NFL: 49ers lose stars and first game

Published 9:57 pm Sunday, October 15, 2023

By TOM WITHERS AP Sports Writer

CLEVELAND (AP) — On the way to their first loss, the San Francisco 49ers lost two of their biggest stars.

Running back Christian McCaffrey and wide receiver Deebo Samuel were both injured Sunday during a 19-17 setback to the Cleveland Browns, who ended the Niners’ regular-season winning streak at 15 games.

McCaffrey scored on a 13-yard pass in the first quarter, extending his streak to 15 straight games with a TD. But the versatile back couldn’t push through an injury to his oblique in the second half. Samuel injured his shoulder at some point in the first half and didn’t return, leaving quarterback Brock Purdy without two of the NFL’s most dynamic playmakers.

49ers coach Mike Shanahan had little to offer about the injuries to McCaffrey or Samuel. He did say McCaffrey also has a rib issue.

Also, All-Pro left tackle Trent Williams left Cleveland Browns Stadium in a walking boot after suffering a right ankle injury in the first half that initially looked serious.

With McCaffrey and Samuel, the Niners needed someone to step up, but nobody did.

Four-time Pro Bowl tight end George Kittle had just one catch for 1 yard, and the Niners constantly found themselves in bad situations. San Francisco committed a season-high 12 penalties for 105 yards.

“Just sloppy,” Kittle said. “At the end of the day, that is not Niner football. We have been playing pretty clean as it is. False start, holding, hands to the face, whatever you want to call it. We put too much pressure on guys having to make plays.”

McCaffrey finished with 11 rushes for 43 yards and three catches for nine yards. He wasn’t on the field for the Niners first possession after halftime, staying on the sideline to stretch before being taken into the medical tent.

He returned briefly the next time San Francisco got the ball, but left again and went to the locker room before being ruled out.

One of the league’s most dangerous threats, Samuel got hurt in the first quarter. The 27-year-old spent several minutes in the medical tent on the sideline before heading to the locker room.

Samuel, who was involved in a pregame skirmish between the teams, had two carries for 11 yards. He did not catch a pass. He came in with 20 catches for 302 yards and one touchdown. He also 84 yards rushing on 16 carries.

In 2021, Samuel had 77 catches for 1,405 yards and six TDs. He added 365 yards rushing with eight TDs.