LANDOVER, Md. (CBS / AP) — Colin Kaepernick looked left, scrambled right, then found Anquan Boldin open in the end zone for a 6-yard touchdown.
Quarterback and receiver raced toward each other for a celebratory chest-bump, proving to all that the San Francisco 49ers offense is alive and well.
“We showed people we can pass the ball,” running back Frank Gore said. “That’s big for this team.”
If Kaepernick and Robert Griffin III have become the future of football suddenly put on hold, consider Kaepernick the one who looks ready to play his way out of the doldrums.
The young, mobile quarterbacks who have struggled in 2013 after breakout years in 2012 faced off for the first time Monday night, and Kaepernick outperformed his counterpart as the 49ers broke a two-game losing streak with a 27-6 win over the Washington Redskins.
“I did comment to him in the middle of the week, Wednesday or Thursday, that he was being exactly perfect—leadership and demeanor-wise,” 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said.
“A combination of loose and focused. … Some people have baby deer skin. Some people have armadillo skin. He’s got the armadillo skin.”
Kaepernick completed 15 of 24 passes for 235 yards—the first time in five games he’s topped 200 yards—with three touchdowns and no interceptions for a career-best 134.5 passing rating.
The Redskins dared him to throw the ball by bottling up Gore (13 carries, 31 yards), and the QB responded by showing some veteran-like chemistry with the veteran Boldin, who had five catches for 94 yards and two touchdowns.
“Colin, he’s been taking a lot of criticism, but one thing I like about Colin, he’s always hanging in there,” receiver Vernon Davis said. “He’s always fighting through adversity. He’s one of those guys who’s tough.”
Davis also had a touchdown catch for the 49ers (7-4), who are tied for second with the Arizona Cardinals in the NFC West and are three games back of the Seattle Seahawks with five to play.
“We knew what type of game this was for us,” Boldin said. “We’re right in the hunt. We’ve got to come out with a win.”
A loss would’ve put the defending NFC champions in trouble in their quest to return to the playoffs, but they’re nowhere as bad off as the Redskins (3-8), who have dropped three straight and sit alone in last place in the NFC East a year after a late-season run that won the division.
Contrast the Kaepernick chest-bump scene with the sight of Griffin lying on his stomach after throwing an interception on the final play of the first quarter, a 15-minute span in which he completed 1 of 6 passes for minus-1 yard.
It used to be a guarantee that the fans would chant “R-G-3!” at some point during every Redskins home game, but not on a night when the franchise player completes 17 of 27 passes for only 127 yards and gets sacked four times—and when the offense as a whole amasses a mere 190 total yards.
“We’ve got to conquer some of the demons that we have going on as an offense and just as a team in general—and I think we will,” Griffin said. “It takes all of us.”
Griffin took some flak last week from teammate Santana Moss for not taking enough responsibility for mistakes, and on Monday Griffin said a report on the NFL Network that he’s asked for his negative plays not to be shown during team meetings as evidence that “people are trying to character assassinate” him.
Regardless, there’s plenty of fault to go around after this game, including a fair share of blame for coach Mike Shanahan, who said his team was “embarrassed” against the 49ers and whose future is unclear as his team heads for a third last-place finish in his four years in Washington.
“We haven’t got dominated like that since I’ve been here,” the coach said.
Kaepernick and Griffin seemed poised to take the quarterback position to a new dimension last season when they wowed the NFL with their mobility when running zone-read and play-action.
But defenses have adjusted, and the two QBs’ stats have tumbled accordingly when they’ve been forced to throw in conventional drop-back situations.
Griffin’s fall has been more precipitous. He threw his 11th interception Monday, more than twice the number he had all last season.
And, even though the 49ers have a winning record, they’ve been relying heavily—possibly too much—on Gore and the running game while Kaepernick has floundered. They began the weekend ranked last in the NFL in yards passing.
“It’s great to say, `OK, we played well in a certain area.’ But going into this one, it was by any means necessary,” Harbaugh said, “and our guys rose up to the challenge and got it done.”
Notes: Harbaugh said 2012 leading wide receiver Michael Crabtree will be activated from the physically unable to perform list and will play next week against the Rams. Crabtree returned to practice Nov. 5 for the first time since tearing his right Achilles tendon in May. … The Redskins had their worst offensive output since gaining 178 yards in a 23-0 loss to Buffalo in 2011.
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