SANTA CLARA – The 49ers defied the odds and beat the first-class Redskins 17-13 Sunday afternoon. Here are the Niners’ grades.
KAEPERNICK: B. Unusually efficient. Completed 20-of-29 pass attempts (69 percent) for 256 yards (8.8 yards per attempt). Three of his nine incomplete passes were dropped. He threw a long, beautiful touchdown pass to Anquan Boldin on the first drive of the game, but he never came close to throw for another touchdown. He also threw an ugly interception right to the Redskins’ defensive back in the third quarter. Kaepernick gets credit for leading the game-winning touchdown drive, but he didn’t finish it – Carlos Hyde did. Kaepernick still has never has finished a come-from-behind game-winning fourth-quarter drive. Maybe one day.
RUNNING BACKS: D. Like the previous three games, Gore ran just one play well – Counter OF. He gained 17 yards on four of those runs today. But he fumbled the fourth one, which set up the Redskins’ go-ahead field goal in the fourth quarter. Gore has fumbled two games in a row – both on counter runs. Carlos Hyde fumbled, too, but he scored the game-winning four-yard touchdown. He has become Greg Roman’s go-to guy in the red zone.
WIDE RECEIVERS: B. Former 49ers’ backup Trenton Robinson started at Nickel for the Redskins. Try as he might, he could not cover Anquan Boldin. Boldin finished the game with 9 catches for 137 yards and a touchdown – his best performance since Week 1 against the Packers last season. Michael Crabtree made a couple key catches and finished with five grabs for 58 yards, but he also dropped two passes. Stevie Johnson and Brandon Lloyd each caught no passes. Roman must be saving them for Thursday.
TIGHT ENDS: F. Vernon Davis caught three passes for a whopping 21 yards and he dropped one. It seems he knows he will get only four targets a game, mostly on short throws, none in the red zone. And it seems he’s going through the motions. He hasn’t shown up for a game since Week 1.
OFFENSIVE LINE: D. Couldn’t keep the Redskins’ front-seven out of the backfield. Even on the most productive runs, Gore and Hyde had to dodge defenders before they reached the line of scrimmage. Kaepernick had to scramble all over the place. He avoided more than one sack – the Redskins took him down just twice. During one of the sacks, Ryan Kerrigan beat Jonathan Martin around the edge, but don’t fault Martin. Sure, he got beat, but he’s supposed to get beat. He’s a backup facing a premier pass rusher – an obvious disadvantage. Roman needed to help Martin by chipping Kerrigan with a running back. And after that play, Roman made the adjustment. Good for him. The Redskins’ offense had the same problem – rookie backup left tackle Morgan Moses couldn’t block anybody. Jay Gruden never made the adjustment Roman made, and Morgan Moses gave up the game-ending sack.
DEFENSIVE LINE: B+. Justin Smith beat Moses and forced Robert Griffin to fumble on the final play of the game. Ray McDonald also sacked Griffin once. But the 49ers’ front-seven couldn’t stop Alfred Morris. He scored a touchdown and gained 125 yards on 21 carries – 6 yards per run.
LINEBACKERS: B+. The Redskins avoided the strength of the 49ers’ run defense – the middle – by running around it. Morris gained 89 yards on 9 outside zone runs – almost 10 yards per carry. But the Redskins’ couldn’t block the 49ers’ outside linebackers on pass plays. Aldon Smith beat Moses for two sacks and hit Griffin four times.
DEFENSIVE BACKS: A. Gave up just 11 catches and zero touchdowns – tough to do against any NFL opponent.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B. Committed three penalties, and Perrish Cox let a couple punts bounce that he should have caught. Those were the only negatives.
COACHES: B. Another great game by Vic Fangio. He’s the best defensive coordinator in football and he gets better every week. What a pleasure to watch. Greg Roman does not get better every week. He coached poorly – the offense scored just three points between its first and final drives. But Roman came through at the end, called a perfect drive under pressure. And he made the key adjustment of the game, the adjustment Gruden failed to make. And that was the difference in the game.