Here are the five biggest takeaways from the Washington Redskins’ 17-13 loss to the San Francisco 49ers:
1. Robert Griffin III bad early, shows a small glimmer of hope, but in the end does not come through.
Griffin came into the game today with a reported short leash and it looked like he could have been benched at half time. He completed just one of his first four attempts for seven yards and took two sacks resulting in four consecutive punts. Then Griffin showed some life with a good ball fake to Alfred Morris and hit Pierre Garcon on a crossing pattern over the linebackers for a classic 2012 play. The drive finished off with a touchdown and the Redskins (3-8) were back in the thick of things with the game tied. Griffin completed another 2012 like pass to DeSean Jackson during the third quarter that led to a Kai Forbath field goal.
That was the good of Griffin. However, he still continued to hold onto the ball too long resulting in sacks. Although he did not make any fatal mistakes with turnovers — until the strip sack at the end of the game — he still needs to work on making reads faster and execute better and quicker. Though I believe Griffin showed growth in Gruden’s system, which was acknowledged by Gruden himself, the clock is still ticking on Griffin for the year and moving forward into next season.
2. Defense plays well overall, but not during beginning, middle, and end.
After a three-and-out from the offense and a couple big passing plays from Colin Kaepernick, this game looked like it was heading for the mercy rule to be implemented. E.J. Biggers got beat by Anquan Boldin on a deep corner route, an assignment that David Amerson would probably have drawn if he was not deactivated for violating a team rule.
At the very end of the first half, John Harbaugh showed guts as he decided to go for a fourth and two just on the plus side of the field. Bashaud Breeland got caught watching the great catch made by Michael Crabtree instead of pushing him out of bounds and ending the half. Instead the 49ers stole three points heading into halftime.
Then at the end of the game, the defense gave up the eventual game winning touchdown. That came after allowing the 49ers to convert a fourth-and-one at their own 34-yard line and then gave up a big play to Boldin preceding a personal foul penalty.
3. The effort from the defense was there.
Even though the defense made their share of mistakes, they played well enough to win this game with an extremely beaten up secondary. The defense caused three turnovers against a team that rarely surrenders the ball and it was not their fault that those opportunities were only cashed in for three points. Moreover, they kept the offense in check nearly all day giving up a mere 66 yards on the ground.
It is shocking that all of this was accomplished while Amerson, Biggers, and Tracy Porter did not play for the duration of the game and Breeland and Ryan Clark also missed plays before returning. This led to Greg Ducre and Phillip Thomas stepping into playing roles, while Merriweather moved to corner. Ducre picked Kaepernick off while San Francisico was trying to pick on him, while Thomas helped stop Vernon Davis short of the first down marker to start the fourth quarter and later recovered a Frank Gore fumble. This loss certainly cannot be put on the defense.
4. Alfred Morris continues to play better with RG3 at the helm.
Alfred Morris again played hard behind a devastated offensive line. Morris finished with 125 yards on 21 carriers. This again is a noticeable improvement over the running game with Kirk Cousins and Colt McCoy under center because of defenses leaving one man to account for Griffin’s legs.
Unfortunately for the Redskins, they could not lean on Morris towards the end of the game when time was a factor. However, I question Gruden for not running the ball on the penultimate drive to try and mount momentum when time was not a problem.
5. Another tough task next week against the guy taken before Griffin in 2012.
Next week the Redskins are forced to travel to the house that Andrew Luck is rebuilding. Again more injuries could play a role for the Redskins defensively in the secondary that cannot afford to get torched by the likes of T.Y. Hilton. Moreover, Trent Williams cannot return soon enough as Morgan Moses was beaten up badly all game even, though it was against once of the premier pass rushers in the NFL in Aldon Smith.
If Griffin is given the ball for the duration of the game, he will have to show clear cut strides and production against a lesser defense. This team cannot wait for the off-season to come soon enough, although quarterback controversies will be popping up all over then too.