SFI's LIVE Game Blog: 49ers vs. Browns

This long, strange, disappointing 2007 season finally comes to an end today on the chilly banks of Lake Erie against the playoff-challenging Cleveland Browns, and SFI will keep you up to date on the action with live reports and commentary from Cleveland Browns Stadium in Cleveland. Make sure to refresh this page every 15 minutes for running updates throughout the game.

12:50 p.m. Greetings, 49ers fans. It's 32 degrees under cloudy skies in Cleveland as kickoff approaches, which means the 49ers couldn't have asked for much better weather. The snow still may come, but it's dry now and - considering the time of year and the kind of conditions the Browns played in during their last home game - this is practically balmy conditions. That's a break for the 49ers before the game even begins …

12:54: Of course, the 49ers are starting a 35-year-old quarterback who wasn't even with the team three weeks ago. Chris Weinke becomes the fourth different starting quarterback for the Niners this season - replacing the injured Shaun Hill - which is one of many testaments to their season. At least Weinke will be working against a crappy Cleveland defense that's ranked 31st in the NFL and is equally bad against both the run and pass …

12:57: The 49ers win the coin toss, so Weinke and Co. will get first crack to draw first blood …

1:06: Uh, forget about that. After a short run by Frank Gore on first down, Weinke's second-down pass intended for Vernon Davis is batted down at the line of scrimmage, and he flings his third-down pass wide of Darrell Jackson on the left side. Andy Lee is in quickly for the game's first punt …

1:07: And look at that! Josh Cribbs - the AFC's Pro Bowl return specialist this year - takes a booming 61-yard punt by Lee, makes a quick cut to the right, then makes six - yes, six - 49ers miss and he jets and weaves down the right sideline. It's a 53-yard return for Cribbs before Jeff Ulbrich finally can knock him out of bounds, and now the explosive Cleveland offense is set up at the San Francisco 33 for its first play of the game. While the Cleveland defense may suck, the Browns' offense is ranked eighth in the league …

1:09: Big play by the San Francisco defense! After Jamal Lewis pounds for a first down, Derek Anderson drops back and tries to find tight end Kellen Winslow drifting down the right sideline. But Walt Harris is right there to make a play, and he leaps in the air and comes down with his fourth interception of the year, then returns it from the shadow of the goal line to the San Francisco 21. Nice stop and great momentum-changer right there when it looked like the Browns were going to take it right in …

1:14: Gore bursts over left edge for a 12-yard gain on first down, and the 49ers are moving. On third-and-six, Weinke swings out a pass to Gore on the right side and Gore picks the hole perfectly, breaking through the Cleveland defense for a 21-yard gain into Browns territory …

1:18: But the 49ers ultimately bungle a great scoring opportunity. Gore is stopped about a half-yard short on third-and-2 from the Cleveland 33, and San Francisco makes the right decision to line up and go for it. But on a long snap count, right guard David Baas moves early and is called for a false start. That sends the 49ers back five yards, and now they have to punt the ball. Sheez! Lee's pooch punt goes only 23 yards - that's one of the shortest punts you'll ever see him kick - and Cribbs makes a fair catch at the 15, hardly backing up the Browns at their goal line …

1:27: The Cleveland offense goes nowhere as Nate Clements comes to bat down a pass on third down. The 49ers will get good field position here, but on the return - a short one by returner Michael Lewis - rookie Tarell Brown gets caught up in a pile of bodies, and he's not getting up. Brown is hurt and he lays on the field grimacing for several minutes as Niners' personnel attends to him. Finally, a cart comes out, Brown is helped onto it, and he is carted off the field with what looks like a right knee injury …

1:30: The Niners do nothing with the good field position as Weinke rolls out right on third-and-3 and looks a lot like a quarterback who hasn't played in a NFL game for more than year. His timing looks off, he doesn't get rid of the ball, and linebacker D'Qwell Jackson quickly converges and drills Weinke for a seven-yard loss. It's Lee time again …

