Look, Ma, a passing game! The 49ers found one in Washington Monday night, as well as a pass rush, and they whipped the Whatevers 27-6, regaining the sixth playoff seed held for a mere 24 hours by the Arizona Cardinals.
It was clear, during the game and after, that watching the team stomp somebody was far more enjoyable than watching them collect nail-biting losses. Not that the game was a wire to wire laugher. It was only 10-6 at the half, and Washington spent most of the second quarter rolling through the 49er defense with ease. The team must have made some excellent half time adjustments, though. Washington would gain only 30 total yards in the second half.
It’s hard to get too giddy about beating a 3-8 team, but the 49ers won this game through the air, not on the ground. The only other time that has happened this year was game one against the Packers. In between, there were four losses and a whole bunch of Frank Gore. Monday night, the ground game was stuffed, much as it was the previous week against the Saints and the week before that against the Panthers.
Skeptics might point out that the team was dealing with the Washington secondary, not the Seahawks secondary. Tut, tut, my sweet shabisko. It wasn’t like Washington couldn’t cover anybody. Mario Manningham gets open and had his first I’m-Truly-Back-From-Injury effort. Vernon Davis gets open, against just about any team. But the star of the game, Anquan Boldin, hardly ever gets open no matter who is covering him. What he does do, however, is catch the damn ball when you throw it to him.
Colin Kaepernick finally took the leap of faith Monday night and threw him the damn ball whether he was open or not. Voila! Two TDs, several clutch 3rd down conversions, and almost a hundred yards. Some of you blogmeisters might also have glimpsed a couple of rare sights in this game: slant passes! Manningham is good at those little babies. Kyle Williams, not so much. There was also a much clamored for screen pass. Minus three yards and back to the drawing board.
Speaking of Williams, his replacement as punt returner, LaMichael James, seems to have the odd idea that you can RUN with the ball after you catch the punt. Excellent forward thinking, Mr. James. He reversed field position by 72 yards on 5 punts Monday night. By far the best showing since Ted Ginn left the premises in the offseason. It also helps put a dent in the question “why did we draft this kid?”
Aldon Smith also had an I’m-Back game, recording two sacks and several QB hits, one of which occurred to an area between Robert Griffin’s legs. No harm, no foul! Smith’s pass rushing partner, Ahmad Brooks, also had two sacks. Bookend bad boys! And although Washington might stink as a team, they do have two good offensive tackles. So the sacks by Smith and Brooks cannot be diluted by the opponent-sucks adjustment factor.
All in all, a very satisfying must-win game against a hopeless and helpless opponent. There won’t be any pushovers in the final five games, though. So we’ll soon see if this game was a vision of good things to come, or just a mirage in an otherwise disappointing season.