1 targets)
Crowell had his biggest game of the year, scoring two touchdowns and running for a career-high 145 yards. He looked decisive in hitting the hole and finally had a chance to show his blend of power and speed. With the running game clicking for one of the first times all season, Crowell was finally able to show his fantasy value as he saw multiple red zone carries against the 49ers. A good deal of his yardage came on two carries. On his fourth carry of the game he got excellent blocking and slipped through a hole on the left for a 50-yard pickup. In the fourth quarter, he received great blocking again, this time on the right side of the line, and mixed in a stiff-arm to rumble for 54 yards. Crowell received a two goal line carries the first quarter. He was stopped inches short on the first carry before scoring from the fullback spot on the second carry. Crowell could have had a bigger game as he had a 20-yard rush erased by a holding penalty early in the second quarter. His second rushing touchdown came in the fourth quarter as he powered his way into the end zone from three yards out.

RB Duke Johnson, 44 offensive snaps, Rush: 13 - 78 - 0, Rec: 1 - 6 - 0 (3 targets)
Johnson was surprisingly not utilized much in the passing game, catching just one pass for six yards. His involvement in the passing game boiled down to that one catch in the red zone on a screen play and a pass interference call on short screen that he would have caught. Johnson did rush for a career-high 73 yards in the game. He showed his speed and elusiveness on his second carry as he turned what looked like a lost play into a seven-yard gain by reversing course and outrunning several defenders. Johnson's biggest pickup of the game came on a run where he had an excellent backside cutback towards his left and raced forward for a 19-yard gain. He showed great vision in finding the opening in the line on the run. He saw the team's first red zone carry from the 15-yard line, picking up four yards. Overall, Johnson was overshadowed by Isaiah Crowell's two touchdowns, but he also ran well.

WR Brian Hartline, 46 offensive snaps, Rec: 8 - 107 - 0 (10 targets)
Hartline turned in another excellent performance for the Browns, leading the team in receiving and coming close to scoring touchdowns on several plays. He did most of his damage on short and intermediate routes in the middle of the field, but was able to pick up significant yardage with some nice runs after the catch. Unfortunately, he suffered a broken collarbone and will not play again this year. He almost had a touchdown reception in the first quarter but he was stripped as he was nearing the goal line. Fortunately for him he was able to recover his own fumble on the two-yard line. His best catch came in the third quarter as he made a one-handed grab on the run. The play went for 24 yards. Later in the quarter he added a 34-yard reception where he was wide open down the field. He was helped on the play by a great play-action fake which froze the secondary just long enough for him to get free. He came close to scoring a touchdown yet again on that drive, catching a ball on a quick slant from the seven yard line, but he was stopped two yards short.

WR Travis Benjamin, 52 offensive snaps, Rec: 4 - 41 - 0 (7 targets)
Benjamin didn't play a major role in the game, making just four catches, all of which came in the first half. Benjamin failed to deliver any of the big plays he's been known to make, but the Johnny Manziel didn't take any deep shots. Benjamin clearly took a backseat to Brian Hartline in the passing game as Hartline was Manziel's primary target. Benjamin was open on a post route in the second quarter, but Manziel missed him on what would have gone for a big gain and he later dropped a pass that was in his hands in the third quarter. He should see a bigger role going forward with Hartline being lost for the remainder of the season.

TE Gary Barnidge, 67 offensive snaps, Rec: 5 - 84 - 1 (7 targets)
Barnidge scored yet another red zone touchdown for the Browns and will continue to be their top red zone threat no matter who is playing quarterback. He showed good chemistry with Manziel on his first catch of the game. Manziel had been scrambling to his right and Barnidge was able to get behind his defender for a 30-yard gain. Barnidge could have had a touchdown in the second quarter, as he was open coming across the end zone, but Manziel threw the ball at his feet. Manziel did not see Barnidge wide open down the seam in the second quarter, opting to throw a poor pass across his body to Brian Hartline instead. Barnidge scored his touchdown on a rub route where he crossed paths with Travis Benjamin. Barnidge's defender was able to avoid Benjamin and stuck close to Barnidge, but Barnidge was able to use his big frame to put himself between the ball and the defender to secure the score.