SANTA CLARA – The 49ers are 5-0 and are coming off a comprehensive defeat of the Dallas Cowboys that caused a frenzy among the fan base.
The 49ers’ dominant play to open the season begs the question: Can they maintain this pace?
Linebacker Fred Warner had the perfect answer.
“This is one of those things where you have a lot of time, so you have to start trying to fix things a little bit,” Warner replied with a laugh.
“I honestly don’t think we’ve reached our peak.”
Although their 42-10 win over Dallas was impressive on the surface, it wasn’t necessarily all positive when it came to film review among the 49ers’ coaches and players.
“If you saw the way we rated this tape, you’d see we’re taking this very seriously,” Warner said.
Next up is a date at the Cleveland Browns, following their bye week.
The Browns won’t have starting quarterback Deshaun Watson (fractured rotator cuff), so 28-year-old P.J. Walker is expected to start. The 49ers defense is expected to close in the shutout zone.
Meanwhile, the team’s offense will be tested against a Browns defense that is among the best in the league.
Here are five 49ers to watch:
5, LB Fred Warner
After his performance against the Cowboys on Sunday night, Warner moved up the list of NFL Defensive Player of the Year candidates.
He had a forced fumble, a sack and an interception, and was named NFC Defensive Player of the Year.
Now the action is back to confront Brown.
“Fred is the same every week, whether he has a big game or not,” 49ers defensive end Nick Bouza said. “He pays attention to every detail, no matter the circumstances. That’s what makes him great.”
Warner is playing with great momentum, and more could be asked of him on Sunday with fellow linebacker Dre Greenlaw struggling with a hamstring issue.
4, LT Trent Williams
The 49ers were tested last week against Micah Parsons of the Cowboys. The O-line handled Parsons and kept quarterback Brock Purdy well protected in the pocket.
Next: A date with Cleveland defensive end Myles Garrett.
Garrett primarily lines up at right defensive end. He is expected to face Williams for most of the match.
This is an All-Pro matchup.
Williams is the best left tackle in the game. Williams allowed just four hits (no hits or sacks) in the first five games of the season.
Garrett produced 5.5 bags and 23 rakes.
It’s a heavyweight match and one worth keeping an eye on.
3, De Randy Gregory
If a 49ers team had a zone that hasn’t performed at a consistently high level since Week 1, the edge rusher zone would be opposite Bosa.
Drake Jackson had a great week in Week 1, recording three sacks in a 30-7 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers. Since that game, Jackson has not produced a single down the middle.
The 49ers acquired extremely talented veteran Randy Gregory last week in a trade from the Denver Broncos to provide a boost in the field.
After taking the practice field for the first time on Wednesday, Gregory put himself in a position to get on the field and make a contribution against the Browns in a limited role.
Expect him to initially fit into the mix as a situational pass rusher and show if he can bring a little more juice to the team’s pass rush.
2, QB Brock Purdy
Brock Purdy has been so good in a healthy 13 games in the NFL that he has raised the bar to ridiculous levels.
Even his worst game statistically — an 87.4 passer rating against the Cowboys in the playoffs — could be considered a good performance by many other NFL quarterbacks.
Purdy faces a strong defense against Brown. They have a good pass rush and are especially talented in the defensive backfield.
However, Purdy has already faced several good defenses and no team has been able to slow him down yet.
Purdy leads the NFL with a passer rating of 123.1 this season, completing 72.1 percent of his pass attempts with nine TDs and no interceptions.
Five games into the season, Purdy is among the favorites for NFL MVP.
And if he can avoid the giveaway — as he has done so well since taking over — the 49ers should go home Sunday afternoon with a victory.
1, VS Tashaun Gibson
Tashawn Gibson spent the first four seasons of his 12-year NFL career with the Cleveland Browns. He intercepted 14 passes and made a Pro Bowl during his time there.
Now, he’s in his second season with the 49ers, and was one of general manager John Lynch’s top under-the-radar signings.
Gibson thought his career might be over. In August of last year, the 49ers called. He traveled to Minnesota, where the 49ers were practicing against the Vikings. He had a workout, and Lynch signed him on the spot.
“Since then, he’s been one of the key leaders and key components of our defense, and people don’t talk about him that much,” Warner said. “He’s one of the best players on our team.”
Gibson was so good last season that he replaced Jimmie Ward as the team’s free safety. He had five interceptions last season and had his first of the season Sunday night against the Cowboys’ Dak Prescott.
It looks as if the Browns will go with Walker, who has five touchdowns and 11 interceptions in 15 career games (seven starts).
There may be some opportunities for Gibson and the 49ers’ defense to celebrate on Sunday.
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