1:32: And this time, Cribbs makes the 49ers pay. He takes a 45-yard punt from Lee at his own 24, then makes a quick cut to avoid Michael Robinson, who fails to break down in front of him. Cribbs charges up the middle as a huge crevice opens, he cuts right and … he's gone! He has only Lee to beat now, and Lee has no chance. Cribbs takes it down the right sideline and finishes off a stunning 76-yard punt return in the end zone. No wonder he's a Pro Bowler. And just like that, the 49ers are reeling and the Browns are leading …
Browns 7, 49ers 0

1:39: Maurice Hicks answers with a big 44-yard kickoff return of his that takes the 49ers into Cleveland territory. Facing third-and-11, Weinke hits Arnaz Battle, who slips a tackle and fumbles the ball out of bounds as he attempts to stretch for the first down. The officials rule the back before where Battle stepped out, so it's a fourth-and-1 for the 49ers at the Cleveland 39. They're going for, it again. Good move. Might as well. But what kind of play was that?! Instead of just blowing it up the middle, the 49ers drop back Weinke, who obviously isn't in any kind of passing rhtyhm yet. And sure enough, he misses Delanie Walker on a crossing pattern, and the ball goes right back to the Browns. Another missed opportunity for the San Francisco offense …

1:48: OK, the 49ers already are letting this one get out of control. The Browns convert a third-and-1 as Lewis bangs into San Francisco territory, and then, on second-and-14, Anderson drops back to pass. He has all kinds of time in the pocket, and gets off the pass with Bryant Young charging hard in his face. Meanwhile, down the field, Braylon Edwards puts a nifty move on Clements in man coverage, then breaks wide open over the middle on a post. Clements is left behind, and Edwards grabs Anderson's throw and cruises easily into the end zone to complete a 45-yard scoring play. That gives Edwards a franchise record for most receiving yards in a season, and it also puts the Browns up by two touchdowns with 11:44 remaining in the second quarter …
Browns 14, 49ers 0

1:54: Edwards is flagged for taunting after his touchdown, pushing the Browns for the ensuing kickoff, which allows Hicks to return it out to the San Francisco 47, setting up the 49ers in great field position again …

1:57: But the offense goes meekly once again. On third-and-short, Weinke attempts to find Jackson down the right sideline. Weinke throws into double coverage, but Jackson somehow is able to pull away the ball from cornerback Leigh Bodden, who almost had an interception in the first quarter. But the official on the spot rules that Jackson secured the ball out of bounds, and it's the right call. So Lee has to punt with his team in enemy territory yet again …

2:03: The Browns start the next drive at their own 9, but the bumbling 49ers immediately help them get out of the hole as rookie Dashon Goldson is flagged 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct after a short first-down run. But the San Francisco defense immediately stiffens, and Anderson throws incomplete on third down as safety Michael Lewis is in his face and hits him hard as he releases. The Browns have to punt …

2:05: And Anderson is hurt! After he is observed on the sidelines, Anderson takes the slow stroll into the locker room. It looks like an injury to his throwing arm or, more specifically, his throwing hand. Anderson has taken every offensive snap for the Browns since the season opener, but now it's rookie Brady Quinn warming up on the sidelines, and he's likely to take his first NFL snaps the next time the Browns have the ball …

2:12: The 49ers are assembling a very nice drive here, but now they face third-and-7 from the Cleveland 30. Weinke is back to pass and faces a heavy rush. He gets the ball off complete to Walker on the right sideline, and Walker makes a brilliant move to pick up the first down, cutting inside and then back outside to get the necessary yardage. But there's a flag in the backfield. Holding? No!! It's a late hit on Weinke by rushing linebacker Kamerion Wimbley! That gives the 49ers a first-and-goal from the 10 and a prime opportunity to get right back in this thing …

