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SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Now that’s a quality win.
The San Francisco 49ers trounced the Cleveland Browns, 31-3, on Monday night to remain the NFC’s only unbeaten team and just maybe silence the questions about whether their perfect record (4-0) is legitimate.
They dominated Cleveland from the start, rushing for a season-high 275 yards, dominating on defense to throttle Baker Mayfield, forcing five turnovers and pretty much hosting a festival that sent a signal to the rest of the NFL.
Sure, the Browns aren’t the New England Patriots (5-0), the NFL’s only other undefeated team. Yet Cleveland (2-3) is a talented group that on paper appeared to be the most formidable foe the 49ers have faced this season after registering wins at Tampa Bay, at Cincinnati and against Pittsburgh.
In any event, there was no dispute about the 49ers heft before a raucous crowd at Levi’s Stadium.
Next question: Are they legitimate enough to win the NFC West? They can address that on Sunday, when they meet the Rams at the L.A. Coliseum.
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Three other things we learned from the 49ers’ annihilation of the Browns on Monday night:
♦ Running works. The 49ers rode the second-ranked rushing attack into the ground, so to speak, gashing the Browns for 275 yards on the ground as part of a 446-yard offensive output. The omen came on San Francisco’s first offensive snap when Matt Breida ripped off an 83-yard touchdown run. Breida finished with 114 yards, while Tevin Coleman ran for 97. They threatened to become the first pair of 49ers to run for 100 yards in the same game since Frank Gore (158) and Colin Kaepernick (151) against the San Diego Chargers on Dec. 20, 2014.
♦ That’s what the worst game of Baker Mayfield’s NFL career looks like. The Browns quarterback committed four turnovers — two interceptions and two fumbles — that summed up his night before the bright lights. Not good. In fact, Mayfield’s 13.4. pass efficiency rating was the lowest in a game of his career. The previous low-water mark (52.6) came against the Chargers last season in Week 6. He completed just 8 of 22 passes for 100 yards with the 2 INTs on Monday night.
♦ Antonio Callaway has a lot of rust. It was a season debut to forget for the Browns receiver, who was back after serving a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. The worst moment came when it was still a ballgame in the second quarter and Callaway muffed a throw near the goal line that popped into the arms of K’Waun Williams for a momentum-killing interception. This, after he flashed “alligator arms” on a pass to the end zone on a previous drive and was flagged for pass interference. He was also the intended receiver on Mayfield’s first pick, but that was on the quarterback as the pass sailed high.
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Jarrett Bell on Twitter @JarrettBell.
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