By Jerrell Richardson
For at least one week Colin Kaepernick has shut up his critics. The Washington Redskins defensive game plan was to take away the run and force San Francisco to beat them with the pass and it backfired. While the running game struggled, the passing game picked up the slack and Kaepernick was the reason. With the offense scoring points, the defense was not put in the pressure situations that were all too common the past two weeks, and in the end it was a rather easy 27-6 49er win. The victory not only snapped the 49ers’ two game losing streak, but showed that the passing game is far more likely to be a compliment and not a liability come playoff time.
Offense – Grade: B
The roles were reversed this game. Instead of the running game carrying the load, it was the passing game that led the charge. Frank Gore was bottled up all night, finishing with only 31 yards on 13 carries, while the entire team managed only 79 total yards. While this would have equaled a loss for sure in prior weeks, that was not the case on Monday. Colin Kaepernick made a few key runs with his legs, but it was his powerful and accurate arm that was the difference in this one.
Kaepernick completed 15 of his 24 attempts for 235 yards, and threw three touchdowns and no interceptions. He also showed how dangerous this passing attack is, and is going to be once Crabtree is back in the fold. Kaepernick started the game going to his new favorite target, Mario Manningham, who grabbed four balls for 45 yards. Once the defense shifted to take away Manningham, Kaepernick went to Vernon Davis and Anquan Boldin who continue to have solid seasons. Vernon Davis hauled in four catches totaling 70 yards and a touchdown, while Anquan Boldin had another monster game with five catches for 94 yards and two touchdowns.
While the running game did very little, the offense still scored 27 and put points on the board every single quarter. While it would have been nice to see more balance, the running game is not the team’s concern, and this type of performance is exactly what the doctor ordered. If the passing game can keep this up, then the 49ers offense will no longer be one dimensional and could instead be quite formidable.
Defense – Grade: A
The Redskins offense is not void of playmakers, yet Robert Griffin III and crew could do nothing against the 49er defense. It all started up front, where the Redskins entered the game with the top ranked rushing offense. Washington’s only hope was to win the battle in the trenches, and they were not up to the challenge. Alfred Morris was held to just 52 yards, his lowest output this season since he rushed for 45 yards in the season opener, and as team the Redskins were able to rush for 100 total yards. With no help from the running game, the passing game didn’t have a shot.
The struggles of Robert Griffin III continue. He completed 17 of his 27 throws for only 127 yards, no touchdowns and one interception. While his completion percentage is not bad, as evident by his 4.7 average, everything he completed was short. Other than the outs that the San Francisco secondary was giving him, nothing was open down the field. Part of this was the 49ers’ secondary, but it had more to do with the pass rush coming alive. With two sacks, it’s clear that Aldon Smith is back, and after his unwarranted fine last week, Ahmad Brooks was a player on a mission with seven tackles, two sacks and one pass defended.
The Redskins only points came on two field goals in the second quarter. To face a top ranked running game, and a legitimate passing attack, and to hold them to 6 points is impressive no matter how you slice it.
Special Teams –Grade: A
After a few uncharacteristic mistakes last week, the special teams were back to their usual selves Monday Night. Phil Dawson hit from 29 and 49 yards out, and both field goals came at important times in the game, while Andy Lee averaged 49 yards on his four punts. LaMichael James has proven the decision to insert him into the return game was a wise one with 72 punt return yards on five attempts, and 53 yards on his two kickoff returns. The San Francisco special team’s coverage units were also solid, keeping Washington out of good field position for most of the game.
49ers Respond In Must Win
For the first time this season the 49ers backs were really up against the wall, and they responded with a complete team effort. While the running game provided little, it was hopeful to see that if forced into a similar situation, San Francisco can move the chain through the air. Washington’s defense is not exactly elite, but it’s obvious that the 49ers passing game is slowly catching up to the rest of the team. Once Crabtree is back in a groove with Kaepernick, the passing game woes figure to be a thing of the past, and opponents will need to come up with a new game plan to stop the 49ers.
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Jerrell Richardson is a Bay Area native who due to a college career at San Diego State University has grown an appreciation for all things sports related in California. His heart will always remain in San Francisco though where he currently resides and covers everything from the San Francisco 49ers and Giants to the San Jose Sharks and California Bears Baseball team. Jerrell is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com.