2:16: And that's just what the 49ers do! Gore picks up three yards on first down, and on second down, Weinke loops a pass to the left corner of the end zone where Jackson has tight coverage on Walker. Walker makes a nice grab! Touchdown! But now. The official rules he didn't get both feet down in the end zone, and the replay seems to validate the call. Timeout 49ers now as they face a huge play. This is big now as San Francisco needs to get in the end zone and not settle for three points. Weinke's back to pass and has good time in the pocket. He wants to go over the middle, but can't find anybody. He keeps him composure, then fires over the middle to hit Jackson breaking inside and beating his defender. Touchdown, 49ers! A very nice play by Weinke, who showed his veteran experience on that one. The 49ers are back in the game and they have momentum - and they also have Cleveland's starting quarterback out of the game …
Browns 14, 49ers 7

2:22: Quinn comes in for his first NFL snaps and he looks a little shaky on his first two passing attempts, both dumpoffs which are short of his intended target. But the running game keeps the drive moving, and Quinn's first NFL completion goes for a first down to move the Browns into San Francisco territory at the two-minute warning …

2:27: Quinn looks much better after that, however, and completes his next three passes to take the Browns to a first-and-goal. On second down, Edwards beats Clements off the snap, but Clements recovers and knocks away Quinn's pass on Edwards' hands at the very last second. Nice play by Clements. On third down, Quinn finds Winslow open in the end zone right over the middle, but Winslow can't hold onto it as Patrick Willis and Lewis converge on him as the ball arrives. It's a hold for the defense in the red zone, and the Browns settle for a 23-yard field goal by Phil Dawson to move their lead back to double digits …
Browns 17, 49ers 7

2:31: The 49ers get the ball back with 1:04 remaining after a short kickoff, but they decide to sit on it. It's two handoffs to Gore, and then watch the rest of the first half tick away. Sort of a weak ending for the 49ers, who could have at least tried a few shots down the field. They're 5-10, remember? Anyway, that's how the half ends …

2:40: Save a few big plays, the 49ers did a pretty good job against the explosive Cleveland offense, which holds a 167-144 edge in total yardage at the halftime break. Gore already has 70 yards rushing on 16 carries, and Lewis has 61 yards on 13 carries for the Browns. The difference in this one so far is the big punt return by Cribbs. Weinke is 7 of 14 for 63 yards and the touchdown, which is not bad considering the circumstances. The 49ers had the ball more than 17 minutes in the first half, but let a lot of potential scoring opportunities slip away …

2:45: Holy Cribbs!! Joe Nedney kicks off to begin the second half to the dynamic Cleveland returner, and Cribbs takes the kick at his 5, bounces to the right side, slips some tackles, reads the openings, then takes off down the sideline. He eludes a diving Goldson, and that's it! Cribbs is gone for a 95-yard kickoff return! Why even kick to the guy? But wait. There's a flag way back down the field. It's holding on backup Cleveland guard Lennie Friedman! What a break!! Instead of a killer touchdown to begin the second half, the Browns are back at their 23 …

2:49: Anderson comes back out at quarterback to being the third quarter, and Clements jumps an early pass and almost has a big pick at the Cleveland 30. But it just goes into the pile of missed opportunities for the 49ers, and now the Browns are driving into San Francisco territory again behind the passing of Anderson and the bullish running of Lewis …

2:55: The Browns drive inside the San Francisco 10, where running back Jason Wright drops Anderson's third-down pass in the end zone. Dawson comes in to attempt a gimme 25-yard field goal, but Clements charges in from the left side and blocks it! The ball still gets into the air and heads for the goal posts, but it can't make it to the uprights and falls into the end zone! So the Browns have no points to show for a 14-play drive to open the second half, and the 49ers stay within shouting distance …

3:01: Starting at their own 20, it's a very unimpressive first series of the second half for the San Francisco offense. It's three consecutive handoffs to Gore, the third coming on third-and-short when he is dumped in the backfield. Cribbs takes Lee's punt in open field, but this time San Francisco's solid coverage unit wraps him up after a minimal game. And after a couple of holding penalties, the Browns are marching back near their own goal line …

