The San Francisco 49ers dominated their game against the Washington Redskins. Mike Shanahan, the Redskins head coach, said that his team got embarrassed after they lost to the 49ers. There were a lot of things that went right for the 49ers in this game. The offense played well, at least the passing part of it did. Colin Kaepernick had one of his better passing games of the season. However, the thing that stood out the most, the part that was the X factor from Monday’s win against the Washington Redskins was the defense.
Vic Fangio is one of the best defensive coordinators in the NFL. He always has his players in position to make plays and his schemes are consistently able to stifle the opposing offense. The game against the Redskins was the latest example of how Fangio can put together a plan to limit the opposition.
There were many layers to the stellar play of the 49ers defense. We will look at how each component contributed to only allowing six points. First we will look at the defensive line. Glenn Dorsey and Tony Jerod-Eddie really held it down in the middle. Jerod-Eddie specifically impressed me. He showed how he is a high motor guy and did a great job of tracking down ball carriers all over the field. On one play, he tracked down a receiver on the sideline for a short gain when he caught a bubble screen. Dorsey has done a great job of occupying gaps and being strong against the run all season. Dorsey continued to be there against the Redskins.
Justin Smith is the anchor of the defensive line. He is a guy that was crucial to stopping the run as well. Smith was also able to get a lot of pressure on Robert Griffin III. He had four tackles on the day and had a forced fumble.
The linebacker corps is the strongest unit on the 49ers. Quite frankly, they are the best group of linebackers in the NFL. Ryan Riddle of Pro Football Central rated his top five inside linebackers in the NFL and two of them were 49ers.
Mine : 1. Bowman 2. Lavonte David 3. Kuechly 4. Washington 5. Willis @DeSimone80
— Ryan Riddle (@Ryan_Riddle) November 27, 2013
Patrick Willis had himself quite a game against the Redskins. He was roaming the field from sideline to sideline and led the 49ers in tackles. He is one of the surest tacklers in the NFL. As Riddle accurately stated, Navorro Bowman is the best inside linebacker in the NFL. He can cover, he can shoot the gap and he is as good as anyone at lateral pursuit of the ball carrier. Bowman and Willis both benefited from the plays being funneled back inside to them by the outside linebackers. They combined for 11 tackles and were a key reason why Alfred Morris was not able to break off any long runs. The 49ers held the Redskins to a total of 100 yards rushing. That is 50 yards less than their season average of 150.2 yards per game which ranked them as the second rushing offense in the NFL.
Ahmad Brooks and Aldon Smith terrorized the Redskins offensive line. They each had two sacks. Aldon Smith was too much for Trent Williams. His speed rush, bull rush and his high motor allowed him to consistently beat Williams and pressure Griffin into making bad throws. Griffin was not able to get comfortable in the pocket at all.
Brooks showed amazing closing speed on one occasion when Griffin was flushed out of the pocket. Griffin ran to the opposite side of the line but Brooks tracked him down for his first sack of the game. The Redskins were not able to run outside of Brooks at any point. Any attempt to run to the left side was forced back inside. The impressive thing is that Brooks was able to do this without his partner on the strong side, Ray McDonald who was out with an ankle injury. Brooks is quietly having a year that is worthy of first team all pro mention. His 8.5 sacks have already eclipsed his previous season high of 6.5 sacks.
Last but not least is the secondary. The 49ers held the Redskins to a total of 90 yards passing. That is way below the 241.7 yards that the Redskins have averaged this year. Most of the yards that they were able to get were by way of bubble screens. The corners showed their toughness by breaking through blocks and the sure tackling that limited the gains by the receivers even when they had a big play set up. Tarell Brown was out for this game but Tramaine Brock and Eric Wright stepped up in their new roles. Brock just received a new contract and he showed signs of why the 49ers were willing to lock him up. No Redskins receiver had more than 50 yards receiving. The passing game was a non-factor.
Carlos Rogers particularly enjoyed dominating his former team. Rogers came up in run support and made one of the better plays by a defensive back. Griffin had Aldrick Robinson open on a post route and unleashed a beautiful throw that led him perfectly. Rogers showed that he still has closing speed as he was able to get into position to knock the ball out of Robinson’s hands as they fell to the ground. After the play, Rogers was sure to let the Redskins sideline know about it as he strutted back to the huddle.
Donte Whitner and Eric Reid continued to hold it down as well. Whitner kept the 49ers turnover streak alive when he intercepted Griffin on a play in which the quarterback made a puzzling attempt to get rid of the ball. They have done a great job of coming up in run support as well. Whitner flashed into one play when Griffin scrambled to the sideline. He laid a big hit on the quarterback. Reid did a good job of making sure that there where no cutback lanes for the Redskins running backs and that prevented the big plays.
The defense did an amazing job against the Redskins. They held them to 3.7 yards rushing per game. Before they faced the 49ers, the Redskins were the NFL’s top ranked rushing offense. Griffin is one of the more dynamic quarterbacks in the NFL. He was limited to 22 yards rushing and most of those yards came on a scramble in which Justin Smith was blatantly held but it wasn’t called. There is no doubt that the defense was an X factor in this game and will continue to be an X factor as the 49ers make their playoff push.