Week 7 Keys to victory: 49ers vs Redskins

Welcome back to another Nothing But Niners exclusive Empire faithful. As always, we’re honored to have the opportunity to provide you consistent content, keeping you both informed and entertained. How about them 5-0 49ers?!?!? Let the outsiders keep talking and doubting if they want to, that only fuels their motivation to keep getting better and keep the gag order in place. I know the haters and naysayers big mad right now, because they’ve been talking bad about the 49ers for weeks now. Let them keep that same energy though, because I’m sure the team will keep theirs.

Okay, at this point I’m sure you’re a regular rider in the Silverado, so good to see you again, let’s go ahead and hit this road down to Landover, Maryland to take on the  Washington Redskins  and invade, correction, to takeover yet another stadium. If by chance this is your first ride, I thank you for trusting in me and I’ll do my best to ensure this will be your first of many rides. That said, buckle up and we’re on the way. Next stop,  FedEx Field .

I like starting these rides with briefly looking at the highlights from the previous week, so put your eyes on these highlights from Sunday when we saw the 49ers knock off the Rams. I call this one, “Silence of the Rams”. Pay close attention to the sea of red as our faithful were loud and proud in attendance. 

I hope you enjoyed the highlights from last week’s game, but as I always tell my players when coaching, “the most important game is the next game”. That said, it’s time to shift our focus to these Redskins, who are currently in last place in the NFC East with a record of 1-5 and on a three game losing streak. Though the 49ers are 5-0 and rolling, they still need to focus, stay humble, and execute.

Judging by that look on your face knowing they’re 1-5, I’d assume you’re thinking the same thing most people are thinking, easy win. Yeah, can you say “trap game’? By definition, that’s an accurate assessment. Listen here, bad Redskins team or not, they’re still an NFL team and they get paid to play this game they love, just like this 49ers team does. Also keep in mind, this team is hungry (famished even) and desperate for another win, they know the 5-0 high 49ers are on, and would like nothing more than to ground them, and be the first to hand them a loss while getting their second win in the process. In order to prevent this let down, or let up in play, there are key ingredients Head Coach Kyle Shanahan and General Manager John Lynch need to perfect in order to continue this streak of six consecutive gourmet meals cooked to perfection. And I’m sure these two and even the team are prepared to do so.

Consistent success on offense

While the run game is clicking, the 49ers are still finding their stride as they lack a consistent passing game. Though Jimmy Garoppolo has put up decent numbers and has spread the ball around to multiple receivers, he’s yet to have a breakout game per se. You know, the type of game where you’d be upset if you left him on your bench in fantasy because he scored 40 plus points, and you lost by say 38. Yeah, that type of game. Now before you get the idea I’m ragging on Jimmy, I’m not. I’m just setting up my point for later on in this section, just stay with me.

My point is, with the running game being so effective, Jimmy really hasn’t had to put up crazy numbers or just put the team on his shoulders. Say what you want, but by the numbers (69.9% completion percentage this season) he’s actually been quite efficient (outside of a couple underthrows and untimely interceptions) and the team is winning. Throws like these below, show his “it factor” and grit, but often get overlooked. 

 

But nevermind those throws right? I mean, the run is working, and if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it right? Run it until they stop it. But see, this is why I say this would be a great game for both Jimmy and this receiving corps to go off showing the league this team can do more than just run the ball to win, and also show that the passing game is more than just a “in case of emergency, break glass” threat.

Knowing teams prepare for a run heavy offense, come out with a (safe) play action call. Make them think what they expect to see is coming. What do they expect? A run on 1st down. Open up that passing game, mix in a healthy dose of the run game to keep them honest, plenty motion, a few screens, whatever. Keep them off balance, jump on them early, often, and stay on them. You can’t let teams like this get going or hang around, building confidence and momentum.

I’d love to see this offense get rolling from the first possession and keep rolling. Take their hearts early! Continue to get others like Dante Pettis and Kendrick Bourne involved. Especially with Deebo Samuel reported day to day with a groin injury. I’d say we may see Jordan Matthews in his first action of the regular season or perhaps Richie James Jr. They can both make plays. Let’s go Jimmy, time to put on a show and get all your weapons involved. As of now, no player not named George Kittle has truly just stood out yet and through five games, no other player has eclipsed 100 yards receiving in a game. Deebo and Marquise Goodwin, who recorded their season highs in receiving yards (86 and 77 respectively) in week 2 vs Cincinnati, have the highest yards gained in a game behind Kittle. I’m not saying the receiver needs a career game, but I am saying have an impact big enough to let them know they need to be accounted for. Personally, I feel a steady dose of the run and timely (turnover free) Jimmy dimes should get the job done.

So long as the offensive line holds up and keeps names like Jonothan Allen, Ryan Kerrigan, and Montez Sweat out of the backfield, as they can all cause chaos and be disruptive, this offense can get rolling. In order to do this, left tackle Justin Skule and right tackle Daniel Brunskill will have to continue their solid play. I must say, I’m pleased with the way both have played since stepping in for the starters. Keep it up gentleman! Just keep thinking pancakes.

Getting after the quarterback/run defense

Us faithful have long awaited a formidable pass rush that can pressure, hurry, and harass opposing quarterbacks. Well, it has arrived. Thus far, Nick Bosa and Dee Ford have both collapsed the pocket continuously, making the jobs of those dawgs in the middle that much easier. Arik Armstead, DeForest Buckner, Ronald Blair III, and Solomon Thomas have all had fingerprints on the success of the pass rush eating up and cleaning up anything forced into the middle. It’s a thing of beauty. Ironically, Bosa is still growing and Ford is still getting healthy. This means, they’ll only get better and so will this pass rush and defense as a unit. To add to this pass rush at the first level (defensive line), them dawgs at the second level (the linebackers) aka them “Hot Boyzz” Fred Warner and Kwon Alexander also get in on the action providing pressure when they blitz, as the defensive line does such a great job keeping clean as pine sol, allowing them to shoot gaps with what looks like free runs to the quarterback. You have to love a good game of, “Meet you at the quarterback”. Let’s go defense, keep balling.

