Key injuries, poor execution doom the 49ers in their first loss of the season to Browns


San Francisco’s high-powered offense that seemed unstoppable to begin the season looked awfully pedestrian after losing two key playmakers in a game against Cleveland’s stellar defense.

With Deebo Samuel missing most of the game with a shoulder injury and Christian McCaffrey sidelined for most of the second half with an injured oblique and rib, the 49ers struggled to move the ball for most of the second half in a 19-17 loss to the Browns on Sunday.  

San Francisco 49ers running back Christian McCaffrey, middle left, is tackled by Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett, left, safety Grant Delpit, middle right, and linebacker Sione Takitaki during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Oct. 15, 2023, in Cleveland.

Sue Ogrocki / AP

“Any time you lose real good players like that, it’s a challenge,” coach Kyle Shanahan said Monday. “But that’s stuff you’ve got to go through. That’s part of football. I just thought we made too many mistakes, missed assignments and stuff that happened.”

San Francisco (5-1) had scored at least 30 points in each of the first five games, but didn’t come close to that against the Browns.

Five of the Niners’ first six drives after halftime netted no yards and no first downs with San Francisco going three-and-out four times and Brock Purdy throwing his first interception of the season.

“It’s almost like we started shooting ourselves in the foot with just the little things, false starts, the operation and everything not being clean, getting lined up and being ready to play,” Purdy said. “There’s a delay of game, which is on me, so just little things we got to clean up.”

The only success was a one-play, 8-yard touchdown drive after an interception and then the final drive when the Niners moved the ball down the field only to have Jake Moody miss a potential winning 41-yard field goal in the closing seconds.

Purdy finished the game 12 for 27 for 125 yards, one TD and one interception in what was by far his least productive healthy game of his young career.

The 49ers hope they won’t be without Samuel and McCaffrey for long. Samuel, who got hurt on the first play of the game, is listed as day to day.

McCaffrey, who played only four snaps in the second half, is undergoing an MRI to determine the severity of his injuries. Shanahan is hoping there aren’t problems with both the ribs and oblique and McCaffrey won’t miss significant time, if any.

“Hopefully Christian will be good to go this week,” Shanahan said. “But if not, then we’ve got to get a group of backs.”


Opening drive. The Niners drove down the field with ease on the opening possession, going 84 yards to score on a 13-yard pass from Purdy to McCaffrey. San Francisco now has five TDs and one field goal on six game-opening drives, becoming the fifth team since at least 2000 to score on the first drive in the first six games. San Francisco’s streak in the regular season stretches back eight games, one shy of the longest streak since 2000.


Run defense. With starting linebacker Dre Greenlaw out with an injury, the Niners struggled to stop Cleveland’s running game. The Browns ran for 160 on 34 carries against a defense that came into the week allowing the second fewest yards per game on the ground this season. San Francisco missed seven tackles in run defense, according to PFF, making life easier on backup quarterback P.J. Walker.

“When you’ve got a quarterback coming in who hasn’t started yet, the best way to make him uncomfortable is to take away the run game and with 160 yards we obviously didn’t,” Shanahan said. “That was disappointing.”


RB Jordan Mason. With McCaffrey sidelined for most of the second half, Mason had five carries for 27 yards and a go-ahead TD in the fourth quarter. Mason had 10 carriers for 69 yards and a TD the previous week against Dallas and has shown he’s worthy of a heavier load if McCaffrey is limited in any way this week.


Moody. The third-round rookie missed his first two kicks of the season. Moody was wide left on a 54-yard attempt in the first quarter and then wide right on the 41-yarder out in the closing seconds of the fourth quarter. His predecessor, Robbie Gould, missed only two potential tying or winning field goals in the last minute of regulation or overtime in his six seasons in San Francisco.


LT Trent Williams was determined to have a low ankle sprain and is also day to day this week. … Greenlaw (hamstring) is expected to return to practice this week. … S George Odum (quadriceps) is day to day.


215 — San Francisco was held to its lowest yard total in 104 regular-season games with Shanahan as coach. The Niners averaged only 3.91 yards per play (fourth lowest under Shanahan) and had a success rate of 34.5% (second lowest) as they struggled against Cleveland’s stout defense.


San Francisco visits Minnesota on Monday night.

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