SAN FRANCISCO — For the Cleveland Browns, October became a real Bay Area bust.
Two injured running backs.
Two long, cross-country trips back home.
Peyton Hillis sat out with a left hamstring injury, Montario Hardesty strained his right calf in the first half and the banged-up Browns struggled the rest of the way in a 20-10 loss to the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday.
"I'm not mad yet. I'm not going mad," Browns coach Pat Shurmur said.
Shurmur would have plenty of excuses if he did.
Hillis went down only two weeks earlier in a loss across the Bay in Oakland and hasn't played since.
With Hardesty injuring his calf running a route against the 49ers, the Browns (3-4) could only turn to Chris Ogbonnaya — signed off Houston's practice squad after Hillis' injury — at running back.
Not that the passing game was any better.
Colt McCoy bobbled several snaps and accounted for four of Cleveland's five fumbles, only one of which was lost and helped set up Frank Gore's early TD run. McCoy threw for 241 yards with one interception and a late touchdown pass to Josh Cribbs.
Ogbonnaya ran for 37 yards on 11 carries.
"It's about winning," McCoy said. "We can talk all day about how we fight, fight, fight. And that's good. That's the character of this team. But we've got to start winning."
San Francisco's running back situation is far more stable.
Gore ran for both 125-plus yards and a touchdown in his fourth straight game, passing Roger Craig for second place on the franchise rushing list with 7,089. Gore wound up with 134 yards on a season-high 31 carries.
Alex Smith completed 15 of 24 passes for 177 yards, leading the first-place 49ers (6-1) to their fifth consecutive victory since an overtime loss to the Cowboys in Week 2.
The 49ers, made aware by new coach Jim Harbaugh this week that teams were 3-9 after their byes coming into Sunday, are off to their first 6-1 start since 1998 in the days of greats Jerry Rice, Terrell Owens and Steve Young.
"It's fun. We're right here in the middle of it almost at the halfway point," 49ers defensive end Justin Smith said. "We've got a decent thing going on. We've got to continue to go. We've got a long grind ahead of us."
For McCoy and the Browns, it's 0-for the Bay Area.
The offense managed only Phil Dawson's 52-yard field goal on the final play of the first half before Cribbs' 45-yard TD catch with 6:17 to play in the fourth quarter.
Cleveland's D'Qwell Jackson committed a costly facemask penalty against Gore that would have stopped San Francisco on third down 2 yards short in the waning minutes.
Instead, the 49ers drove down and David Akers sealed the victory with his second field goal of the day, a 26-yarder.
"Our margin for error right now on offense is very small," Shurmur said. "That's not an excuse. That's a reality. So we have to hit. We've got to hit on everything. We just do. I think that's something that has to change."
San Francisco has a five-game winning streak for the first time since 2001 and wrapped up its first unbeaten October since 1997.
The next big task will be ending an eight-year stretch of frustration in which the team hasn't had a winning season or made the playoffs.
After last week's lackluster 6-3 win over the Seahawks, it didn't get much better for the Browns. They failed to reach the end zone for seven quarters before Cribbs scored.
McCoy lost the ball on the second play from scrimmage after he was stripped by Ahmad Brooks. Isaac Sopoaga recovered at the Cleveland 20. Gore ran 4 yards for the first points. McCoy was sacked four more times after five last week by the Seahawks.
San Francisco's lopsided first half told the tale far before the clock finally wound down.
First downs: 15-6. Total yards: 253-93. Time of possession: 18:58-11:02. Rushing yards: 145-25.
Michael Crabtree caught a 2-yard pass to put the Niners ahead 17-0 just before halftime. Dashon Goldson made his first interception of 2011 in the end zone in the third quarter.
Left tackle Joe Staley even was in on the action, catching a 17-yard pass from Smith for a first down midway through the first quarter for his first career reception.
He jumped up in celebration and signaled the first down by emphatically pointing down field with both hands. Sopoaga had an 18-yard reception late against the Browns' fourth-ranked defense.2 comments on this story
49ers wideout Braylon Edwards returned against his former club in his first action since right knee surgery after getting hurt against the Cowboys. He had four catches to help send Cleveland home with another hard-hitting defeat.
"It's two tough losses," said Hardesty, who was walking around the locker room after the game but will have a precautionary MRI on Monday. "Both times, making the long flight out here, we wanted to come out here and win. We didn't get that done."
Antonio Gonzalez can be reached at: www.twitter.com/agonzalezAP