Cleveland was 2-2 coming off of their bye week and the uncertainty of what the season was going to be was at an all-time high.
Quarterback Deshaun Watson was injured in Cleveland's Week 3 victory over the Tennessee Titans and wasn't able to suit up to face the 5-0 San Francisco 49ers in Week 6, as the Browns entered the day as a pretty heft underdog.
The afternoon started with a scuffle between the two teams at midfield that may saw 49ers wideout Deebo Samuel at the center of it. Cleveland made a statement in that moment, showing that they were ready for the challenge, but was it even going to matter?
FIGHT!— Cam Inman (@CamInman) October 15, 2023
49ers Browns pregame pic.twitter.com/WR2x75CD16
San Francisco received the opening kickoff and went 84 yards five plays capped off by a Christian McCaffery 13-yard touchdown catch.
Cleveland got the ball for their first time and PJ Walker threw an interception to Fred Warner that hit him in between the five and four on his jersey.
The route was on and Cleveland was in for a long afternoon, or so it felt.
The Browns' defense had other thoughts as they started to settle into the game. For the first time in Brock Purdy's young career, he looked really uncomfortable and not understanding what he was seeing.
Each team traded missed field goals until midway through the second quarter Jake Moody split the uprights giving the 49ers a 10-0 lead.
Walker and the Browns got the ball back and got Amari Cooper involved. Walker lofted a ball down the left side and No. 2 drifted underneath of it, broke a tackle and was cut loose up the sideline for a huge 58-yard gain. Kareem Hunt finished it off with a 16-yard touchdown run cutting the deficit to 10-7 which was the halftime score.
Coming out of the half, the Browns engineered a nine-play, 48-yard drive that ended with a Dustin Hopkins 42-yard field goal to knot the game up at 10.
Both defenses locked in for the rest of the third quarter and the offenses sputtered. Purdy threw an interception to Martin Emerson, each team traded punts until Cleveland got the ball back with 5:47 left to go in the third.
A couple of nice Kareem Hunt runs got Cleveland into scoring position. Cleveland called on D-Hop and he answered with a 46-yard field goal to give Cleveland the 13-10 lead.
The fourth quarter was a punt fest. Neither offense could get it going until Cleveland made a back-breaking mistake. Walker had gotten locked in on throwing to Cooper and he went to the well one time too many.
Deommodore Lenoir snagged a pass intended for Cooper and returned it to the eight-yard line setting the Niners up with a first and goal.
They punched it in for six and again, it felt like this day was over, but Cleveland continued to fight.
On the ensuing drive, Cleveland went 43 yards in 14 plays setting up Hopkins with a 50-yard attempt that he drilled cutting the deficit to 17-16.
The Cleveland defense forced a three-and-out and the Browns got the ball back with 2:56 go and a chance to win. A questionable unnecessary roughness on 3rd and 10 kept the drive going for the Browns. Cleveland moved their way down to the San Francisco 13-yard line and would have to settle for a field goal attempt, that Dustin Hopkins drilled and Cleveland had the lead with just 1:40 left.
The drama wasn't over yet. In typical Browns fashion, they couldn't quite shut the door.
Emerson gets a pass interference on 3rd and 10, Purdy finds Brandon Aiyuk for a 25 yard gain, Aiyuk again for eight, Jauan Jennings for nine and now the 49ers had a 41-yard attempt for the win.
The football gods were on Cleveland's side that October afternoon as Moody's kick came off his foot to the right and instead of drawing back in, it drifted more right and outside the uprights.
JAKE MOODY MISSED THE FIELD GOAL WIDE RIGHT— Sideline Daily (@sideline_daily) October 15, 2023
THE BROWNS UPSET THE 49ERS WITHOUT DESHAUN WATSON
Cleveland completed the miracle victory and the season was back on track.
A fun trip down memory lane as that same 49ers team suits up Sunday evening for a chance to hoist the Lombardi trophy.