“I’m still standing here and breathing, so that’s a good thing,” Blaine Gabbert said after Sunday’s game.
The quarterback’s health was a question mark after he was sacked nine times, the highest number allowed by any team this season, and the highest number in 49ers’ franchise history. San Francisco has allowed that total on other occasions, most recently against the Baltimore Ravens when Alex Smith was the quarterback.
Like Smith, Gabbert seems to trade sacks for risky passes. He didn’t throw any interceptions Sunday and finished with a 96.4 passer rating. But his longest connection of the day was a 24-yard catch and run by rookie tight end Blake Bell, and, as was the case in his previous starts, his third-down passes often were thrown well short of the first-down marker.
By contrast, Browns counterpart Johnny Manziel had six pass plays of 20 yards or more.
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“The quarterback really didn’t want to take too many chances out there,” Cleveland safety Donte Whitner said of Gabbert. “That’s why you saw our sack number go up – along with good coverage.”
Three of the nine sacks occurred when Gabbert ran out of bounds short of the line of scrimmage. The 49ers had been averaging only two sacks in Gabbert’s previous starts. Nearly every offensive player shared the blame in the flurry of sacks, including Gabbert.
“I’ve got to find a way to get rid of the ball,” he said. “When you take that many negative plays throughout the football game, it’s tough. You’re digging yourself a deep, deep hole.”
Boone hurt Starting guard Alex Boone suffered a knee injury in the second half and will have an MRI this week, Jim Tomsula said.
Marcus Martin, who had been alternating at center with Daniel Kilgore throughout the game, moved to left guard after Boone’s injury.
The 49ers began the game without a trio of starters: tight end Vance McDonald and outside linebacker Aaron Lynch, both of whom suffered concussions a week earlier against Chicago, as well as linebacker Michael Wilhoite, who has a high-ankle sprain.
Gerald Hodges started in place of Wilhoite and finished with seven tackles, one of them behind the line of scrimmage. Bell and Corey Lemonier started in place of McDonald and Lynch, respectively.
Safety Jimmie Ward (elbow) and running back Kendall Gaskins (head) left Sunday’s game against the Browns and did not return.
Dawson’s return Kicker Phil Dawson was good on his only field-goal attempt of the day from 44 yards, but the veteran kicker admitted afterward it was hard to keep his concentration.
Dawson spent his first 14 NFL seasons in Cleveland, and the Browns recognized his tenure there with a first-quarter video tribute that brought most fans out of their seat in applause.
“Very special day and very difficult to stay with my normal routine because of all the emotions and all of the well wishes that were there at every turn,” Dawson, 40, said afterward. “... I wanted to let (the emotion) in, but I also wanted to play well. Finding the balance was the struggle.”
Et cetera Rookie safety Jaquiski Tartt had the first interception of his career, which he returned 25 yards. Tartt said he had watched Manziel roll to the sideline and throw to the center of the field against Tennessee. That pass resulted in a touchdown, so he said he knew the Browns quarterback wouldn’t shy away from such a risky throw.
* Last week’s 49ers hero, receiver Torrey Smith, started Sunday’s game but finished with just one catch for 17 yards. Smith missed practice in the run-up to the game with back and toe injuries; he has not missed a game since entering the league in 2011, which amounts to 77 consecutive games.
* Natomas native Marlon Moore started for the Browns and finished with two catches for 24 yards. Moore spent the first part of the 2013 season with the 49ers.