( photo source: NBC Sports)
Week six the 2-2 Washington Redskins hosted the 0-5 San Francisco 49ers at Fed Ex field. Coming off the bye week The Redskins would look to bounce back off the Loss to Kansas City week 4 on Monday night. San Francisco looking for their first win of the season, comes in off two straight overtime losses. San Francisco Head coach Kyle Shanahan was previously offensive coordinator of the Redskins. His familiarity with players such as Kirk Cousins, Trent Williams, Jordan Reed and Ryan Kerrigan was a big storyline coming into this game. Pierre Garcon was also returning to Washington after previously being a key member and leader of this team the last five seasons. San Francisco while coming into this game winless proved they are simply not a team that you can just overlook for easy wins. While the Redskins got the win on the day, this game was simply not up to par with the previous four outings this season. The Redskins came in with some bumps and bruises. Trent Williams is playing through a knee, While Reed still has a upper body injury. Josh Norman and Rob Kelly were both out due to injuries sustained against Kansas City
Without your best player on the Redskins defense and your starting running back your depth has to play big meaningful snaps and prove they belong. In the NFL injuries can provide players with opportunities to show coaches they deserve more meaningful snaps moving forward. In this game the Redskins jumped out to a 17-0 lead before the half time. But San Francisco scored a touchdown to end the first half. Kyle Shanahan pulled Brian Hoyer in the second quarter and rookie CJ Bethard took over the remainder of the game. Bethard came in and turned the game around and gave the 49ers a chance to win. The Redskins held on to win the game but with a huge division game against the red hot Philadelphia Eagles next Monday night, this team will have to be at its best if they want to keep pace against the first place Eagles.
Below are my good and bad takeaways from the Redskins victory against San Francisco, as is always the case after a victory we start with the good
1 Kirk Cousins
After a victory or defeat the quarterback is the position that gets the credit or blame. Kirk Cousins gets another victory under his belt. While Kirk started the game very efficiently and made pin point throws this game wasn’t his cleanest victory. His numbers where very well completing 25 of 37 attempts for two touchdowns. He also threw his first interception since week one against Philly. Throwing for 67.57% is very normal for Kirk as he is very good and decisive with his passes. Kirk also added 26 yards rushing on 4 attempts with another score on the ground. His rushing score came on a zone read play where the quarterback reads the defensive end and will keep or hand the ball depending on the pursuit of the edge defender. On the score Rookie Solomon Thomas had the edge and almost met the running back as he would have accepted the handoff. Kirk saw the commit to the back and kept the ball to scramble around the defender untouched into the end zone. Kirk who is very much your pocket quarterback is very sneaky with his rushing ability. He ran for two big first downs late in the fourth and has been making plays with his legs instead of forcing passes like he has in years past.
(photo source: oleantimesharold.com)
The development of Kirk Cousins will continue to grow with reps in this system. in the second quarter Jamison Crowder was tackled short of a first but the refs spotted the ball for a first down. Kirk alertly tried to get the team lined up to snap the ball before the 49ers could challenge but guys didn’t line up as Kirk tried to direct guys to line up for the snap. These are alert plays franchise quarterbacks make as the progress and build comfort. I believe in meetings this week Kirk will go to his offense and remind them in these situations to be alert and line up so they can capitalize on mistakes like these. While his numbers were good Kirk missed some passes in the middle portion of the game and looked out of sync. But he seems to have found a little more faith in second year wide out Josh Doctson. His first touchdown on the opening drive was to Josh. While in the early 4th quarter he threw another pass in the back of the end zone to Josh who had separation from the defensive back who pulled his jersey too gain position to deflect the pass. no penalty was called but clearly kirk trust trust’s the second year wide out from TCU moving forward.
2 Quinton Dunbar
Depth in the NFL is key. Your team can have the most talented group of starters but the teams that make runs in the play offs can survive injuries because key reserves can hold down the position until the starter comes back. With Josh Norman out possibly two more weeks with fractured ribs, Quinton Dunbar has been the guy to answer the call. Kansas City tested him as did San Francisco this week. Dunbar was a wide receiver in college and this staff converted him to corner back. He has made the transition very well and has made good too date playing solid defense against the guys lined up across from him.
(photo source: Redskins.com)
This game also saw number two corner Bashaud Breeland go down with a knee. On the last two drives the 49ers lined up their best wide receiver Pierre Garcon across from Dunbar who kept tight coverage and didn’t allow Garcon to beat him. Moving forward Dunbar is going to continue to be tested so hopefully these reps are providing confidence for a guy who has been very good as far as reserve play off the bench.
3 Offensive Line
Brandon Scherff is simply just a bully when he’s pulling or out front on screens or sweep plays. The officials threw a flag for him physically picking a player off his feet and slamming him down while blocking the player. The play was clean the officials thought he did so after the play was over but that wasn’t the case. Trent Williams was injured coming in but he fought through and was his normal all pro self. No one running back shined but the team gained over 100 yards on the ground, while only giving up one sack. The staple of this team this year is the offensive line. Spencer Long also had a few really good blocks sealing off inside stunts for a few big inside rushes where the back got through the line untouched. Morgan Moses is having his best year as a pro. He has constantly been asked to block the opposing team’s best defender and to date he has answered the call.
