Browns-49ers Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated October 26, 2011
San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh has gotten plenty of time to cool off since his handshake gone wrong. He's hoping the bye week won't have a chilling effect on his team. San Francisco will seek to win five straight for the first time in nearly a decade Sunday when it hosts the Cleveland Browns. Harbaugh's incident with Lions coach Jim Schwartz following a 25-19 victory Oct. 16 in Detroit is still generating some buzz, but the 49ers (5-1) are likely more focused on adding to their three-game lead in the NFC West. San Francisco, which hasn't won a division title or posted a winning record since 2002, can help its cause with its first five-game win streak since Nov. 4-Dec. 2, 2001. "We've got 10 more games to continue that roll and continue where we left off," cornerback Carlos Rogers said. "It's going to be a tough task. We've got a lot of tough games coming up. I think our coaching staff and players, we're doing a good job of getting back to playing football." It's unknown whether the 49ers will have former Browns receiver Braylon Edwards available against Cleveland. Edwards returned to practice for the first time since right knee surgery Tuesday, but Harbaugh said he would need "more evaluation" before determining his status. "I hope he (plays). I think he will," safety Donte Whitner said. "I'm sure he'll be pretty fired up to play against those guys, and I would be too if I used to play for them." Edwards had four receptions for 59 yards in his only previous game against Cleveland, a 26-20 overtime victory for the New York Jets on Nov. 14. He played his first four-plus NFL seasons for the Browns after being drafted No. 3 overall out of Michigan in 2005. Cleveland is expected to have running back Peyton Hillis back in the starting lineup after he missed a game with a strained hamstring. Montario Hardesty had 95 yards on 33 carries in his place during last week's 6-3 win over Seattle, which snapped a two-game skid. The Browns (3-3) had a season-high 45 rushing attempts in that game after passing a combined 106 times in the previous two. Despite his team showing more balance, quarterback Colt McCoy was sacked four times and hit on several more occasions. "I would like to be a team that can do both (running and passing) well," coach Pat Shurmur said. "In our style of offense, you should be very good at running. ... I think it's important you are able to do both." Hillis, who also missed a win over Miami on Sept. 25 after his agent advised him not to play with strep throat, has never faced the 49ers. Phil Dawson had a pair of field goals during the most recent matchup, a 20-7 home win for Cleveland in 2007. Dawson converted two 50-plus yarders in one game for the first time in his career last week against Seattle despite a bruised right thigh. Wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi and tight end Benjamin Watson are trying to overcome concussions in time for Sunday, and starting right guard Shawn Lauvao has an ailing knee. Linebacker Scott Fujita might return from his concussion and try to help the Browns to a fourth consecutive win over the 49ers. Cleveland won its last visit to San Francisco 13-12 with a fourth-quarter comeback Sept. 21, 2003. The Browns are 5-4 there all-time, but they travel to the Bay Area for the second time in three weeks as one of the NFL's lowest-scoring teams (16.2 points per game). Cleveland's defense, though, ranks in the top five with 291.0 yards allowed per game and in the top 10 in average points allowed (20.0). "I'm very confident (in the defense). There's no reason we can't go into every game and expect a fine defensive performance," Shurmur said. "Our guys feel confident because they're playing well as a defense. You would like to think they can build on that confidence." San Francisco has been even better in giving up just 16.2 points per game, and it's among the league leaders in scoring (27.8 ppg) despite an offense that ranks 27th with 302.5 yards per contest. Alex Smith is ninth in the NFL with a 95.2 passer rating, but Frank Gore may again be a focal point for the 49ers, having rushed for at least 125 yards and a touchdown in each of the last three games. Gore has never posted four straight 100-yard games in his career.
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