Now to this run defense. The 49ers run defense looked human for the first time this season as the Rams ran the ball right at and through the 49ers defense last week. It looked like the Rams were telling the 49ers, “Todd Gurley or not, we’re going to run the ball and there’s nothing you can do about it.” You know how when playing Madden, you can get cocky and show your opponent your play you’re running because you know they can’t stop it? Yeah, that’s what it looked like on the first drive. For seven straight plays on their opening drive, this defense got a heavy dose of both Malcom Brown and Robert Woods play after play. The Rams ended the drive scoring a rushing touchdown as Woods scored off the left side on a cute little handoff. This was the first rushing touchdown the 49ers defense gave up all season. The 49ers also allowed over 100 yards rushing for the first time this season. Not by one player, but in total this was a first.

This is the good part. That touchdown I just mentioned, and described as “cute”, apparently it was too cute for the 49ers liking, because that touchdown was the last of its kind. That drive acted as a jolt and exactly what the defense needed to wake up. I couldn’t have been more proud of Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh and this defense as they banded together as a unit to ensure that scoring drive was their last. I wasn’t there, so I have no idea what was said, but as a DC myself, I can imagine it was something along the lines of, “DO YOU WANT TO BE GOOD OR DO YOU WANT TO BE GREAT? RIGHT NOW, YOU’RE LOOKING LIKE NEITHER! WAKE UP, AND FIX IT! HERE’S WHAT WE’RE GOING TO DO.” My apologies, I truly thought I was back on the sidelines coaching for a moment. I actually yelled that. I have to do better. Okay, I’m back to reality. In any case, that was when the defense flipped the switch to, “ALL GAS, NO BRAKE, GET OFF MY FIELD” mode.

After scoring on that opening drive and gashing the 49ers defense for 102 rushing in the first half, the Rams ended the game with just 109 yards rushing and that one first drive touchdown (via ESPN.com). No you didn’t read that wrong, the Rams only rushed the ball for seven yards in the second half. You know what that’s called? Adjustments. Great work defense! They’ll have to keep it going this week as they face the ageless wonder himself, Adrian Peterson. Even though he’s about 83 years old, he still brings it every carry. So, this run defense will need to continue that dominance they showed after the Rams scored on that first drive. LET’S GO FELLAS!

Continue sound coverage on the third level (the secondary)

If this defense continues to play this stingy, pressure driven defense, with sound play on the third level (secondary), this defense can give any offense problems. Speaking of the secondary, let’s talk about Mr. Jimmie Ward for a moment. Finally healthy and staying on the field, Ward has shown why the team has had so much faith in his abilities. Below are just a few plays in which Ward showed off his talents in coverage and also in the run game as he was responsible for three key stops, two on fourth down in the win on Sunday vs the Rams. Arguablly, the three biggest plays of his career and also of the season thus far. Way to represent that #GETOFFMYFIELD mentality Jimmie! 

As I stated in my post game video, Ward has always had the talent, he just wasn’t healthy. And obe should never confuse talent/productivity with lack of health. Many wrote him off making this mistake. He’s always had the talent and he’s a dawg! He was just never consistently healthy. Welcome to the party Jimmie! You couldn’t have had better timing. 

Speaking of a party, this sound coverage party will need to carry over to Sunday as the 49ers will face speedy (4.3 at the combine) rookie wide receiver Terry McLaurin who has emerged as a playmaker for the Redskins. McLaurin has 23 catches, 408 yards, 5 TD’s on the season, pretty solid numbers for the rookie. I’m sure he looks to continue his solid rookie campaign vs this 49ers defense. So look for him to be motivated to show out on Sunday. From the film I’ve watched, McLaurin typically lines up on the left side of the formation, which means he’d be lined up across from Emmanuel Moseley, who’s had an impressive season himself thus far. Since being inserted into the starting lineup, Moseley has been tasked with keeping Odell Beckham Jr. and Cooper Kupp in front of him. So far so good, as he did well keeping both quiet. I expect his success to continue Sunday vs the speedy McLaurin.  

Also worth talking about, veteran ex 49ers tight end Vernon Davis is currently in concussion protocol but would love to have a big game vs his former team. Not sure as of yet if he’ll play or not, but while I’m a fan, I won’t be a fan of him acting a fool on Sunday if he plays. He and McLaurin both can put a big game in their pocket for another week. Sorry not sorry. Let’s go defense.

We’ve arrived

Well I hope you enjoyed the ride as much as I did, I appreciate your company. I also hope you packed an umbrella because it’s supposed to rain in the early parts of the morning and last through kickoff. That said I hope the 49ers packed their running game as it’ll be needed in these wet conditions. Luckily for them, that’s been their strength. So hopefully they can establish the run early, make the most of the passes they do dial up, and play solid defense. Limiting penalties and turnovers of course, meanwhile forcing and capitalizing on turnovers will be key as well. I know I said it already, but no time to let up today. They’ll need to play this game as if it’s a playoff game. If all this falls into place, we’ll leave here with another victory and 6-0. And as always, the mentality is ALL GAS, NO BRAKE! And as of recently, GET OFF MY FIELD! GO NINERS!