But Shanahan clearly savored the 9-0 win, which improved the 49ers’ record to 6-0. According to 49ers tight end George Kittle, Shanahan awarded a game ball to his father, Mike, whose head coaching tenure with the Redskins ended on less-than-friendly terms.
“Pretty special,” Kittle said.
Mike Shanahan was not on hand for the game, according to a 49ers spokesman. But Kittle said 49ers players were mindful of the Shanahans’ past dealings with the Redskins and were motivated by that.
“We were aware,” Kittle said. “Definitely it was a game that we wanted to win both for him and Mike Shanahan.”
The game was as inelegant as it gets and undoubtedly not what Kyle Shanahan had in mind when he envisioned a triumphant return to FedEx Field as the head coach of an undefeated team. But he wasn’t complaining.
“I’ve been in a number of buildings, and not all of it always ends good,” Shanahan said after the game. “But it had nothing to do with the game. Everyone’s a little more sensitive when things involve your family. So that’s why I’m always a little more sensitive to this with my dad here. And that’s why it was nice to get the win. But it had nothing to do with the game, has nothing to do with the score. But you always want to take care of things the right way when you’re bothered by how some things have been for a family member.”
Shanahan, the offensive coordinator for the Redskins during his father’s head coaching tenure from 2010 to 2013, had upped the stakes during the week by saying that working for his dad had been his favorite part of his time in Washington and “everything else” had been his least favorite part. Shanahan said he had moved on and this game wasn’t personal to him. But did anyone believe that?
Shanahan said Sunday he certainly enjoyed watching 49ers players celebrate the win with what amounted to rain angels on the wet turf following a game-ending sack by rookie defensive end Nick Bosa.
“It was definitely fun watching our whole team slide across the field there,” Shanahan said. “I enjoyed watching that.”
Asked whether he had considered joining the players, Shanahan said: “I did think about it, yeah. But I don’t think I would have done it right.”
The 49ers forged the victory on three second-half field goals by kicker Robbie Gould as they and the Redskins sloshed around on a field drenched by persistent rain.
“It was fun,” cornerback Richard Sherman said. “It was Mud Bowl 2019 champions, you know what I mean?”
The 49ers have put themselves in contention in the jumbled NFC, in Year 3 of a rebuilding project overseen by Shanahan and General Manager John Lynch, because they are a balanced and versatile team able to win in a variety of ways. They entered this week’s play ranked second in the NFL in total defense and third in total offense.
They were tested Sunday by the conditions as much as by the Redskins. Passing was an adventure. Any change of direction was challenging. The water was pooling on the playing surface in spots, and the players were splashing around when they ran and, especially, when they landed on the turf. The sloppy conditions severely limited both teams’ offenses and probably helped the Redskins close the competitive gap.
“That weather was as bad weather as we’ve played in since we’ve been here,” Shanahan said, “combined with that field, just how the field always is.”
Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo threw for only 151 yards on 12-for-21 passing for the 49ers.
“I’ve played in rain my whole life,” Garoppolo said. “So it wasn’t anything crazy.”
That was just enough as Gould connected from 28, 22 and 29 yards. The San Francisco defense limited the Redskins to 154 total yards and made two big plays against tailback Adrian Peterson, stopping him on a fourth-down carry in the first half and forcing him into a second-half fumble.
“It’s never going to be pretty,” 49ers defensive tackle DeForest Buckner said. “It’s the NFL. It doesn’t matter who you go against. Everybody’s good. You’ve just got to find a way to win. That’s the objective. I felt like it didn’t matter. Three field goals and they didn’t score? I mean, I’ll take it.”
It has, indeed, been a find-a-way-to-win type of season for the 49ers. That’s precisely what they did Sunday in Landover.
“We were down seven starters today,” Sherman said. “When you’re down seven starters, you would think, hey, you’re not going to play your best football. And in a game like this, we played pretty good under the circumstances.”
Those circumstances made the day trying and then rewarding for the 49ers.
“I think guys had a lot of fun, slipping and sliding out there,” Sherman said. “Winning is always fun.”