It might be impossible to overstate how poorly the 49ers performed on Sunday in a 24-10 loss to the Cleveland Browns.
After all, the Browns are a bad team. When the day began, Cleveland had the worst record in the NFL and was in the midst of a seven-game losing streak. Yet, the Browns made the 49ers look like mere amateurs while whipping them in every imaginable way.
Here are five takeaways from Sunday’s game:
1) Tomsula and staff unprepared
The 49ers got mighty full of themselves after their 26-20 victory over the Chicago Bears a week earlier. The 49ers were lucky to win that game after a blown field goal on the final play of regulation. The 49ers believed they were something special. Coach Jim Tomsula and his coaching staff failed miserably in putting together a plan and getting the team grounded and focused on the Browns. All indications were that 49ers ownership had ticketed Tomsula for a second season after the win over the Bears. And that may still be the case, but if things continue in this direction, CEO Jed York might be forced to reconsider.
2) Passive players mail it in
This performance says a lot about the makeup of this team. General manager Trent Baalke has put together a team filled with a bunch of passive players. How else to explain what happened on Sunday? The 49ers got shoved around the field on Sunday. They did not even try. Anquan Boldin called it a “p--- poor effort,” and he was 100-percent correct. Joe Staley remarked, “We got to play our (butts) off every single week, and we didn’t do that.” Tomsula said the team had good emotions during practices throughout the week. To that point, Staley said, “I don’t care about energy all week. I just care about energy on Sundays. I felt like it wasn’t where it needed to be.”
3) Offensive futility
The 49ers have not scored a touchdown in the first quarter of any game this season. In keeping with that trend, the 49ers recorded just two first downs in the entire first half. Quarterback Blaine Gabbert picked up some meaningless stats late in the game, but did not do a good job of simply getting rid of the football. Sure, the pass protection was horrible, but Gabbert should be able to prevent a nine-sack performance. The Browns often rushed three players and dropped eight into coverage. The 49ers were completely flummoxed. Gabbert repeatedly threw short on third downs, which served no purpose other than to improve his completion percentage. And the receivers were to blame, too. Bruce Ellington dropped a perfect throw; Jerome Simpson forgot what route to run; and Quinton Patton wiped out his own big-gainer with an illegal-motion penalty.
4) Helpless defense
Johnny Manziel made the 49ers’ defense look silly. With the team’s top pass-rusher, Aaron Lynch, sidelined with a concussion, the 49ers generated very little pressure on Manziel. The front seven got shoved around in the run game, and the secondary let receivers run free, giving Manziel wide-open targets. The defense appeared to be making some strides under coordinator Eric Mangini. But that unit reverted to their early season form. Manziel threw for 270 yards, and one of the league’s worst running games found huge lanes for Isaiah Crowell (yes, Isaiah Crowell) to gain a career-high 145 yards and two touchdowns. Linebacker NaVorro Bowman and his teammates were playing at a much slower speed than the Browns.
5) Dawson’s day
We’ll end on the lone highlight for the 49ers – and it had little to do with the game. Kicker Phil Dawson is a special guy. It’s not often that kickers earn the kind of admiration Dawson received on Sunday. The Browns honored him on the scoreboard, and Dawson received a standing ovation for his 14 years of service in Cleveland before coming to the 49ers in 2013. Dawson, 40, also made his only field-goal attempt, giving him 19 consecutive successful kicks. He owns the top two streaks in franchise history.