- Mike Sando, NFL Insider
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What it means: The 49ers have a four-game lead in the NFC West with nine games remaining, unless Seattle overcomes a 27-12 deficit in the final two minutes (that game was ongoing as I published this). No NFL team since realignment in 2002 has blown more than a 3.5-game division lead after Week 7. The 49ers now are 6-1 for the first time since the 1998 season. They have a 5-1 record outside the division, setting themselves up to run away with the NFC West if they win most of their division games.
What I liked: Frank Gore topped 100 yards rushing in the first half. This was his fourth 100-yard game in a row, a career best. Alex Smith was efficient and showed good instincts when pump-faking to set up a first-half completion. Smith also scrambled for first downs on two third-down plays in the first half. He avoided the mistakes Cleveland needed him to make in order for the Browns to threaten in this game. Michael Crabtree caught a touchdown pass for the first time this season. On defense, the 49ers' linebackers dominated Browns running back Chris Ogbonnaya in protection, putting pressure on Colt McCoy. That was the case when free safety Dashon Goldson picked off McCoy in the end zone after the Browns gained offensive traction in the second half. NaVorro Bowman enjoyed another standout game in his first season as a starter. Rookie first-round pick Aldon Smith collected another sack, giving him 6.5 for the season.
What I didn't like: Defensive end Ray McDonald suffered a hamstring injury and did not return. He had been playing very well for the 49ers. The team did not need him in this game but will miss him if he's lost for any significant period of time. Pro Bowl tight end Vernon Davis suffered an arm injury of unknown severity. Alex Smith's efficiency dropped after halftime. The 49ers were in control, so it didn't matter a great deal, but better efficiency is important.
Diving deep into playbook: The 49ers found left tackle Joe Staley for a 17-yard reception. They found nose tackle Isaac Sopoaga for an 18-yard gain. No one can say the 49ers don't like to have some fun.
What's next: The 49ers visit the Washington Redskins in Week 9.