3TFO: 49ers @ Redskins, Week 12
Two disappointing NFC playoff teams face off in our nation’s capital this Monday night. The 3-7 Washington Redskins hope to at least stop the bleeding after two consecutive losses. Meanwhile, the 6-4 San Francisco 49ers, also coming off back-to-back losses, are looking to return to their 2012 Super Bowl form.
The last time these two squads met was in 2011, also in Washington, it resulted in a 19-11 49ers win. Both teams had different QBs though – the Redskins were in their horrific three game evaluation of QB John Beck while the 49ers still had Alex Smith. Replace those two with RGIII and Colin Kaepernick and it may be a more entertaining contest.
Here are three matchups to look for in this game.
RGIII vs. Kaepernick
These two young playmakers won’t be on the field at the same time, but whoever has a better performance will probably win the game and both signal-callers have not lived up to their 2012 performances.
Robert Griffin III has not been nearly as efficient as last year; this can be attributed to several factors, but the most obvious is the fact that the sophomore is coming off an ACL injury. He also didn’t play a single preseason snap, resulting predictably, in rust – his first interception of the season, a pass thrown deep to Santana Moss with three Eagles in the vicinity, was especially egregious. He has played better down the stretch with a combined +8.5 passing grade in the Chargers win and Vikings loss. Last week in a crucial rematch in Philly he struggled again, completing 17 of 32 ‘aimed’ passes for two scores (one, the Darrell Young 62 yard run-and-catch TD, which was more of a terrible play by the defense than a solid play on his part), a fumble and a terrible game-ending interception. He has been running better (44 yards on 10 carries last week) and does have 345 yards on 66 carries total this year at a 5.2 yards-per-carry average.
On the other sideline is Colin Kaepernick, who has also found it hard to replicate previous success, though for different reasons. Kaepernick hasn’t been through an injury like RGIII, but has been without one of his favorite targets, WR Michael Crabtree. On the year he only has two ‘green’ graded passing performances (against Green Bay and the helpless Jaguars) with four ‘red’ graded outings, which doesn’t include the Houston win where he only had to complete six passes. Kaepernick has still been solid on the ground this season though, picking up 335 yards on 56 carries (10 more yards than RGIII on 10 less carries) and three scores with a six yard average per carry.
Ahmad Brooks vs. Tyler Polumbus
One of the best matchups that you may not hear about will be OLB Ahmad Brooks vs. RT Tyler Polumbus. Brooks, who primarily plays on the left side, was involved in the controversial sack of Drew Brees last week that was nullified and deemed a 15-yard penalty helping the Saints win the game. Brooks, who got paid last season, currently leads all 49ers in sacks and has another seven QB knockdowns and 15 hurries on his 2013 resume. While the 2006 third-rounder from UVA isn’t the most consistent threat to QBs, he only has two games this year where he hasn’t put an opposing signal-caller on the ground.
Meanwhile, Polumbus is raising eye-brows this year after being our fourth-worst pass-blocking tackle last season. Enter 2013 where he currently owns the fifth-best pass-blocking grade among his peers. The 2008 undrafted free agent hasn’t allowed a sack since week one and has certainly not been responsible for the seemingly weekly beatings that RGIII has taken, surrendering only six QB hits. Can Polumbus continue his stellar play, or will Brooks force him to revert to his 2012 performance?
Brian Orakpo vs. Joe Staley
With Brian Orakpo being, arguably, the Redskins most consistent and dangerous pass rusher and Joe Staley, arguably the best pass-blocker on SF’s O-Line, going at it, don’t be surprised to see Gruden talk up this matchup on Monday Night. 2007 first-rounder Staley has continued to be one of the best left tackles in the league this season, conceding only two sacks (one conceded to Robert Mathis, which is nothing to be ashamed of), one QB knockdown (to a healthy Clay Matthews) and just eight further hurries. He will have a stern test against another former first-round pick.
Orakpo, in a contract year, only has six sacks with less than half the season to go. However, as we often say, sack totals don’t tell the whole story, especially here as Orakpo as harassed QBs to the tune of 10 QB hits (not including one hit that drew a ‘roughing the passer flag’ and another hit last week at Eagles’ LT Jason Peters’ expense that is invisible on the stat sheet due to an accepted offensive penalty) and 22 hurries.
When these two butted heads back in 2011, Orakpo beat Staley for a quick inside sack, a hit, and a hurry. How will this battle turn out two years later? Everyone will be watching.
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