On Sunday, the Cleveland Browns defeated the previously unbeaten San Francisco 49ers, 19-17, in easily the biggest upset of the 2023 season so far.
Playing without starting quarterback Deshaun Watson and guard Joel Bitonio, the Browns offense did just enough to outscore a talented 49ers team.
Before the contest, several national media members gave Cleveland little chance to win.
After all, San Francisco is well stocked on both sides of the ball and was 5-0, including a huge win over the Dallas Cowboys last week.
The #Browns defense is beyond legit. If Deshaun Watson gets it together they’re absolutely a contender.
— Mike Greenberg (@Espngreeny) October 15, 2023
The victory over the Niners has convinced some of those same media types to believe in the Browns’ potential.
“The Browns defense is beyond legit,” said ESPN’s Mike Greenberg, “If Deshaun Watson gets it together they’re absolutely a contender.”
Greenberg’s assessment of the Cleveland defense is spot on.
The unit held San Francisco quarterback Brock Purdy to 12 completions, 125 passing yards, and one score.
Cornerback Martin Emerson Jr. picked off Purdy for the quarterback’s first interception of the season.
It was also Emerson’s first interception of his NFL career.
Cleveland’s secondary limited the Niners receivers to just 12 total receptions, led by Brandon Aiyuk’s four catches for 76 yards.
Myles Garrett didn’t get a sack, but the Browns overall snagged two.
The Browns defense held the Niners rushing game to 108 yards, San Fran’s lowest total in 2023.
BROWNS BEAT THE NINERS!!!!
MIRACLE ON THE LAKE!!!! pic.twitter.com/7OqVvOHuLn
— McNeil (@Reflog_18) October 15, 2023
On offense, backup quarterback PJ Walker threw two interceptions, but he also connected with receiver Amari Cooper four times for 108 yards.
Perhaps even more exciting, the kicking game has become a strength as Dustin Hopkins connected on four field goals including the 29-yard game-winner.
There’s no doubt that the Browns are on the cusp of something special.
And, as Greenberg alluded to, if Watson can get back on the field, stay healthy, and return to his 2020 form, the sky’s the limit for Cleveland.