Inclement weather separates the good teams from the great teams. Good teams allow the weather to serve as an excuse for a surprising loss. Great teams do just enough and find ways to secure the victory. On Sunday, the San Francisco 49ers avoided an embarrassing loss to the Washington Redskins. Today we take a look at what led to an ugly 49ers victory in the terrible D.C. weather.
The 49ers offense struggled in the slop of Washington’s FedEx Field. Jimmy Garappolo and the offense ended the first half with less than 100 yards of total offense. The weather before and during the game left a layer of water sitting on the field. It left players sloshing as they attempted to find proper footing. The field conditions helped to negate the speed ground game of Matt Breida and slowed down the overall speed of the offense. It was more a case of the 49ers offense unable to find its footing rather than the Washington defense playing tough. Both teams entered halftime without a point.
In the second half, the 49ers offense found a rhythm. Points remained at a premium but the 49ers were beginning to move the ball through the air and ground with some consistency. San Francisco’s first drive after the break ended with an interception on a fourth-down heave by Garoppolo. Granted, Dante Pettis could have offered stronger resistance to break the pass up. However, the offense soon got into position for a second Robbie Gould attempt, this time a 28-yard kick. Tevin Coleman carried the load for the offense as he and Garoppolo did their best to move the ball and control the clock. The 49ers added two more field goals and finished with nearly seven more minutes in time of possession. It wasn’t anything to write home about but the offense didn’t make costly mistakes.
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The terrible weather in the nation’s capital did nothing to slow down the 49ers on defense. It may have created a larger monster than previously seen. Robert Saleh’s defense surrendered 154 yards of total offense, the third straight week under 200 yards. Similar to last week against the Rams, Washington started off quick with success on the ground. On Washington’s opening drive, they ran the football on 11 straight plays. However, the 49ers stiffened up in the red zone and forced a field goal attempt, which sailed wide right. From that point on, Washington struggled to get anything going.
Put into perspective, Washington gained just under 70 yards on their first offensive drive. They finished with 154 on the day. San Francisco’s pass rush bothered Case Keenum throughout the game on Sunday. The 49ers sacked Keenum on three occasions with one apiece for Nick Bosa, Arik Armstead, and Dee Ford. Bosa was San Francisco’s dominant force on Sunday. His seven tackles total, four tackles for loss, were team leaders. When adjusted for sack yards, the Washington offense threw for a paltry 50 yards. Fittingly, Bosa saved his sack for last, an 11-yard loss as the final seconds ticked away.
This Feels Familiar
A dominant defense? Check. An effective ground game? Check. Quality, solid quarterback play? Check. The 49ers check all the boxes needed to be a title contender. Add in the excellent job done by the coaching staff and the 49ers are in prime position to gain home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Many expected this year’s squad to show significant signs of improvement. However, not many could fathom the type of start we are seeing. Over the past two games, with significant injuries on offense, the 49ers have dominated Los Angeles and Washington and found themselves two games ahead in the division. This feels oddly familiar.
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The first Jim Harbaugh team caught the league by surprise. They featured a talented defense led by a ferocious front seven and a talented mix of veterans and youngsters in the secondary. While the second level may not be a repeat of Patrick Willis and Navorro Bowman, the defensive line easily takes the lead in the comparison. The 49ers are doing what needs to be done on both sides of the ball to keep themselves in every game before eventually pulling away late. While the 49ers won by just nine points on Sunday, the game never felt in doubt. Washington could not move the ball on San Francisco’s defense and the 49ers offense did enough to keep things under control. If you’re suddenly struck with a sense of deja vu, you’re not the only one.
On to the Next Game
The victory on Sunday brought the record to 6-0 through the season’s first seven weeks. San Francisco sits two games clear of the Seahawks in the NFC West with the toughest portion of the schedule staring back at them. Sunday’s victory showed a team focused on a singular goal, regardless of the surrounding conditions. The 49ers have something special developing. These are the types of games that great teams win when the stakes are high.
– Ryan Adverderada is the Managing Editor for Full Press Coverage 49ers. Like and follow on Follow @ryanadverderada