Tashaun Gipson

49ers' uncharacteristic penalties prove costly in loss to Browns

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CLEVELAND — Veteran safety Tashaun Gipson looked as if he tried to avoid the kind of hit on a defenseless receiver that draws an unnecessary roughness penalty.

However, Gipson still was flagged for the fourth-quarter penalty on what proved to be one of the key plays of the game.

An incomplete pass would have led to the Cleveland Browns facing a fourth-and-10 situation with less than three minutes remaining. The 49ers had a one-point lead at the time.

Instead, the Browns were awarded 15 yards for Gipson’s unnecessary roughness against wide receiver Elijah Moore.

The Browns went on for a nine-play 63-yard drive to kick the winning field goal in a 19-17 upset victory over the 49ers on Sunday.

“My view was his intent wasn’t at all to do that,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said of Gipson. “It looked like the receiver was coming in there, jumping, too, and it looked like they touched helmets from where I was.

"It didn’t look that violent. I’ll see when I watch the film.”

Even if it was not a hit to the helmet, it still can be a penalty, according to NFL rules. A player, such as Gipson, is prohibited from forcibly hitting a defenseless player in the head or neck area with a helmet, facemask, forearm, or shoulder. Moore was deemed defenseless as the pass was falling incomplete.

The 49ers had their worst game in just about every imaginable way.

They were called for 12 penalties totaling 105 yards. The Browns were even worse in that area, as referee John Hussey’s crew flagged Cleveland 13 times for 119 yards.

“Just sloppy,” 49ers tight end George 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, bad situations.”

Six of the 49ers’ penalties came on offense, which led to unfavorable long-yardage situations for quarterback Brock Purdy to attempt to navigate. The 49ers' offense struggled mightily against Cleveland's top-ranked defense.

Just two plays after Gipson’s penalty moved the Browns’ ball to the Cleveland 41, cornerback Charvarius Ward was called for defensive holding. That penalty moved the ball to the 49ers’ 40 and gave the Browns another fresh set of downs.

Shanahan said he expected a “grimy game” against the Browns.

Yet, the 49ers could have pulled out the victory in the final seconds if rookie kicker Jake Moody had not pushed a 41-yard field goal wide to the right.

“My message to them was, regardless of if we hit that or not, there’s a lot of stuff in this game that we need to improve on,” Shanahan said. “I thought we made way too many mistakes on offense.”

The 49ers had to make some adjustments on offense after receiver Deebo Samuel left the game in the first half with a shoulder injury. Running back Christian McCaffrey was in and out of the lineup due to an oblique strain.

“We had to switch a couple guys around and we weren’t quite ready for that,” Shanahan said. “It starts with me with too many mistakes.”

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