San Francisco 49ers vs. Washington Redskins: Full Roster Grades for Washington
The two groups most culpable were the offensive line and secondary. That is a familiar pattern that has been evident since the start of the season.
But a new pattern in recent weeks, namely particularly poor performances from quarterback Robert Griffin III, was also evident again.
Despite being up against Colin Kaepernick, another dual-threat quarterback who has been struggling mightily, Griffin was completely outplayed on Monday night.
His mediocre grade starts a dismal Week 12 report card for Washington.
Robert Griffin III maintained his current streak of performances so bad you wonder how he tempted the Redskins into trading consecutive first-round picks to draft him.
His decision-making was again dubious at best, while his accuracy under pressure remains nonexistent. Griffin has gone from an efficient playmaker as a rookie to an accident-prone quarterback who looks out of his depth in the pros.
He must use the final five games of the season to prove he can establish himself as a credible NFL quarterback.
Alfred Morris and Roy Helu Jr. labored hard against the stout San Francisco rush defense. Neither back was helped by the inability of the offensive line to create favorable running lanes.
Too many times members of the 49ers front seven were allowed a free lane to attack the backfield. The likes of nose tackle Glenn Dorsey and inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman stopped many runs at their source.
Despite their early struggles, both Morris and Helu did produce some big gains on stretch runs, particularly to the right. They remain outstanding zone runners and essential to the success of this offense.
Just as they did against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 11, the Redskins featured a lot of multiple-tight end sets. Unfortunately, no active tight end produced a decent performance.
Logan Paulsen and Niles Paul saw most of the action, but were particularly disappointing as blockers. Paulsen struggled to contain pass-rushers on the edge, while Paul was feeble leading the way on running plays.
It was equally disappointing that nobody emerged as a competent receiver to offset the absence of rookie Jordan Reed, who missed the game after suffering a concussion last week.
Part of the problem was the way the coaches wasted Fred Davis. He saw no passes come his way despite being active for the first time since Week 6.
It was a senseless waste of the team's best receiver at the position.
Pierre Garcon again led the way at wide receiver, but his performance was solid, rather than on a par with his spectacular recent showings.
It didn't help that most of the passes that came Garcon's way were screens the 49ers were clearly ready for. He finished with just 48 yards from eight receptions.
The only support for Garcon came from former 49er Joshua Morgan. He caught five passes for 45 yards but never threatened to break free for a big gain.
The line's unit-wide surrender to the 49ers was the main reason the offense managed just six points. There were problems at every phase of the front.
On the edges, tackles Tyler Polumbus and Trent Williams allowed pass-rushers Ahmad Brooks and Aldon Smith to each record two sacks.
On the inside, the Redskins got no push either leading the way for the run or trying to protect Griffin in the pocket.
Thanks to the line, a struggling young quarterback was subjected to a fierce beating, while a running game that had the chance to thrive was bottled up.
The defensive line was solid at times, but like most of the season, was never really dominant. End Jarvis Jenkins led the way, notching a sack for a group that also helped keep punishing runner Frank Gore contained.
But as stout as it was on some plays, the line did not create consistent disruption, with few of its members spending enough time in the backfield.
The linebackers performed reasonably well in helping shut down the running game. London Fletcher was in on eight combined tackles, many of them against the run.
But like the front, the linebacker didn't do enough to pressure Kaepernick. Brian Orakpo notched an early sack, but that was thanks largely to a slip by Kaepernick.
Otherwise, Orakpo was kept quiet, as was fellow rush linebacker Ryan Kerrigan. It was a disappointing effort from the Redskins' two top pass-rushers against a 49ers line that had struggled to protect the passer in recent games.
Perry Riley Jr. was again active on the inside. But in typical fashion, he failed to make the plays his effort warranted, dropping a certain interception at a key time in the game.
When your defense holds the 49ers' powerful ground attack to only 76 yards, you expect to win the game. But with this secondary, the Redskins are in danger against any passing offense.
Even with all of Kaepernick's recent issues, he was still able to throw for over 200 yards and three scores. He has another tame performance from Redskins defensive backs to thank for that.
Kaepernick quickly made corner Josh Wilson his prime target, and the veteran was particularly tormented by powerfully-built wideout Anquan Boldin, as The Washington Times' Brian McNally highlighted:
There was nowhere for Redskins cornerback Josh Wilson to hide.
Assigned for much of the night to cover San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Anquan Boldin, who has four inches and 30 pounds on him, Wilson was beaten on consecutive plays in the first quarter, the second a 19-yard touchdown pass to Boldin.
In fact, no member of the secondary seemed able to cope with wide receivers Boldin and Mario Manningham, as wells as tight end Vernon Davis.
Until the secondary is fixed, the Redskins will continue wasting the talent they have along the front seven.
Compared with usually abysmal standards, the special teams actually approached decency in Week 12. It didn't hurt their grade that kicker Kai Forbath accounted for the only points the team managed to score.
That and some adequate coverage was marred only by yet another tepid display in the return game. It seems that no matter who Shanahan and coordinator Keith Burns call on, nobody can show credible skills as a returner.
For the third game in a row, Mike Shanahan couldn't get his players to show enough fight. It is worrying to watch just how early Shanahan's players appear to be throwing the towel in when things go wrong.
The underachieving head coach now can't escape the pressure on his job, as ESPN's John Keim points out:
Afterward, coach Mike Shanahan said, “It was one of the poorest performances since I've been here.” Yes it was. That's what is disturbing. They had a lot to prove after two losses and a week of controversy. A win was needed, but really they just needed to play well. They did not. Shanahan is an accomplished NFL coach and a smart man, but he should be coaching for his job over the next five weeks. One player said what bothered him is that they're letting the coaches down. Many privately feel strongly about having the right person in charge. Great. Then win. Otherwise, changes will be made -- and no one can say owner Dan Snyder acted irrationally.
Keim is right about that last part, because it is the psychological manner of these defeats that is more concerning than the scheming that goes into them.
Coordinators were trying different things to outwit the 49ers. Defensively, Haslett fielded a dime defense featuring safety Brandon Meriweather at linebacker. It gave Washington more athletes on the field to spy Kaepernick.
On offense, Kyle Shanahan tried outnumbering rugged defensive end Justin Smith in the running game by placing both offensive tackles, Williams and Polumbus, over him.
Both schemes were sound on a conceptual level, but neither worked in practice. When decent schemes consistently fail it is because they simply cannot mask such an obvious lack of talent.
That lack of talent is down to Shanahan and the men at the top. They have remade this roster and done it poorly.
Only a clean sweep of the last five games should save Shanahan now. But it won't come unless he gives his players a reason to improve their attitude and demeanour.