CLEVELAND — For the third time in four weeks, the Cleveland Browns will be featured on prime time when they travel to northern California to play the San Francisco 49ers at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara on Monday Night Football.
And just like the Sunday Night Football game against the Los Angeles Rams on September 22, the Browns are preparing to face one of the NFC West Division’s best teams, one with a potent running game, solid play at quarterback and a stingy defense under the national television spotlight.
“It’s another great opportunity on Monday night to put on display the work that our players have put in from a day-to-day basis,” Browns coach Freddie Kitchens said earlier this week. “We are facing an excellent 49ers team that is 3-0, top five in defense and top five in offense.”
Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is back running the offense after missing much of the 2018 season because of a torn knee ligament, and he appears to be back to form, as he has completed 58 of his 84 attempts (69.0 percent) for 739 yards and five touchdowns against four interceptions and has been sacked only twice this season.
When Garoppolo hands off, the 49ers rely on Matt Breida and Raheem Mostert, who have combined for 428 yards on 75 carries, but second-year ball carrier Jeff Wilson Jr. has scored all four of San Francisco’s rushing touchdowns this season.
“He looks like he is back to 100 percent and making good throws,” Kitchens said of Garoppolo. “He can make every throw on the field. Making good decisions. He is a very good quarterback.
“They do an excellent job running the ball -- I think 175 yards a game running the ball. Kyle (Shanahan) has always done a great job in the run game and created unique ways to throw the ball down the field. Nothing has changed from that area and has been very successful doing it.”
The challenges are not limited to the offense, either.
San Francisco’s defense has allowed just six touchdowns, five passing scores and one return, in three games, only 75 rushing yards and 208.3 passing yards per game in 2019. Also, the 49ers registered nine sacks in the first three games of the season.
“You are looking at five first-round draft picks up front,” Kitchens said. “They are playing with great passion and energy. They get to the ball. They play hard. I do not know what else you want in a football team. They are very good.
“They are playing with a lot of passion and excitement. They bring a lot of energy to the field. When you start talking about their skillset, they are quick, they are fast, they are long, strong -- a lot of attributes you like in defensive players.”
In addition to the opponent, there is the challenge of playing another prime time game and one on the other side of the country no less.
“Everyone likes a routine,” Kitchens said. “Everyone likes getting up in the morning, grabbing your coffee and driving to work or whatever you do. Everyone likes to do the same thing every day. If anything changes, you adjust to it, of course.
“We maintain the same schedule every week. We get to the hotel the same time every week. Our travel is not dictated by the time we leave. It is dictated by the time we get to the schedule because I want everything being constant for those guys in a consistent manner.”