Redskins-49ers: Five observations from Monday night’s loss

November 26, 2013

San Francisco 49ers tight end Vernon Davis (85) is all alone in the end zone after catching a touchdown pass from San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) against the Washington Redskins late in the third quarter at FedEx Field. (Jonathan Newton / The Washington Post)

Another game, another embarrassment, and the Redskins, now 3-8, took another step toward a disastrous end. They got outplayed by the 49ers and failed again to protect their home field. Neither team played particularly well, but the 49ers did well enough to overcome their shortcomings while the Redskins did not.

Here are five observations from last night’s game.

1. More tough times for Griffin: After enduring the most scrutinized week of his career, Robert Griffin III last night took the field welcoming the chance to begin laying to rest some of the questions hovering over his performance this season. But instead, the hits only continued, figuratively and literally, and the night concluded with him looking more battered than ever. The quarterback threw for a season-low 127 yards and an interception and once again missed targets on plays that could have produced crucial gains for his team. Griffin endured a pounding all night as he got sacked four times and hit another seven times, according to the stat-keepers although it felt like much more. Griffin never seemed to find a rhythm. The offense as a whole appeared disjointed and lost. Following the game, the frustration was evident, and rightfully so. In the locker room, he vented to veteran backup Rex Grossman. Then his father came into the locker room to check on him (something we haven’t seen before). Griffin initially appeared bewildered by the visit, but the two chatted, and then walked to the postgame news conference together. Griffin fought to control his emotions while fielding questions, his voice cracking a couple of times as he discussed his determination to push through the tough times. He expressed confidence in his teammates and his resolve not to let the losing change who he is. “We have to conquer some of the demons we have going on as an offense, and as a team in general. I think we will. I think we all can do it.” Griffin trudged off the podium and back to the locker room, joined again by his father, and the two sat in front of his locker, continuing to hash out the debacle. Meantime, in the opposing locker room, Ahmad Brooks when asked for his opinion on Griffin, said, “He’s obviously a man and he makes his own decisions, but I personally don’t feel he should be playing right now. … You can see it. Everybody can see it, everybody can see it.” Brooks didn’t elaborate, but Griffin’s knee isn’t the issue right now. Something is indeed off as a whole, however.

2. Rough nights for Wilson, Williams: There were many poor performances Monday night, but that game represented what could be the worst games of cornerback Josh Wilson and left tackle Trent Williams’ careers here in Washington. On defense, the Redskins did what they needed to do in stifling San Francisco’s rushing attack and force Colin Kaepernick to throw. But, Kaepernick went at Wilson early, had some success and then continued to pick on the cornerback. Wilson surrendered gains of 40 yards, 32, 24, 23 and 19 yards. Give him credit for facing the music afterward. “We weren’t able to make the plays,” he admitted. “I wasn’t able to make the plays I definitely want to make.” Meantime, on offense, Williams looked nothing like the Pro Bowl player that we had seen for a good chunk of the season. He got embarrassed by Aldon Smith, who recorded two sacks against him. Williams looked overwhelmed, and his usual nasty streak was nonexistent. “He’s a great pass-rusher, one of the best in the league, probably will go down as one of the best ever,” was all Williams could offer when asked why he struggled so badly.

3. Special teams still MIA: We have yet to see the special teams units make a game-changing play, or even perform up to average standards. Niles Paul couldn’t create a spark in the kickoff return game, but put a lot of that on the blockers in front of him. True, he’s not a shifty runner, but he routinely was met by defenders inside the 20, and rarely was able to get behind a wall of protectors and then look for a crease. Santana Moss took over at punt returner and had one 13-yard runback – the best Washington has had in weeks. But the field position disparity was glaring. The 49ers on average started on their own 43-yard line. Washington, meantime, had an average starting possession of its own 24.

4. Shanahan’s hot seat: An already perilous situation just got even shakier as Mike Shanahan wasn’t able to coax a performance out of his players that suggests that they’re buying in and are headed in the right direction under his leadership. Shanahan himself described the game as “one of our poorest performances since I’ve been here.” The Redskins did go up against the toughest defense they have faced all year. But once again, many of the problems were self-inflicted. The Redskins appeared to have little fight. One of the most alarming stat lines from the night was the third-quarter production, where San Francisco outgained Washington 120-7. Seven yards in the third quarter, where you’re supposed to have just come out from halftime after making adjustments and ready to go? That can’t happen. In situations such as this, you need your best players to step up as leaders, but they didn’t do that. On the outside, it wasn’t really expected that Washington would pull off an upset over the 49ers. Dan Snyder didn’t need to see his team upset San Francisco. But what he did need to see was Shanahan’s players display an ability to put up a tough fight and execute at a high level. They did not. Improvements don’t appear evident. Instead, this bunch appears to be sliding in the wrong direction, and they sound clueless as to why. Said Trent Williams, “This was probably our worst game.” Asked why, he said, “It’s so much – little stuff here and there, and never being on the same page. I don’t know if I could pinpoint one thing. But we obviously have to be better.” The problem is, none of the players seem to have an answer as to what it takes to get better. That’s not what you want to hear if you’re Snyder. Now, Jon Gruden said multiple times last night while calling the game for ESPN to be careful what you wish for and that a new coach will not guarantee improvement. He’s right. Snyder must continue to weigh the issue and ask if a fresh voice and philosophy is what this team needs, or if Shanahan – with an infusion of talent over the offseason – is the best thing for the future.

5. Final five-game stand: Where do the Redskins go from here? They have another nationally-televised game Sunday: a meeting with the New York Giants, who have overtaken them in the divisional standings by going 4-1 in their last five games. How will they match up? Will the Redskins put up a fight? Unlike last season, there now is no carrot dangling in front of the team. Pride and future are the only things on the line. At this point, you wonder how things can get much worse, but as the last few games have shown, anything is possible. We’re about to learn a lot about this team. Brian Orakpo said that now the Redskins will find out, “Who’s going to still come in this locker room everyday with their head up high.”

Have a Redskins question? E-mail Mike Jones at mike.jones@washpost.com with the subject line “Mailbag question” for him to answer it in The Mailbag on Tuesdays.

What’s ahead:

● Mark Bullock’s position-by-position reviews and Mike Shanahan’s 3 p.m. news conference with reporters.

From the Post:

Boswell: Redskins prove to be an easy feast

The Takeaway: A no-show in prime time

For Griffin, the beating goes on | Dark times under the lights

D.C. Sports Bog: Redskins vs. 49ers best and worst

Photos: Scenes from FedEx Field | Box: 49ers 27, Redskins 6

Follow: @MikeJonesWaPo | @MarkMaske | @Insider | Insider on Facebook

The Washington Post's Mike Jones analyzes what a tough loss to the 49ers means for the Redskins and coach Mike Shanahan. (Mike Jones & Sarah Parnass/The Washington Post)
Mike Jones covers the Washington Redskins for The Washington Post. When not writing about a Redskins development of some kind – which is rare – he can be found screaming and cheering at one of his kids’ softball, baseball, soccer or basketball games.
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