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Browns-49ers matchup of the day: Tuesday

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Posted Oct. 25, 2011 @ 7:21 p.m. ET
By Mike Wilkening

Here's a matchup to watch in Sunday's Browns-49ers game.

49ers' running game vs. Browns' run defense

You've heard the cliché before — "The NFL is now a passing league." And indeed, NFL teams had averaged 220.5 passes against just 169.8 rushes through Sunday's games.

The 49ers, like the majority of NFL clubs, have attempted more passes than rushes this season, but barely so. San Francisco has run 177 pass plays (attempts and sacks) while rushing 175 times. This is no three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust ground game, either: San Francisco is averaging 4.5 yards per carry, 10th-best in the NFL, and racking up 131.5 yards per contest, sixth-best in the league.

After a slow start, RB Frank Gore (109 carries, 541 yards, four TDs) was exceptional in his final three games leading up to the Week Seven bye, rushing for 393 yards on 50 carries (7.9 ypc).

In the 49ers' Week Six win vs. Detroit, Gore racked up 141 yards on 15 carries, including rushes of 55 and 47 yards. Both long runs displayed his skill and the 49ers' collective talent and might in the running game. On both plays, TE Delanie Walker made key blocks. He can block linebackers, and he can block defensive linemen; his block on Lions DT Ndamukong Suh helped spring Gore on his 47-yard run. The Niners' wideouts are willing blockers, too, with WR Ted Ginn Jr. and Michael Crabtree giving excellent effort on a pair of important blocks on Gore's 55-yard run.

Gore runs hard and has the speed to be a threat to take it the distance if he gets to the second level. So does rookie RB Kendall Hunter, who has emerged as a solid backup for Gore, who has been such a productive and valuable member of the San Francisco offense even in leaner years.

The Browns' run defense is solid, allowing just 3.9 yards per carry. Cleveland has allowed just three rushes of 20 yards or longer in 183 opponent attempts. However, stopping Gore presents a challenge for any defense right now.

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