Week 7 Game Recap: San Francisco 49ers 17, Washington Redskins 52
What you need to know
The 49ers struggled in all facets of the game against the Redskins, but defensively they were particularly anemic. They allowed 204 yards rushing, and were unable to stop the run even late in the game with the Redskinsí starters resting on the bench. In the passing game, they were beaten deep by Santana Moss twice. They were only able to sack Mark Brunell once despite blitzing a fair amount.
Alex Smith struggled in his second game as starter, completing only eight passes and appearing confused by the Redskinsí blitz scheme. He turned the ball over twice, fumbling after a hard blindside hit from Marcus Washington, and throwing into coverage, getting intercepted by Sean Taylor. With rushers in his face most of the game; Smith appeared uncomfortable throwing over the middle, instead throwing towards the sidelines on most passes. The 49ers employed a number of wide receiver screens, but Smith didnít get the ball out there quick enough, and none of them produced real yardage.
The Kevan Barlow/Frank Gore competition materialized against the Redskins as both runners scored touchdowns and did well. Barlow started the game and was able to run for a 17 yard touchdown late in the first quarter. He left the game early in the fourth quarter with a quadriceps injury. Gore spelled Barlow and replaced him in the fourth quarter. His early runs werenít very successful, but then late in the quarter he was able to break a 72 yard touchdown run, reversing directions when one side was stuffed, and outrunning the secondary of the Redskins. Worth noting, however, is that Barlowís production came against the Redskinsí starters, while the vast majority of Goreís production, including his long touchdown, came after the Redskins had pulled their starters from the game. Also worth noting is that in pass protection Barlow was superior to Gore.
In this win the Redskins were clearly dominant in all phases of the game, starting with their running game. Clinton Portis scored his long awaited first touchdown of the season, and then quickly proceeded to tack on two more before being pulled from the game late in the third quarter. Ladell Betts nearly tacked on 100 yards rushing himself, and Rock Cartwright scored a touchdown as well. The holes were wide open, and both Portis and Betts were able to get downfield before getting touched on almost every run. In the fourth quarter, when the 49ers knew they were going to move the ball on the ground, the Redskins were still able to gain yardage and extend drives using only the run.
Mark Brunell had another superb passing game, but did not pass as extensively as in previous games because of the success of the running game. He was able to throw three touchdown passes, one to his favorite target, Santana Moss, and two others to red zone phenom Mike Sellers. Brunell was hardly pressured at all, so even when the coverage was good he was able to find open receivers.
Defensively, LaVar Arrington played extensively for the first time this season. This game was likely used as a test for Arrington, as the coaching staff knew it would probably be an easy victory. Arrington led the team in tackles with seven and two assists, and was able to elude blockers and tackle runners in the backfield on two occasions. However, his overrunning of Kevan Barlow allowed the first touchdown against the Redskins in the first quarter. He was better in coverage than expected, and as usual was a sure tackler. Overall the defense was healthy for the first time this season, as Walt Harris and Shawn Springs both returned to the lineup. Sean Taylor, however, left the game with an injured ankle after the first half, and the extent of his injury is unknown. The Redskins were able to force turnovers for the first time since week one, forcing a fumble and intercepting a pass. Both turnovers led to points for the Redskins, as they try to overcome their negative turnover differential, which is now at minus six.
What you ought to know
|QB Alex Smith, Pass: 8 - 16 - 92 - 0 TD / 1 INT, Rush: 2 - 4 - 0|
Smith had a rough day, as he was blitzed from all angles imaginable. Although he only threw for 92 yards, it was his best performance so far in his young career. Smith was blitzed on most downs, and this appeared to hinder his view of the middle of the field. He favored throwing towards the sidelines where visibility was better. He held on to the ball too long on a few occasions, one resulting in a fumble late in the second quarter that resulted in a Redskinsí touchdown. His favorite target was Brandon Lloyd, whom he targeted whenever he felt pressure. Smith was able to gain yards on two rushes when plays broke down, but he was not able to use this element of his game consistently. On his first possession of the third quarter, Smith threw a pass that was intercepted by Sean Taylor and returned to the one yard line, leading to a score on the subsequent play.
