4 San Francisco 49ers to blame for first loss of the season in Cleveland

The 49ers lost their first game of the 2023 season in Week 6 with a late missed field goal against the Browns. Fingers have to be pointed.

San Francisco 49ers v Cleveland Browns
San Francisco 49ers v Cleveland Browns / Gregory Shamus/GettyImages
3 of 4

2. George Kittle was a complete non-factor for the 49ers offense

We'll talk a bit more about the effects of injuries for the 49ers in a bit. But the TL;DR version is that San Francisco was without wide receiver Deebo Samuel for most of this game and running back Christian McCaffrey for essentially the entire fourth quarter and part of the third. When that happens, you expect the other big-name weapons in the offense to step up.

For the Niners, that should've been tight end George Kittle. Unfortunately, the gritty pass-catcher was anything but against the Browns, barely even making a whimper against one of the NFL's best defenses.

Kittle was targeted only twice for the entire game, reeling in just one of those for a reception and managing only a single yard with that catch. For a eam that needed someone to step up and make a play, the tight end was about as far from doing that as possible.

Again, it's crucial to note that the Browns have one of the best defensive units in the league. They clearly did a great job of blanketing Kittle, getting after Brock Purdy, and limiting the 49ers offense in this matchup. Having said that, when you have one of the best players at his position, the expectation should be for him to win even in difficult circumstances. The importance of that increases tenfold when the offense is shorthanded.

This wasn't entirely Kittle's fault, it should be noted. Having said that, it's jarring to see how little impact he had on this game statistically. It's also difficult to not consider that a little more production could've helped push the Niners ahead for the victory.