49ers-Redskins: 5 Things We Learned in San Francisco's 19-11 Win

Ted JohnsonAnalyst INovember 6, 2011

49ers-Redskins: 5 Things We Learned in San Francisco's 19-11 Win

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    Nondescript comes to mind. Others might call it bland. Boring? Perhaps to some. But in the end, it was a win, a rather easy win at that that should have been easier.

    The San Francisco 49ers came away with a 19-11 victory over the Redskins on Sunday, and the diehard Washington fan might try to say that a successful onsides kick might have been the last spark needed to complete a very unlikely rally.

    Hardly. This was a Redskins team limited in terms of personnel (Chris Cooley, Santana Moss, Tim Hightower all out), and thus, there just wasn’t enough dynamite in Washington’s dynamics. With seven minutes left in the game, the Niners had a 19-3 lead, and they appeared to have the ball less than 15 yards from their goal.

    Which is to say the Niners should have won easy. There just wasn’t enough good plays in succession to get more than one TD. There was, however, plenty of decent defense to limit a very limited Washington offense to 11 points.

    Looking ahead to the second half of the 2011 season, here are five things we learned in the 49ers’ 19-11 win over the Redskins.

3rd Down Struggles Continue

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    What’s rather telling in the 3-of-12 third down conversion rate by the 49ers, which will keep them again among the worst in the NFL, is that so many opportunities were less than six yards.

    In the 3rd-and-4, 3rd-and-5, a pass is not necessarily an automatic call. There still remains the option to run. And at times, the Niners did. But they didn’t convert enough. To their credit, however, many of their big plays came early in the set, meaning first or second down. But against better teams, especially late in the season, the Niners will have to improve this stat.

    To the credit of Alex Smith, his throws for the most part were on the mark. Nothing was forced, so the Niners didn’t end up with a short field to defend.

Strong (Again) Defense

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    The Skins rushed for 52 yards on just 15 rushes. Quarterback John Beck completed 30 of 47 passes, but his net passing (yards minus sacks) resulted in about five yards a throw. Much of the Redskin offense came late in the game when the Niners were playing soft, keeping the big play out of the issue. Smartly.

    Add in the 3-1 turnover advantage and the long field positions that the Skins found themselves in, and this was a game that resembled a fight between a big brother and a little brother. The big brother just leaned on the smaller one and kept him down, didn’t let him launch any miracle punches and also didn’t hurt himself.

    For there is one thing the Niners have going for them is their health. Getting out of Washington with an albeit less-than-thrilling win isn’t nearly as important as getting out of Washington with a win—boring as it was—with everyone in good health.

Stupid

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    Nonetheless, the game should have been a cakewalk with five minutes left in the game. But a stupid penalty on a block by Michael Crabtree that resulted in a 15-yard penalty, followed by a fumble on a completed pass to Vernon Davis, led to Washington maintaining hope. And they turned it into a TD drive with the ensuing two-point conversion.

    That kept it within a one-score game. That was too close for  game in which the Niners dominated, and it resulted in a mindless play for the critical penalty. Instead, it should have been a 22-3 snoozer.

    Nonetheless, 19-11 does no damage except in the team stats.

No Polls

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    This isn’t the Bowl Championship Series in which strong teams feel the need to impress voters with big scores against weaker opponents. In the NFL, it’s all about Ws, even ones that show off an offense led by one of the game’s best players. Frank Gore finished with 107 yards on 19 carries, the fifth-straight contest over the century mark.

    The game was proverbial Harbaugh-style. The defense wasn’t going to give up anything big and even racked up three turnovers while harassing Beck constantly and negating the run after the first quarter.

    The offense may have struggled, but the special teams made up the difference. David Akers and Andy Lee are having Pro Bowl seasons. It’s not great stuff for the fantasy team, but the last time anyone checked, Jim Harbaugh isn’t paid for his fantasy team. He’s paid to coach the real team.

Moving On

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    The Giants come to town next Sunday, and they’ll be a better test to measure San Francisco’s overall capabilities.  But a scan of the game stats against the Skins reveals a lot of good things:

    • Michael Crabtree targeted five times for five receptions, albeit just 51 yards.
    • Braylon Edwards had two catches for 30 yards, but it was his play on a short post pass that he turned into a 24-yard gain that showed he’s back to form.
    • Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman combined for 21 tackles, with Willis getting 13 on his own.
    • SF had possession nearly five minutes more than the Redskins, and if they had maintained control on their drive deep in Redskin territory.
    • The defense held John Beck to a QB rating of 76, while Alex Smith (17-of-24 for 188, no interceptions) finished at 109 and change.

     It all adds up to a win, one that may not have been as dominant as needed, one that lacked any highlights for ESPN (or Bleacher Report). To which anyone on the 49ers says, so what? All that matters is Ws, even if it’s bland or nondescript.