Barlow scored his second touchdown of the season on a 17 yard scamper in the second quarter. He was running pretty well despite his teamís large deficit when he bruised his quadriceps in the third quarter and didnít return. After catching 15 passes through his teamís first five games, Barlow didnít catch a pass against the Redskins. Barlow was clearly superior to Frank Gore when both played against the Redskinsí defensive starters; Gore accumulated most of his statistics playing against backups.
The rookie had his best day running the football in his short career. 72 of his 89 yards came on one run late in the game. On a play designed to be run off the right tackle, Gore reversed fields and broke through a hole to his left and outran defenders to the end zone. While it was a great run, it came with his team trailing by 42 points in the fourth quarter, and the Redskins had pulled their starters. Besides that one run, Gore had trouble finding room and only gained 17 yards.
Alex Smith was most comfortable throwing to Lloyd on the afternoon, but despite targeting him nine times, far more than any other receiver, Lloyd only managed to catch two balls. All of his yardage came on one play early in the game. Lloyd ran a fly route and caught a pass over his shoulder for 43 yards, beating Walt Harris on the play. Lloydís only other catch was on a wide receiver screen that didnít fool the Redskins and gained no yardage.
Morton, starting in place of the injured Arnaz Battle, was unable to find openings in the Redskinsí secondary. He worked out of the slot much of the day, but because Alex Smith had men in his face nearly every play, he likely couldnít see Morton across the middle.
Marshall caught the first pass of his career but lost yardage on it. It was a wide receiver screen and was sniffed out well by the cornerback. He also ran the ball for the first time in his career on an end around, but was stuffed behind the line of scrimmage for a seven yard loss.
Trent Smith started the game and caught two passes, each for short gains. He was very weak in pass protection, allowing blitzing defenders free access to the quarterback.
Bajema caught the second pass of his career late in the game. He set up Joe Nedneyís lone field goal with the yards he gained.
Nedney was perfect on the day, making his lone field goal attempt of 47 yards and hitting both extra point attempts.
The front seven struggled to stop the run all day, allowing a combined 207 yards rushing and four touchdowns to the trio of Portis, Betts, and Cartwright. The front three allowed huge holes to form, and generally the running backs were three or four yards downfield before getting hit. In the entire fourth quarter, after having pulled all of their starters, the Redskins only had to attempt a pass once. Derek Smith, in his first visit back to Washington since leaving the Redskins after the 2000 season, recorded six tackles and one assist to lead the front seven in tackles.
This unit was not tested much as the Redskins ran the ball comfortable most of the afternoon, but when thrown at the defensive backs failed to make plays. Santana Moss was able to get behind the safeties twice for 42 yard gains, one of which resulted in a touchdown. Mark Brunell was not pressured at all, so despite any good coverage that might have existed, he was able to wait for his men to come open. The 49ers had difficulty covering the Redskins H-backs, allowing them to catch four passes for 69 yards and two touchdowns. Mike Adams and Shawntae Spencer led the team with seven tackles each.
Brunell had another outstanding game passing the football, surpassing 250 yards for the fourth game this season. He easily could have accumulated more statistics, but he was pulled from the game after the third quarter with his team ahead comfortably. He was able to distribute the ball among many different receivers, completing passes to six different teammates. His favorite target yet again was Santana Moss, who he connected with for a 43 yard touchdown off of broken coverage in the second quarter. Brunell didnít feel much pressure, only being sacked once, and had tons of time to find open receivers. In the red zone, Brunell looked to Mike Sellers twice for touchdowns as the defense paid attention to more visible targets.
Ramsey entered the game in the fourth quarter, replacing Mark Brunell once the game was well in hand. He only threw the ball once on a completion to Brian Kozlowski. He didnít need to throw more, as the Redskins' running game was able to gouge the 49ers and eat up the clock.
