ReFo: 49ers @ Redskins, Week 12
Ben Stockwell recounts the highs and lows of Monday night's important win for the 49ers over the Redskins.
ReFo: 49ers @ Redskins, Week 12
When ESPN picked this game back in the off-season I’m sure they, rightfully, thought they were in for a classic with two of the leading lights in the new breed of dual threat quarterbacks closing out Week 12 with excitement through the air and on the ground. Instead, what we got was a relatively dour affair as the San Francisco 49ers racked up a victory that was as convincing as the poor play of the Washington Redskins allowed it to be.
The 49ers yet again did not hit the heights we know them to be capable of, but what they were able to bring to the table, particularly in the precision they found to exploit certain favorable matchups, was plenty to see them to victory. A third straight defeat for Washington sees them a game adrift at the bottom of the NFC East and three games adrift of the division lead with all but mathematical hopes of another miraculous run to the division title gone for this year.
The 49ers’ much needed victory sees them retain a tie with the Cardinals for the final playoff spot in the NFC, and in dire need of finding an improvement in form if they are to return to the playoffs with home games against division rivals St Louis and Seattle likely crucial in getting December off to a fast start if they aren’t to leave themselves too much work to do at the tail end of the month.
San Francisco – Three Performances of Note
The Smiths Re-Unite to Bring the Heat
In his third game back with the team, Aldon Smith had his most productive day of the season and combined with Justin Smith to re-kindle memories of this pairing and the 49ers’ defense at its most disruptive. Combining to notch four sacks and another nine pressures (2 Ht, 7 Hu) this was the Smith co-operative bringing the heat to Robert Griffin III and leaving him in for a long night. To the outside, Aldon Smith (+4.0) had the best of Trent Williams for most of the night when he was in the game, registering seven of his eight pressures against the Redskins’ left tackle on only 23 pass rushes for a Pass Rushing Productivity score in this game of 28.3, the best among 3-4 outside linebackers this week. Both of Justin Smith’s sacks came on clean-up plays when RG3 climbed through the pocket and into his waiting arms, forcing a fumble from Griffin on the first of those that almost cost Washington the chance at points to end the second quarter. These two at their best add another level to the 49ers’ pass rush and 49er fans will be hopeful this is the start of their defensive front kicking it into high gear for the run in.
Kaepernick and Boldin Re-Connect
After their brutal efficiency in Week 1, the Colin Kaepernick to Anquan Boldin offered promise for this season that has been fulfilled only inconsistently. Last night was an “on” night for this duo, hooking up for five completions on six targets. Of those five catches two were touchdowns and the other three catches converted third downs, two of them in the lead-up to the scoring plays. Boldin made the most of his matchup with Josh Wilson, snagging four grabs for 88 yards against Washington’s No. 2 corner who was the chief victim of the entire San Francisco passing game last night. There were still isolated misses for Kaepernick last night, but, particularly down the field, this was more like the Kaepernick we expected to see after his efficiency last season. On passes targeted more than 10 yards downfield, Kaepernick went 10 of 14 for 199 yards and two of his touchdowns.
Better the Second Time Around
After struggling in run defense during his first career start against the Saints (-2.3) in New Orleans last week, Tony Jerod-Eddie rebounded with a solid display (+1.8) in front of a national audience last night. As a pass rusher, he notched a pair of hurries ensuring he wasn’t just a passenger on passing downs, but did his best work in run defense. Only notching one stop against the run, Jerod-Eddie did good work re-directing runs and not allowing space to the edge for the Redskins to open up the running game laterally. Also adding extra value in the passing game Jerod-Eddie chased Josh Morgan out of bounds for a minimal gain on a screen midway through the second quarter as he matched his previous season-long output with three defensive stops combining his work against run and pass.
Washington – Three Performances of Note
Rough Night for Wilson
Kaepernick and the San Francisco 49ers knew exactly where they wanted to go with the ball in the passing game last night, and that was where ever Josh Wilson was. Targeted 11 times, Wilson surrendered 194 yards and a touchdown, with the sole incompletion a pass defense on a target to Mario Manningham late in the first quarter. Those catches and yards were split between four different receivers, three of whom snagged a reception of at least 20 yards against Wilson. Adding two missed tackles to his stat line (though he recovered to make the tackle after one of those misses) this was a game to forget for Wilson who surrendered more yards last night than in his past four games combined.
Tough Stretch for Williams
After struggling with his run blocking last week against the Eagles in Philadelphia, Trent Williams came up with only his second poor game of the season in pass protection. Surrendering seven pressures (2 Sk, 5 Hu) he fell just short of the eight he surrendered in Denver back in Week 8, but pass protecting 10 fewer times earned a marginally lower grade than that display at Mile High. All of his pressure was surrendered to Aldon Smith, with the pressure coming by a variety of means — some of it to his outside, some inside, and some via bull rush with Smith simply having the upper hand in the one-on-one battle. Williams capped off his night with a holding penalty on Dan Skuta in garbage time to wipe out a 24-yard gain to Santana Moss.
Riley shows his range
Aside from Josh Wilson, the Redskins’ coverage last night was reasonably solid, with Perry Riley in particular showing good range on a pair of pass defenses, one of which he almost intercepted after jumping a badly forced and late throw by Kaepernick late in the second quarter. On such a short target, if Riley could have brought the ball in the end zone was at his beckoning, a play that could have sparked the Redskins to life. Still, a good play that got Washington off the field to set up their second consecutive field-goal drive. His second pass defense came on the opening play of the third quarter tracking under an out route by Mario Manningham to knock away the pass before it could get down to the 49ers’ receiver with Josh Wilson, again, in attendance as the closest corner.
– A solid night for Brian Orakpo in coverage ranging from disruptive work early on against screens (one of which created a sack for himself) to tracking Frank Gore on a broken play up the left sideline with close coverage on an incomplete pass to help force a turnover on downs.
– Including his interception, Donte Whitner was targeted five times last night, all of which fell incomplete.
– As efficient as the 49ers were down the field last night, Robert Griffin and the Redskins were not, going 3 of 8 for 46 yards and an interception on targets more than 10 yards downfield.
PFF Game Ball
His best game since his return to the team, his best performance of the season — this was Aldon Smith reminding us all what a terrific pass rusher he can be at his best.
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Ben Stockwell | Director of Analysis
Ben joined Pro Football Focus in 2007, and has since been in charge of the company’s analysis process. He also contributes to PFF’s weekly NFL podcast.