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5 49ers storylines to watch vs. Browns on Monday Night Football

Oct 7, 2019 at 9:08 AM


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The San Francisco 49ers look to stay as one of only two undefeated teams after Week 5, playing host to the Cleveland Browns on Monday Night Football. Some game-day storylines, everyone?


Following the Kansas City Chiefs' Sunday Night Football loss to the Indianapolis Colts, only two teams -- the New England Patriots and San Francisco 49ers -- remain undefeated.

The 3-0 Niners are coming off their early bye week, which should afford head coach Kyle Shanahan's squad some extra rest and preparation for its own prime-time bout against the 2-2 Cleveland Browns on Monday Night Football to round out Week 5's slate of games. The contest should be a decisive one for both teams. For San Francisco, it affords the luxury of beating a team many thought would be AFC contenders earlier this year. And for the up-and-down Browns, Week 5 could provide an answer to whether or not Cleveland received far too much hype early in 2019.

This, and other notable storylines should garner a lot of attention when both teams kick off on Monday at 8:15 p.m. ET from Levi's Stadium.

No. 5: Stopping Nick Chubb


Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield plays much better when he can utilize play action, and doing so will require Cleveland to get an effective effort out of second-year running back Nick Chubb, who churned out an astounding 165-yard, three-touchdown performance in the Browns' 40-25 win over the Baltimore Ravens just over a week ago.

Good thing San Francisco's defense is allowing 3.4 yards per rush attempt this season, which ranks third best in the league. Forcing Mayfield and the Browns offense to be one-dimensional should be priority No. 1 for defensive coordinator Robert Saleh and Co.

No. 4: Offensive, Defensive Efficiency in the Red Zone


The 49ers still aren't great scoring touchdowns in the red zone this year, managing a rate of just 42.9 percent -- good for 28th in the league. Luckily for head coach Kyle Shanahan, Cleveland hasn't been good, defensively, in this area either. Over its first four games, the Browns defense is allowing opponents to score touchdowns in the red zone 70 percent of the time, which is third highest in the NFL.

Flip the script, and the Niners defense is tied for first in this category with the Patriots, allowing opposing red-zone touchdowns just 25 percent of the time.

If San Francisco clamps down on Cleveland's red-zone offensive opportunities, the 49ers should be in good shape.

No. 3: 49ers Wide Receivers vs. a Banged-Up Browns Secondary


Week 5 will mark the third consecutive game Browns cornerbacks Greedy Williams and Denzel Ward will miss games with hamstring injuries, per Cleveland.com's Mary Kay Cabot:


San Francisco's wide receivers have yet to have what might be considered a true "breakout" game, whatever the criteria for one is. But if there was ever a chance for one of the Niners pass catchers to go off, Week 5 could be it.

No. 2: Fill-In Starters Assuming Big Roles for San Francisco


The Browns aren't the only ones dealing with key injuries, as the Niners are going to have to contend with fill-in starters, too. Namely cornerback Emmanuel Moseley, who looks to be the shoo-in starter in the wake of Ahkello Witherspoon's foot sprain, and rookie tackle Justin Skule.

Skule, who is starting in place of veteran left tackle Joe Staley, will be making his second NFL start and will match up against Cleveland edge rushers Myles Garrett and Olivier Vernon -- not an easy assignment, yet Skule handled himself OK against a blitz-happy Pittsburgh Steelers squad in Week 3, albeit with three accepted penalties against him.

Meanwhile, Moseley will have a tough challenge ahead of him, covering wide receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry. Taking pressure off Moseley could largely fall on what San Francisco does up front, though.

No. 1: 49ers Defensive Front vs. a Questionable Browns O-Line


There's little doubting the Niners have a good defensive front seven, namely in the pass-rush department, which hasn't had to rely much on anything more than four-man rushes. While the 49ers have averaged only three sacks per game this season, this group is getting substantial pressure.

And pressuring Mayfield is going to be key to San Francisco's defensive success Monday night.

Interestingly enough, Football Outsiders ranked the Browns offensive line 24th in pass protection through four weeks. There should be opportunities there for the 49ers.

Edge rushers Dee Ford and Nick Bosa will be focal pieces, yes. But Ford is still dealing with a knee/quad issue, which means he'll likely be relegated to situational pass-rushing roles, as Bosa handles every-down duties. One player to keep an eye on, however, is defensive tackle Arik Armstead, who is quietly having a strong start to his 2019 campaign amid a talented Niners defensive front.
  • Written by:
    Peter Panacy has been writing about the 49ers since 2011 for outlets like Bleacher Report, Niner Noise, 49ers Webzone, and is occasionally heard as a guest on San Francisco's 95.7 FM The Game and the Niners' flagship station, KNBR 680. Feel free to follow him, or direct any inquiries to his Twitter account.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


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