The San Francisco 49ers are in a groove after a dominant victory over the Rams, last Sunday, announcing their arrival to the rest of the league. This weekend it’s about confirmation for the 49ers as they travel to the nation’s capital to take on that Washington team. For the 49ers, this is a game in which good teams win but great teams put away early. Today we take a look at what San Francisco has in store as Kyle Shanahan returns to his former employer.
Let’s Groove Tonight
The 49ers offense has been the biggest concern during the current undefeated run. While no slouches themselves, the offense has been inconsistent through the air. Primary concerns center around drops by receivers and poor throws by Jimmy Garoppolo. The 49ers quarterback has averaged around 2-3 questionable throws a game. Against the Rams, Garoppolo threw an atrocious interception in the end zone and missed on a pair of throws which should have resulted in touchdowns. In total, the throws kept at most, 21 points of the scoreboard. San Francisco’s dominance on defense has provided a buffer from harsh criticism of the offense.
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Washington offers a chance for the offense to stretch its legs and get into the groove. It begins and ends with Garoppolo. The ground game affords numerous opportunities in the passing game through play fakes and throwing out of running formations. Washington has struggled against the pass and run this season, which should provide the 49ers with big-play chances. Garoppolo needs to hit on those chances against Washington and keep hitting on them as the year continues. If he can raise his consistency a few levels, the 49ers could be adding a sixth Lombardi trophy to the collection.
Against a tough Rams defensive line, the 49ers started two tackles with just a handful of starts between them. Overall, the duo of Justin Skule and Daniel Brunskill played fairly well and did more than just survive. While the Washington front line has not been awe-inspiring, the front seven has talent. Rookie Montez Sweat has a sack and 22 total stops on the year. Sweat is a talented edge rusher who will challenge the inexperienced tackles. Washington also has defensive ends Matt Ioannidis and Jonathan Allen. Ioannidis is second on the team with 2.5 sacks while Allen leads with three.
However, the ground game is going to be instrumental in a 49ers victory. Washington ranks near the bottom in rushing yards allowed per game. Brunskill and Skule need to win leverage on zone runs outside the tackle, creating cutback lanes for the likes of Matt Breida or Tevin Coleman. If the two young tackles can play well in space, the 49ers should find ample success on the ground. For Skule and Brunskill, Sunday’s trip needs to be treated like any other practice or game. The youngsters are being asked to do their jobs. Everything else will take care of itself.
The 49ers are easily among the best defenses in the NFL. San Francisco surrenders the second-fewest points per game, behind only the Patriots. The 49ers also rank in the top-10 in both passing yards and rushing yards allowed per game. Washington’s offense is near the bottom in passing yards and rushing yards per game. The offense also struggles to score more than 15 points per game. It isn’t every day where a defense’s strengths line up well with the opposing offense’s weaknesses. This is a recipe for another dominant performance.
49ers rookie, Nick Bosa, has been taking major steps forward over the past few games. His speed, strength, and bend has allowed Bosa to run circles around offensive linemen. Defensive coordinator, Robert Saleh, has begun using Bosa on the same side as defensive end Dee Ford. It has led to intense pressure from that side of the line and caused headaches for opposing offensive coordinators. The San Francisco secondary will need to contend with the speedy rookie receiver, Terry McLaurin. The Ohio State product leads the team in receiving yards with 408 yards on 23 receptions, an average of 17.7 per catch.
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This Could Get Ugly
Kyle Shanahan has no love lost for Washington. He spent three seasons as the team’s offensive coordinator, all while his father Mike was the head coach. San Francisco is amid a resurgence with the younger Shanahan leading the way. Offensively, Shanahan is arguably a better play-caller and play designer than his father ever was. His ability to get players open is unmatched in the league. Defensively, Shanahan has been rewarded for his faith in Saleh and the defense with amazing performances and near lights out play. The 49ers should not have difficulties with dispatching Washington. Expect a large contingent of Red and Gold in the stands on Sunday. Don’t expect the 49ers to look past Washington. Instead, expect Washington to feel the brunt of any frustration the 49ers have after being considered an illegitimate contender.
Prediction: 49ers win comfortably, 34-13.
– Ryan Adverderada is the Managing Editor for Full Press Coverage 49ers. Like and follow on Follow @ryanadverderada