3:07: On third-and-long, Anderson has time in the pocket, but the coverage is good, and as Anderson attempts to escape a collapsing pocket, Willis gets him in the backfield for his fourth sack of the season. Dave Zastudil is forced to punt from his own end zone, and the 49ers will start their next drive near midfield …

3:10: Willie McGinest beats right tackle Joe Staley for a sack on second down, setting up a third-and-11, and that dooms the drive right there as the 49ers go three-and-out again. The punt coverage again is solid on Cribbs, so the Browns will be starting their next drive deep in their own territory …

3:15: The Cleveland offense answers with its own three-and-out, thanks to some nice pass defense from the Niners, and San Francisco gets the ball back again in good field position as the clock winds down late in the third quarter …

3:20: Weinke is dumped in the backfield for another sack, and now the 49ers are facing another third-and-9 to begin the final quarter as the third period comes to an end …

3:29: Lewis goes over the 100-yard barrier with a 22-yard burst around the right side on third down that keeps Cleveland's ensuing drive moving. The Browns are moving in San Francisco territory now, but an offensive pass interference penalty on Winslow for pushing off moves the back and out of field-goal range. On fourth down, Dawson comes on and just gets a 49-yard attempt over the crossbar. But the kick is good as the Browns increase their lead …
Browns 20, 49ers 7

3:40: The 49ers drive for a few first downs on their next possession and get into Cleveland territory, but on third down, Weinke is swarmed and sacked for the fourth time back near midfield, and San Francisco has to punt yet again. The 49ers have done nothing on offense in the second half, and now the clock is winding down under seven minutes remaining to play …

3:45: The Browns are pounding the rock now with Lewis and taking more time off the clock, but they get called for a false start on a third-and-1 play, which leads to a third-down incompletion and another Cleveland punt with 4:53 to play. The 49ers should get pretty good field position here as Zastudil punts from the shadow of his own end zone …

3:47: On first down from their own 32, the 49ers try to set up a screen to Gore, and it's there. But Weinke throws a little too high and hard, and the ball deflects off Gore's hands and is intercepted by Bodden, his career-high seventh of the season. But is it an interception? Mike Nolan throws out the red flag, and this one is going to review …

3:51: It's a good challenge by Nolan as replays show the ball clearly hit the ground as a diving Bodden attempted to corral it. The interception is overturned, and the ball remains with the 49ers with 4:36 left on the clock …

3:53: Weinke can feel the pass rush, but he's a virtual statue in the pocket, and he is sacked again on third down as the 49ers are forced to punt it away again. The clock is below four minutes now, and the 49ers are running out of time to get back in this one …

3:56: The 49ers start using their timeouts now as the Browns face a third-and-2. Anderson finds Winslow down the field for a first down, though, and that 25-yard gain should about do it for any hopes of a last-gasp comeback by the 49ers …

3:59: A third-string running back named Jerome Harrison squirts up the middle for another first down to bring the clock down to the two-minute warning, which it highly doubtful the San Francisco offense will even see the ball again in this doomed 2007 season …

4:03: The 49ers are out of timeouts now as the Browns drive toward the San Francisco 10 wit the clock approaching one minute. There's another first down by Harrison, and that will just about do it …

4:05: Anderson takes a knee, and that's it. This 49ers season of high hopes turned to dust finally is over, and it ended with an offensive whimper. The Browns, meanwhile, have a 10-win season and seven wins at home for the first time in franchise history, and they have a playoff game awaiting them if the Tennessee Titans lose in Indianapolis later this evening, a definite possibility. And the 49ers? They await an offseason of change after their 5-11 finish secures a franchise-worst fifth consecutive losing season …
Final score: Browns 20, 49ers 7

Make sure to check back with sfillustrated.com later this afternoon and evening for full post-game coverage, analysis and comments from the San Francisco locker room, and then check back next week and throughout the offseason as SFI keeps you up to date on a busy offseason that is certain to follow, which begins with Mike Nolan's season-ending wrap up news conference on Monday afternoon.



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