How lopsided was the 49ers' 27-6 victory over the Washington Redskins? Just ask Mike Shanahan.
"We went against an excellent football team that dominated us," said Shanahan, "We haven't gotten dominated like that since I've been here."
When you see a performance from the 49ers like the one they put forth on Monday night, it makes the last 2 weeks even more frustrating. The Niners embarrassed the Redskins in almost ever facet of the game and gave their quarterback one of the worst (if not the worst) beating of his career. Colin Kaepernick and the offense finally made plays in the passing game and did so without being able to generate much on the ground. The game was a great sign for San Francisco as it begins it's stretch run towards (hopefully) the playoffs. Here is what 49ers fans are taking about after Week 12.
Kaep and the O
Was that so hard Colin?
The Redskins came out determined to stop the run and make Kaepernick beat them with his arm. Washington got the stopping the run part right, holding the 49ers to a season low 76 yards on the ground. The issue was Kaepernick played arguably his best game since Week 1, making big play after big play through the air. On the night he was 15-of-24 for 235 yards and three touchdown passes.
Kaepernick seemed to have an easier time going through his progressions and was more efficient in buying time with his legs. He did a better job of extending plays instead of just merely running around. Another positive sign was he gave his receivers a chance to make plays. Instead of freezing in the pocket, Kaepernick took a chance on tighter throws he seemed to complete with regularity last season. His faith in his receivers was rewarded as Anquan Boldin made a number of catches in tight spaces on his way to 94 yards and two touchdowns.
It remains to be seen if this was just a good game against a bad pass defense (Washington came into the night allowing 275 yards passing a game) or a sign that Kaepernick is turning the corner. Either way, it was an encouraging performance for the 49ers moving forward.
Next man up
The 49ers' defense has battled adversity all season. They have seen starters Patrick Willis, Ray McDonald, Tarell Brown, and Ian Williams all miss time with various injuries. Their best pass rusher, Aldon Smith, was forced to sit out 5 games to enter rehab for substance abuse. Despite all of that, the unit remains one of the best in the NFL and it dominated the Redskins in Week 12.
No Brown or McDonald in the starting lineup? Just insert Tramaine Brock and Tony Jerod-Eddy. The list of names goes on and on... Dan Skuta, Corey Lemonier, Craig Dahl, Michael Wilhoite, Demarcus Dobbs, Glenn Dorsey, Brock and Jerod-Eddy. How many teams can be forced to dip that far into their defensive depth and still come out as one of the top defenses in the league? It's a testament to Vic Fangio and system he's put in place in San Francisco.
Can't say enough about Ahmad Brooks
You could argue that Brooks has been the best player on the 49ers over the past three weeks. In his last three games, Brooks has five sacks and an interception and has been the stalwart of the pass rush while Aldon Smith has worked his way back. The Redskins seemed to have an early game plan of running away from Justin Smith and right at Brooks. He made them pay immediately as the first quarter alone was a highlight reel for the outside linebacker. He pressured Griffin constantly and seemed to sniff out every run that went his way. Brooks ended up with two sacks on the night which gives him a career high of 8.5 for the year. Brooks is yet to make a pro bowl in his first six seasons. That could change in 2013.
In his first two games back from a mandatory leave of absence, Aldon Smith looked like just another player. In Week 12, he was a nightmare for the Redskins. Smith was once again a force in the pass rush, sacking Robert Griffin twice and pressuring him into a interception. It was just a matter of time before Smith got his legs back underneath him, but San Francisco has to be thrilled it happened so quickly.
One of the issues the 49ers seemed to have is that Smith was the only player who provided a consistent pass rush. With Brooks coming into his own, that's changed. If San Francisco now has two edge rushers capable of double digits sacks and constant pressure, look out. That type of defense could carry the team very far in January.
James making a difference
Through the first eight games of the season, Kyle Williams led the NFL with 20 fair catches. Even after not returning a punt since Week 8, he's still second in the NFL in that department. One has to wonder why it took so long to go to LaMichael James as the team's primary returner, but better late than never.
James got the Niners in good field position all night, averaging 26.5 yards on kick returns and 14.4 on punt returns. He showed agility and big play ability as he tight roped down the sideline on a season high 40 yard punt return. The longest return for the team this season before that had been 22 yards.
James' strong special teams play shouldn't come as a complete surprise. He averaged just under 30 yards over 14 kick returns last season and had a long of 62 yards. If his recent play is any indication, the Niners may have finally found a way to use James and his skill set. Now if they can just get him incorporated in the offense...
The 49ers had to play big this week and they answered the bell. Can it continue? With Arizona also at 7-4 and the Panthers a game ahead of them at 8-3 (along with the tie breaker), it has to. There is no margin for error anymore as the Rams come into town during Week 13. St. Louis is not the same team the 49ers beat 30-11 in Week 4. They are red hot right now, outscoring their last two opponents 80-29. Look for San Francisco to have it's hands full with the upstart Rams.