Portis had his third 100 yard rushing game of the season and found the running easy against an overmatched 49ersí squad. He scored his first touchdown of the season on a five yard run off the right tackle in the first quarter, adding two more touchdown runs later of one yard each. Portis was pulled from the game after a 15 yard run late in the third quarter put him up over 100 yards. He averaged 5.3 yards per carry, the third time he has surpassed five yards per carry this season in a game. He didnít appear to be hindered by the nagging injuries that slowed him in the previous two games.
|RB Ladell Betts, Rush: 12 - 92 - 0, Rec: 1 - 3 - 0 (1 targets)|
Betts had the fourth highest rushing total of his four year career, rushing for 92 yards in a backup role. After missing the previous game with a groin injury, Betts spelled Clinton Portis in the first three quarters before taking over for the beginning of the fourth. He was replaced himself by Rock Cartwright late in the fourth quarter. Betts, as usual, was very sure handed and did not fumble. In fact, he only has lost three fumbles in his career.
Cartwright came into the game late when victory was assured. He scored a four yard touchdown to put the Redskins ahead by 45 in the fourth quarter. He avoided fumbling the ball after his costly fumble in week six.
Moss had another excellent game, scoring his fifth touchdown on a 43 yard pass from Mark Brunell. Because of the success of the running game, Moss was not targeted as extensively as he had been in previous weeks. By the start of the fourth quarter, Moss was on the bench to avoid injury with the game all but over. Moss had another 43 yard catch in the first quarter on another fly route, beating the corner deep before getting pushed out near the end zone.
Patten was used more extensively this week as the Redskins attempted to tinker with their playbook against an overmatched opponent. His two catches were for 24 and 32 yards. He found openings over the middle and was not limited to short hitch routes as he had been in previous weeks. He was pulled from the game after the third quarter to avoid injury.
Thrash was targeted once but did not catch a pass. He was used on kick and punt returns.
Cooley showed good chemistry with Mark Brunell on both of his catches. The first was on a screen pass to the left. Cooley faked his block very effectively, and broke at the last second before the pressure got to Brunell, and was able to nearly score after gaining 32 yards on the play. In the second quarter, Cooley improvised on a broken play and was able to gain 17 yards. Unfortunately for Cooley owners, he was a secondary red zone target to Mike Sellers, who caught two touchdowns. Cooley was pulled from the game by the third quarter to ward off injury.
Sellers continued his remarkable season with two touchdown catches, giving him four touchdowns in as many games. He now has five catches for four touchdowns on the season, only really being utilized in the red zone. His first touchdown catch was on a pass to the left flat where he was able to outrun a linebacker towards the pylon. His second touchdown was mostly his doing after the catch, as he caught a short pass over the middle and bowled his way into the end zone from ten yards out. He also was used extensively on special teams.
Kozlowski came into the game late with the game already decided. He caught Patrick Ramseyís only pass attempt.
Novak hit his only field goal attempt from 27 yards out and connected on all seven extra point attempts.
The front seven did allow 140 yards rushing to the 49ers, but did well for the most part. Holes were hard to find for the Barlow/Gore tandem. Goreís long touchdown run came off a broken play where the initial running lane was stuffed, but the Redskins over pursued and created a much bigger lane to the opposite side. LaVar Arrington played for the first time in 3 weeks and made his presence felt. He led the team in tackles with seven (and two assists), sometimes meeting the runner in the backfield. He did make mistakes, though, over pursuing Kevan Barlow on his touchdown run in the first half.
The pass defense was exemplary and didnít allow Alex Smith to get comfortable. The Redskins blitzed all day, sacking Smith three times and forcing him to rush his throws. The starting secondary was playing together for the first time all year as Walt Harris, Shawn Springs, and Ryan Clark all returned from injuries. Harris had trouble with Brandon Lloyd a couple of times and was caught for defensive holding once, but both he and Springs were sure tacklers on the outside. Sean Taylor injured his ankle on his interception return in the third quarter, returned to the game on the subsequent kickoff and reinjured it there. He appeared, however, to be fine on the sidelines.