4 Chris Thompson
Chris Thompson is having a career year receiving. This week he had four catches for 105 yards, while rushing for 33 yards on 16 carries. While his yards per rush are horrible to say the least his impact as a receiver are great. Though his average was low he generally doesn’t carry the ball that much. While he saw more early down work then he generally would. Perhaps Jay Gruden was trying to exploit a mismatch with Thompsons speed but his rushing was simply ineffective for most of the game outside of two or three carries.
(photo source: ninernoise.com)
Thompson might not be a 25 carry per game type back, but he has been the spark on this offense this season. If this team can find a way to have their early down back average around 4 yards per carry this offense would be incredibly hard to stop moving forward. That said no back has even came close to that with more than 10 carries in any contest this season.
5 Individual plays
Over the course of the game individuals stepped up for key plays. No one player or unit really shined outside of the players mentioned above. Kendal Fuller had a big interception to end the game. Vernon Davis had another big catch and run to set up the go ahead score this week as he did against Kansas City. Samaje Perine got his first touchdown on a screen after Kirk had went through all of his options. Montae Nicholson just continues to show his toughness and his range on the back end. Josh Doctson had a nice touchdown grab, while almost making it two on the day. Zach Brown was being his normal disruptive physical presence self in this game as well. DJ Swearinger also kept the back end together even when the injuries mounted he kept guys in good position.
1 Defensive Adjustments
Too start the game the front seven was disruptive and making Brian Hoyer’s day look like it would be a long one. Holding him to 4/11 for 34 yards it was looking like this defense was back to the form they played with the first 3 weeks and into the beginning of the Kansas City game. Early in the second quarter after the Redskins took a 14-0 lead Kyle elected to replace Hoyer with rookie quarterback CJ Bethard. CJ is more athletic than Brian Hoyer but doesn’t have the strongest arm, not that that always matters when quarterbacks are decisive and make smart decisions with the football. While the defense held the 49ers to under 100 total yards rushing, they allowed CJ to come off the bench to throw for 245 yards on 19 completions. While he did have 36 attempts his receiver’s and tight ends were dropping passes in their hands early in the second quarter. The defense just never adjusted too what Bethard was doing and he almost gave them a chance to win the ballgame.
2 Jordan Reed
(photo source: Redskins.com)
It is officially time to put up the missing person signs for the freak of nature tight end who could be all pro if injuries could stay away. Even with injury Reed is too talented for the type of numbers he has produced this season. 18 receptions for 142 yards could be two games for a healthy Jordan Reed. Jordan when healthy has the talent to be the best receiving TE in the league. To go into week seven without a touchdown it’s time to see the Jordan reed that was Kirk Cousins go to pass catcher. Jordan should be performing at a pro bowl level and it’s time for him to make an impact on this season. Reed has never started over eight games in a season. Moving forward he has to find a way to be on the field because he is very capable of posting 60 to 90 catches for over 1000 yards and 10 touchdowns.
While this week this team walked away with the win, for the second time in as many games this staff has elected to play it safe and not have faith in the strength of this team to pick up a short 4th down in the closing minutes of the game. While the late field goal was enough to close out the 49ers this week the field goal simply wasn’t enough to put away the Chiefs. This week I won’t be as critical to playing it safe to a team struggling. But against good teams you need to put the game into your best unit’s hands and trust them to win the game. Against Kansas City the best team this season three point leads with a minute left simply isn’t going to cut it against top level teams. Moving forward in the closing minutes Kirk Cousins and the offense should be the unit you rely on to close out the games.
4 Wide Receivers
When your top two targets get 170 yards receiving between them you would say that’s a pretty solid game. When those two targets are your third down running back and a 33year old tight end then you have issues at your wide receiver position. While the turnover at this position is well documented, becoming the first team in history to allow two 1000yard receivers to leave. This group simply has to be better! You can see Kirk is starting to trust the group more the best wide receiver on the team this year has been Ryan Grant. Nothing against Ryan Grant but I think your talking about a solid number two type who has reliable hands, runs great routes, and will make the plays needed throughout the game. Jamison Crowder has to be better. Josh Doctson is getting meaningful reps now. But as a unit the numbers and their impact on the game has to be bigger. Terrell Pryor was open on a out route in the end zone Kirk simply missed on.
5 Dustin Hopkins
He missed an extra point on the Redskins last touchdown this week. He has struggled in the past in clutch moments. He has also struggled with 50 plus yard field goals. Hopkins has plenty of leg. He has also shown the accuracy to hit these shots throughout his time here. But since last year he seems to have a confidence issue and he misses kicks he typically makes. Hopkins makes the necessary kicks at this point but to get into the playoffs and possibly make a run, games can often come down to a last second field goal. Hopkins has to prove he can get back to the form he kicked with his first year in Washington where he was automatic. But he has been mentioned now a few times for misses and while they haven’t cost the team a game yet. They could and when every game has playoff implications a game lost from a missed kick is a bitter pill to swallow