The Cleveland Browns face a tough task on the road this afternoon, as they go against the San Francisco 49ers without running back Peyton Hillis. Lucky for them, they have a dominating defense that should keep them in the game. Should that happen, Colt McCoy and the offense will need to step up and make a few big plays to pull off the upset.
To get a closer look at the match-up, we talked with Eric Melendez of Niner Noise.
1. How surprised are you really that the 49ers are 5-1?
The 49ers faithful are really surprised by the 5-1 start and we love seeing our team at the top of the NFC West. We knew Jim Harbaugh was going to be the coach that made the 49ers good again but we did not expect the turnaround to happen this season.
2. Obviously Jim Harbaugh is having a positive effect on this team. What exactly is he doing to turn this team into a contender in his first year?
Harbaugh has instilled confidence in the 49ers locker room and has coached players up to levels they did not know they could get to. A big example of this is Alex Smith and the way he is playing this season. The 49ers are a completely different and better team than last season and they have most of the same players this season.
3. So far, Alex Smith is having an efficient season, minimizing his mistakes and managing games well. Is that all the 49ers need from their quarterback? Are Niners fans convinced he’s a quarterback who can take the team to the next level?
As much as Smith has played better this season he still has some ways to go in becoming the franchise quarterback we wanted him to be when we drafted him. Still, Smith is protecting the football well with only two interceptions this season and he has lead the 49ers in the clutch to victories this season. Down the stretch, Smith will have to show he can make plays rather than just managing games well if he wants to continue as the 49ers starting quarterback after this season.
4. The 49ers have a dominating defense, especially on the ground. Who is the unsung hero of the group?
Patrick Willis is the leader of the group but the hero and breakout star for the 49ers is middle linebacker NaVarro Bowman. Bowman is only in his second season in the NFL and leads the 49ers in tackles with 56. Bowman is a freak like Willis and the two are similar with their speed and great tackling ability. If Browns fans had not heard of Bowman before, they will get to know him today.
5. What would it take for the 49ers to take care of the Browns at home on Sunday?
The Browns defense will give the 49ers offense trouble all game. But if the 49ers can limit their turnovers on offense they will win the game. My prediction is that the game will be won on special teams with a late field goal or a return for a touchdown.
Thanks again to Eric for talking some football with us. Be sure to check out my interview on Niner Noise here.