49ers Blog and Q&A

News, notes and reader questions about the San Francisco 49ers

November 27, 2013
Film review: Stars aligning for 49ers? Kap's clean jersey; Dawson on a roll

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The big theme for the 49ers over the next month will be this: Can they get hot at the end of the year and then ride that momentum through the playoffs? It certainly seems as if the stars are aligning for them to do just that with Mario Manningham and now Michael Crabtree arriving to rescue a floundering passing game. Ray McDonald, Mike Iupati and Quinton Patton also promise to be back in December.

Others currently are rounding into form. Against the Redskins, Aldon Smith not only had his best game since returning from rehab but perhaps his best game of the season. Facing one of the better left tackles in the league, Trent Williams, Smith had two sacks and was credited with hitting Robert Griffin III four additional times. Smith didn't start the game but played all but 15 of the team's defensive snaps.

Patrick Willis also appears to be closer to his true self after going through hand and groin injuries earlier in the season. He led the 49ers with 11 tackles. Others who stood out on defense were Ahmad Brooks, who has been Mr. Consistent this season and who took away the left edge for the Redskins throughout the game, as well as player next to him, Tony Jerod-Eddie. He played 70 percent of the snaps, was in on five tackles and also played well on special teams.

Manningham, meanwhile, looked stronger and more confident than he did the two previous weeks. (It certainly helped that the Redskins defense was more porous than the Panthers' and Saints'). Five of Kaepernick's first six passes went to Manningham, and he finished the game with four catches for 45 yards. That's the most this season for a 49ers receiver whose surname is not Boldin.

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Colin Kaepernick hasn't taken many big hits this season. This isn't exactly a newsy topic, but it's worth noting, especially after watching the beating his Redskins counterpart took on Monday. Griffin absorbed five big hits against the 49ers. I'm not counting routine tackles in which he was wrapped up and taken down. I'm talking about blows in which he landed several yards away from where the contact occurred, hits that easily could have resulted in injury.

By contrast, Kaepernick took only one such hit. It occurred along the sideline in which the Redskins safety gave the 49ers quarterback a strong shot to the upper body. That's a typical game for Kaepernick. Of course, all it takes is one freak shot for a quarterback to go down for the season. But Kaepernick is not exposing himself to those types of blows - and the 49ers aren't putting him in position for those shots - certainly not to the extent Griffin and the Redskins are. And that's worth noting.

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Perhaps because the Redskins often had eight defenders packed into the box, the 49ers ran stretch plays or wide runs eight times on Monday. This is not their forte. Frank Gore in particular is best when picking his way between the tackles.

Gore had one, seven-yard run to the outside. Otherwise, those runs were were well defended by Washington with most resulting in no gain or a loss. It also could be that not having left guard Iupati, the point man in their running attack, affected the 49ers' inside running game. More likely, Greg Roman was trying to find another way around defenses stacked to take away the 49ers' strength. It didn't work.

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Phil Dawson appears to have gotten accustomed to his new snapper and holder. He was 3-6 on field goal tries through Week 4. He's made every attempt since, including all three attempts from beyond 50 yards.

- Matt Barrows



MATTHEW BARROWS

Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.

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