For the first-time in two games, all three of the San Francisco 49ers’ units played well in the win over the Washington Redskins. The Niner faced a Redskins team in freefall, but they showed they are still potent and capable of beating the bad teams in the NFL. San Francisco not only ended their two-game winning streak, but also hopefully ended any doubts about their passing offense.
The 49ers entered the game with the league’s lowest passing yards per game. With Colin Kaepernick more confident and accurate, who was able to pass for three touchdowns and threw zero picks. On defense, Ahmad Brooks made headlines again for the 49ers, but this time for his great play on the field and not a bad penalty call. Equally as important in the win was the return game might have finally found a savoir in LaMichael James.
Let’s hand out some Game Gold Nuggets.
(Game Gold Nuggets Scale)
= VERY GOOD
This wasn’t a perfect game for the offense, especially with the ground game and a fumble by Vernon Davis (four receptions for 70 yards and one TD). But QB Colin Kaepernick effectively and accurately attacked downfield throughout the game to finish with 235 passing yards and three touchdowns. He also had career-high 134.5 passer rating. Kaepernick’s favorite target was WR Anquan Boldin, who led all of San Francisco’s receivers with five receptions for 94 yards and two TDs. Kap deserves a lot of credit for recognizing that Redskins CB Josh Wilson was no match for Boldin.
One of the reasons why the offense only received 3 GGNs is because of the way the 49ers’ fifth drive of the game ended. With San Francisco up only 10-3 in the 2nd quarter the offense finished with a three-and-out. On third-down, Kaepernick did not see RB Kendall Hunter open on the outside, which is something he has continued to miss in games. Instead of throwing to his check down option, he passed to Boldin who was not open. The pass should have been a pick-6 by Redskins LB Perry Riley Jr. Kap would rebound in the second half and pull away from the Redskins, so all’s well that ends well. But against a playoff caliber, he needs to find his open receiver on the outside to extend drives.
The offense’s first TD game of game was set up by a pass to Boldin on 3rd down, who was one-on-one with Wilson. Kap threw the pass where only Boldin could grab it despite being covered, which was a play Anquan was famous for with Joe Flacco.
On the second TD pass of the game, Kaepernick rolled out to the right to extend the play when no one was open. But instead of just tucking and running with the football, as he usually does, Kap wisely waited for a receiver to open, which was Boldin in the back of the end zone.
RB Frank Gore had one of his worst rushing games of the season. He averaged just 2.4 yards on 13 carries and finished with only 31 rushing yards. The 49ers offense only totaled 76 yards and a lot of that had to do with the Redskins defense lining up eight defenders in the box and stuffing the run.
The Niners defense was close to perfection by not allowing any touchdowns and only 190 total yards to RG3’s offense. Even though the D gave up two FGs, they played well enough to earn five GGNs.
Washington’s first three possessions ended in a three-and-out, while their fourth drive ended with an INT by Donte Whitner (five tackles, one pass defensed). Heading into the game the Redskins had the league’s 6th ranked offense, but in the final two quarters they gained a measly 30 yards and converted one first down.
Outside linebackers Ahmad Brooks and Aldon Smith harassed RG3 all game. Brooks finished with seven tackles, two sacks and he seemed to be in the quarterbacks face on every play. For the first time since returning to the Niners, Smith had a dominate game on defense. His two sacks were the first since Week 2. He manhandled Redskins left tackle Trent Williams and made him play like rookie starting in his first game. Pressure from Aldon in the first quarter led to Whitner’s interception.
Not to be forgotten was linebacker Patrick Willis who had a team-high 11 tackles. Willis made a nice tackle on RB Roy Helu in the third quarter. With the 49ers up 10-6, the Redskins went for it on fourth-down, but he was stopped by Willis.
Returner LaMichael James has proven to be a much needed upgrade over Kyle Williams, who has released two weeks ago. Williams led the NFL this season with 20 fair catches and he was averaging 5.1 yards on punt returns. So far in three games, James has 130 punt-return yards and he’s averaging 13.0 yards on 10 returns. Against Washington he averaged 14.4 yards on five returns. In the third quarter, James returned a punt for 40 yards which was the longest since 2011. On kickoffs, he averaged 26.5 yards on two returns.
Kicker Phil Dawson made his field goal attempts from 29 and 49 yards, all in 35-degree weather. His field goal in the fourth quarter gave the 49ers a 27-6 lead and put the game out-of-reach for the Redskins. Dawson is getting hot at the right time as he has made 13 consecutive field goals over the past seven games. That is good for the sixth-longest streak in Niners history.
Punter Andy Lee had his four punts travel a total of 196 yards, for an average of 49 yards per punt. One landed inside the 20-yard line.
Offensive coordinator Greg Roman could not find a way to run against the Washington’s stingy defense. For some reason, Roman kept running Gore to the outside to no effect. However, Roman was still his creative self.
On the 49ers’ third TD drive that put the game away for good, Roman had tackle Anthony Davis shift positions on the line from one side to the other. It looked as if the Niners were going to run to the overloaded part of the line of scrimmage, but instead Gore ran the other way for four-yards, which put the 49ers at the goal line. Kaepernick connected with Vernon Davis for a touchdown on the next play.
Jim Harbaugh looks to finally have fixed the play clock issues with his offense. Only once did the 49ers have to take a timeout because the play clock was about to expire. Harbaugh going with James as the returner is helping the 49ers offense and has proven to be a wise move.
Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio knew RG3 was vulnerable to all out blitzes and he used it wisely against the dynamic QB. Fangio came up with great pass rushing schemes that put his defense in RG3’s face all game. He also did a good job calling defensive plays, like stunts, that kept RG3 in the pocket so he couldn’t run to the outside to extend the play and find a receiver open.